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Dating back to the late 8th century, Aarhus was founded as a harbour settlement at the mouth of the Aarhus River and quickly became a trade hub. The first Christian church was built here around the year 900 and later in the Viking Age the town was fortified with defensive ramparts. The bishopric of Aarhus grew steadily stronger and more prosperous, building several religious institutions in the town during the early Middle Ages. Trade continued to improve, although it was not until 1441 that Aarhus was granted market town privileges, and the population of Aarhus remained relatively stable until the 19th century. The city began to grow significantly as trade prospered in the mid-18th century, but not until the mid-19th century did the Industrial Revolution bring real growth in population. The first railway line in Jutland was built here in 1862. In 1928, the first university in Jutland was founded in Aarhus and today it is a university city and the largest centre for trade, services, industry, and tourism in Jutland.


Aarhus Cathedral is the longest cathedral in Denmark with a total length of 93 m (305 ft). The Church of our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke) was originally built in 1060, making it the oldest stone church in Scandinavia. The City Hall, designed by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller, was completed in 1941 in a modern Functionalist style. Aarhus Theatre, the largest provincial theatre in Denmark, opposite the cathedral on Bispetorvet, was built by Hack Kampmann in the Art Nouveau style and completed in 1916. Musikhuset Aarhus (concert hall) and Det Jyske Musikkonservatorium (Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus/Aalborg) are also of note, as are its museums including the open-air museum Den Gamle By, the art museum ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, the Moesgård Museum and the women's museum Kvindemuseet. The city's major cultural institutions include Den Gamle By, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, the Moesgård Museum, Gender Museum Denmark, Musikhuset Aarhus and Aarhus Theatre. Known as Smilets By (lit. City of Smiles) it is the Danish city with the youngest demographics and home to Scandinavia's largest university, Aarhus University.[2][8] Commercially, the city is the principal container port in the country, and major Danish companies such as Vestas, Arla Foods, Salling Group, and Jysk have their headquarters there.

The name originates from the city's location at the mouth of Aarhus Å (Aarhus River).[9][10] It is a compound of the two words ár, genitive of á ("river", Modern Danish å), and oss ("mouth", in Modern Icelandic this word, spelt ós, is still used for "river delta").[11] In Valdemar's Census Book (1231) the city was called Arus, and in Icelandic it was known as Aros, later written as Aars.[12]

The spelling "Aarhus" is first found in 1406 and gradually became the norm in the 17th century.[12] With the Danish spelling reform of 1948, "Aa" was changed to "Å". Some Danish cities resisted the change but Aarhus city council opted to change the name.[13] In 2010, the city council voted to change the name back from Århus to Aarhus again with effect from 1 January 2011.[14]

It is still grammatically correct to write geographical names with the letter Å and local councils are allowed to use the Aa spelling as an alternative and most newspapers and public institutions will accept either. Some official authorities such as the Danish Language Committee, publisher of the Danish Orthographic Dictionary, still retain Århus as the main name, providing Aarhus as a second option, in brackets[7] and some institutions are still using Århus explicitly in their official name, such as the local newspaper Århus Stiftstidende and the schools Århus Kunstakademi and Århus Statsgymnasium. "Aa" was used by some major institutions between 1948 and 2011 as well, such as Aarhus University or the largest local sports club, Aarhus Gymnastikforening (AGF), which has never used the "Å"-spelling.[15] Certain geographically affiliated names have been updated to reflect the name of the city, such as the Aarhus River, changed from Århus Å to Aarhus Å.[9]

Founded in the early Viking Age, Aarhus is one of the oldest cities in Denmark, along with Ribe and Hedeby.[16] The original Aros settlement was situated on the northern shores of a fjord by the mouth of the Aarhus River, right where the city center is today. It quickly became a hub for sea-going trade due to its position on intersecting trade routes in the Danish straits and the fertile countryside. The trade, however, was not nearly as prominent as that in Ribe and Hedeby during the Viking Age, and it was primarily linked to Norway as evidenced by archaeological finds. A shipbuilding yard from the Viking Age was uncovered upriver in 2002 by archaeologists. It was located at a place formerly known as Snekkeeng, or Snekke Meadow in English ('Snekke' is a type of longship), east of the Brabrand Lake close to Viby, and it was in use for more than 400 years from the late 700s till around the mid-1200s.[17]

Archaeological evidence indicates that Aarhus was a town as early as the last quarter of the 8th century.[18][19] Discoveries after a 2003 archaeological dig included half-buried longhouses, firepits, glass pearls and a road dated to the late 700s.[20] Several excavations in the inner city since the 1960s have revealed wells, streets, homes and workshops, and inside the buildings and adjoining archaeological layers, everyday utensils like combs, jewellery and basic multi-purpose tools from approximately the year 900 have been unearthed.[21] The early town was fortified with defensive earthen ramparts in the first part of the 900s, possibly in the year 934 on order from king Gorm the Old. The fortifications were later improved and expanded by his son Harald Bluetooth, encircling the settlement much like the defence structures found at Viking ring fortresses elsewhere.[18] Together with the town's geographical placement, this suggests that Aros became an important military centre in the Viking Age. There are also strong indications of a former royal residence from the same period in Viby, a few kilometres south of the Aarhus city centre.[22][23]

The centre of Aarhus was originally a pagan burial site until Aarhus's first Christian church, Holy Trinity Church, a timber structure, was built upon it during the reign of Frode, King of Jutland, around 900.[24] The bishopric of Aarhus dates back to at least 948 when Adam of Bremen reported that the missionary bishop Reginbrand of Aros attended the synod of Ingelheim in Germany,[25][26] but the late Viking Age during the Christianization of Scandinavia was a turbulent and violent time with several naval attacks on the town, such as Harald Hardrada's assault around 1050, when the Holy Trinity Church was burned to the ground.[18][27] Despite the conflicts, Aarhus continued to prosper from the trade and the finding of six runestones in and around Aarhus indicates the city had some significance around the year 1000, as only wealthy nobles traditionally used them.[28] The bishopric diocese was obliterated for almost a hundred years after Reginbrand in 988, but in 1060 a new bishop Christian was ordained and he founded a new church in Aarhus, Sankt Nicolai Domkirke (St. Nicholas Cathedral), this time in stone. It was erected outside the town fortifications, and stood finished in 1070 at the site where Church of Our Lady stands today, but only an underground crypt remains.[29][30]

The growing influence of the Church during the Middle Ages gradually turned Aarhus, with its bishopric, into a prosperous religious centre. Many public and religious buildings were built in and around the town; notably Aarhus Cathedral was initiated in the late 12th century by the influential bishop Peder Vognsen, and around 1200, Aros had a total of four churches. The 13th century also marks a thorough reorganisation, erasing most of the town's original layout with new streets, relocations, dismantling and new constructions. The Church clearly had the upper hand in the Aarhus region during medieval times, and the large bishopric of Aarhus prospered and expanded territory, reaching as far as Viborg in extent.[17] In 1441, Christopher III issued the oldest known charter granting market town status, although similar privileges may have existed as far back as the 12th century. The charter is the first official recognition of the town as a regional power and is by some considered Aarhus's birth certificate.[29][31]

The commercial and religious status spurred town growth, and in 1477 the defensive earthen ramparts, which had ringed the town since the Viking Age, were abandoned to accommodate expansion. Parts of the ramparts still exist today and can be experienced as steep slopes at the riverside, and they have also survived in some place names of the inner city, including the streets of Volden (The Rampart) and Graven (The Moat).[32][33] Aarhus grew to become one of the largest cities in the country by the early 16th century. In 1657, octroi was imposed in larger Danish cities which changed the layout and face of Aarhus over the following decades. Wooden city walls were erected to prevent smuggling, with gates and toll booths on the major thoroughfares, Mejlgade and Studsgade. The city gates funnelled most traffic through a few streets where merchant quarters were built.[34]

In the 17th century, Aarhus entered a period of recession as it suffered blockades and bombardments during the Swedish wars and trade was dampened by the preferential treatment of the capital by the state.[35] Not until the middle of the 18th century did growth return, in large part due to trade with the large agricultural catchment areas around the city; grain, particularly, proved to be a remunerative export.[29] The first factories were established at this time, as the Industrial Revolution reached the country, and in 1810 the harbour was expanded to accommodate growing trade.[36] 041b061a72


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