This year marked the 1300th anniversary of the founding of Ribe, Denmark. The anniversary site gives this short history:
Ribe's history can be traced back to the Viking Age in the beginning of the 8th century, where it became a market place by the sea and an ideal starting point for expeditions.
The market place attracted craftsmen and traders from near and far and it soon became a key trading point.
The oldest archaeological finds were made around Sct. Nicolaj Gade, where the waste strata have revealed remnants of trade goods and artisan activities from glasspearl makers and comb makers among others.
Close to the market place, traces of permanent settlements from approx. year 710 have also been found.
The Vikings made Ribe so influential that, in 860, the Danish king gave the monk Ansgar, also known as the Apostle of the North, a royal decree to erect a church on the south side of the river and preach the Christian faith in Ribe.
The medieval town continued to expand on the south side of the river and in the last half of the 12th century, Ribe Cathedral was erected in its present form. Parish churches, abbeys for mendicant friars, and a fortification soon followed. Ribe became a twin city: one on either side of the river.
Ribe flourished as a centre for trade until the 16th century, where the Reformation, the sanding up of the river, the plague, fires, flooding and war, irreversibly changed its circumstances. Today's Ribe is characterized by a large number of 16th century houses, many of which had to be rebuilt after the fire that in 1580 swept through the centre of town and burned down 213 houses.
That these houses still stand is due solely to two facts: no large outbreaks of fire have occurred in Ribe sind 1580, and the town lost its economic importance from the middle of the 17th century. There were no finances available nor need for building new houses on a grand scale.
Ribe has special significance for me because my great grandfather, Carl Peter Kruse (1851-1934), emigrated from Ribe in 1880 to Omaha. He was born there in 1851, the youngest of eight children. He wanted to farm and emigrating to the U.S. was the only way he could obtain land.
His father was Jens Andersen Kruse (1810-1891), was a member of the Danish Parliament as an early member (1868-1876) of the Venstre party, traditionally know for supporting free trade and farmer’s interests.
Carl’s grandfather was Anders Jensen Kruse (1769-1858). Anders was born in Ribe but I’ve been unable to trace Kruse line to earlier ancestors. (One researcher believes the name “Kruse” likely has its origins from the area around Hamburg.) He’s shoe business is believed to have been located among these shops along the water’s edge seen in the photo below.
Ribe is also the birthplace of reformer, journalist, and photographer, Jacob Riis. Riis wrote several books, one of which was “The Making of an American.” The early chapters describe his life growing up in Ribe. Having been born in 1849, he was describing Ribe as precisely the time my great grandfather was growing up.
Anyway, the Kruse family has strong connections to Ribe and before the year is out I wanted to salute Ribe on its 1300 anniversary. Congratulations! I look forward to visiting there some day soon.
(Additional note: The photograph of Carl Peter Kruse above was likely taken sometime between 1885-1890 at the studio of renowned photographer Frank Rinehart in Omaha.)