Lund was an important town long before there was a cathedral. Lund was the site of the Skåne Assembly (Danish: landsting) at St Liber's Hill into the Middle Ages. It was also the site of a pre-Christian religious center. Lund was founded about 990 by Canute I who built the town as a royal town complete with a royal compound, palace would be too grand a name for what was a large farmhouse and outbuildings with an enclosing wall. Canute established a mint there where coins were produced. He instituted several bishoprics in 1060 including Lund.
A cathedral was built in Lund before 1085, but it is difficult to know if the present building was built in the same place. In the gift letter of Canute the Holy, dated to May 21 1085, there is a mention of a cathedral built during the 1080s. Canute gave several properties that enabled the building of the cathedral. However, sources indicate that Canute's cathedral is not the present Lund Cathedral. The Cathedral School was established in 1085, making it Denmark's oldest school.
Erik I of Denmark went to Rome on a pilgrimage and secured two important concessions from Pope Pascal II: sainthood for his murdered brother, Saint Canute IV and the creation of an archdiocese that included all of Scandinavia. Lund was named as the headquarters. Bishop Asser became the first archbishop for all of Scandinavia in 1104 and the cathedral was begun sometime after he took office. The building was constructed in the typical basilica style with half-rounded arches supporting a flat timber ceiling. The cathedral was constructed out of granite blocks. The high altar of the crypt was consecrated in 1123. The cathedral and the high altar were consecrated to St Lawrence on September 1, 1145 by Archbishop Eskil, Asser's successor. Of the present church only the apse has remaind unchanged.
Lund became the religious heart of Denmark and over the years many monasteries, nunneries, priories sprang up around the cathedral.
Lund played a vital role in Denmark's history from the time it was made a bishopric. It was the place of many important meeting between kings and nobility. Valdemar II was crowned there in 1202.
In 1234 the church suffered an extensive fire. When the church was rebuilt a lecture wall, new vaults and a new facade to the west were added. Many valuable artistic additions were done to the church in mediaeval times. In the 1370s, magnificent gothic choir stalls where installed in the church, and in 1398 a gothic, cupboard-shaped wooden altarpiece was placed in the main chapel. An astronomical clock was installed in the nave around 1424 and renovated many times.
In the 1510's, during the reign of King John I, German artist Adam van Düren led a major renovation of the church. In the crypt, van Düren created a well decorated with interesting reliefs and a monumental sarcophagus for the last archbishop of Lund, Birger Gunnarsen.
Lund was an important cultural and religious city in the Middle Ages, as attested by its large number of churches and monasteries. The Reformation caused a dramatic decrease of the influence of the church in the city and country. In 1527 the Fraciscan Monastery was forcibly shut down by a mob of towns people who had received permission to close the monastery. Franciscans were especially hated because they lived by soliciting alms in addition to tithes and other fees ordinary people had to pay to the church. Torbern Bille was the last Archbishop and struggled vainly against the Lutherans until he was imprisoned in 1536. He was released the following year after he submitted to the Church Ordinances. The cathedral was stripped of statues, medieval artwork, side altars, and reliquaries.
An extensive restoration was done by Helgo Zettervall in the late 19th century, when the towers got their present appearance. Mosaic decoration was added to the interior of the apse in the 1920s.
The cathedral's south aisle has an information counter, a globe of light and various exhibitions.
When it plays, one can hear In dulci jubilo from the smallest organ in the church, while six wooden figures, representing the three magi and their servants, pass by Mary and Jesus. The clock plays two times a day, at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. every day, except on Sundays when the earliest playing takes place at 1:00 p.m. in order not to interrupt the morning service.
On top of the clock there are two knights that mark the hours. The upper board of the clock is the astronomical clock. It shows, among other things, the different phases of the Moon and where the Sun sets.
The lower board of the clock is a calendar. With the help of it one can, among other things, calculate when different mobile religious holidays will fall and on which weekday a certain date will fall. In the middle of the calendar stands Saint Lawrence, the Patron Saint of the Cathedral, and by his side the Symbols of the Four Evangelists. The present board of the clock goes from 1923 to 2123, after that a new one must be obtained so that the clock can be used.
The smallest organ is in the astronomical clock. It plays In dulci jubilo daily. The three other organs are in the Crypt, the Baptism Chapel and the Choir.
The crypt's main altar is the oldest altar in the church and was consecrated in June 30 1123 by archbishop Ascer. The crypt contain many sarcophagi, chests and grave slabs. Among its most important works of art are the relief-decorated well and the tomb of archbishop Birger Gunnarsen, created by Adam van Düren in the 1510s.