the Kolding Cog
In 1943 a shipwreck was found in Kolding inner fjord which was identified as a cog and dated to 1200-1400. Parts of the wreck were studied by Nationalmuseet and the Handels- og Søfartsmuseet's technical consultant on shipping. Most of the wreck remained at the bottom of the fjord, but parts of it were placed both in the bank at the mouth of Kolding å river and in an iron barge on the bed of the river.
In connection with the Nationalmuseets Marinarkæologiske Forskningscenter's research into the oldest Danish ships, the wreck was raised from the bottom of the fjord in 2001, investigated and measured.
It was thus confirmed that the ship is a cog constructed of oak. Dendrochronologically it is dated to not long after 1190, and is probably built of timber which grew in the Southern Jutland region between Kolding and Ribe. It is not known exactly when the ship sank. It has also been shown that the ship had a stern rudder. It is thus the oldest known find of a ship that can be proven to have had a stern rudder.
Nationalmuseet does not have the means in its research project for conservation and exhibition of the wreck. Therefore, Museet på Koldinghus came forward with the wish preserve and exhibit the Kolding cog.
The cog is a Northern European ship type which is thought to have originated in the North Frisian tidal flats. The oldest can be traced to before the ninth century. The cog is a wide, flat-bottomed ship with a straight stem and prow and high sides. The keel was a solid timber on which the prow and stern were built. The flat bottom was carvel-built (the planks lay edge to edge), while the sides were clinker-built (the planks overlapped). Originally cogs had one mast with a square sail, in the latest examples two masts. The oldest cogs had rudders like Viking ships, but the later ones had stern rudders, that is, the rudder was placed in the stern. This made navigation easier and safer.
The cog replaced the Viking ship as Northern Europe's war and trading ship of choice, and the merchants of the Hanseatic towns in particular knew how to exploit the large new ship type. The cog had a considerable load capacity for the transport of mass goods such as herring in barrels, grain, and timber, precisely those goods which the Hanseatics transported from the Baltic region to England and the rest of Western Europe. Using cogs, the Hanseatic merchants and skippers sailed, from around 1200, 'ummelandt', which is to say, north of Skagen. They thus created the medieval era's extensive maritime trade between the Baltic States and Scandinavia at one end and England and the Western and Southern European countries at the other. The cog was the backbone of this maritime trade and thus the foundation of the economic and cultural upswing which Northern Europe experienced in the Middle Ages, and which Northern European-North American culture builds upon to this day.
Today, a small number of cog wrecks from the Danish region are known: Kollerup c. 1150; Kolding c. 1190; Skagen c. 1200; Vejby c. 1372; Lille Kregme c. 1358; Skanør c. 1390. There is also a wreck in Bremen from c. 1380.
Of these, the Bremen cog is preserved and exhibited in the Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven. Of the Danish cogs, the Kollerup cog has been excavated, but is stored and partially preserved in ways which make exhibiting it impossible. The Kollerup cog still had rudders of the Viking type. The Kolding cog is the best preserved of the Danish cogs. Approximately 70% of the ship is intact and can be reconstructed with confidence. The other cog wrecks are too incompletely preserved for conservation and exhibition.
In terms of build, the Kolding cog is from the beginning of the type's prime, while the Bremen cog is from the latter part.
At the moment it is not possible to say when the Kolding cog sank. Studies of parts of the wreck may provide the answer. The few objects found in the wreck are ceramic pieces which answer exactly to the ceramics found in Kolding around 1200 and thereafter.
Kolding was at that time in the process of being established as a market town, and was first referred to as such in 1231 in King Valdemars Jordebog. Archaeological studies indicate that the town was founded in the time of the Valdemars in the second half of the twelfth century, as were many other of the country's market towns. Situated on the border between the Kingdom of Denmark and the Duchy of Schleswig, Kolding soon became a royal town, important in the defence of the realm, for the charging of customs and of duties on the town's trade and trade across the border. In the middle of the thirteenth century the Crown built a castle on a hill a little to the north of Kolding å river, Koldinghus, which quickly developed into one of the Kingdom's largest castle complexes.
Museet på Koldinghus has for a number of years been working on plans to turn the Stableyard at Koldinghus into a centre for local history, including an exhibition about Kolding and the surrounding area's history from the Middle Ages to the present day, a special section about the Occupation in Kolding and Southern Jutland (in connection with the preserved Zelle 2), and an education and meeting centre.
The Stableyard's manege is a more than 30 meter-long and approx. 12 meter-wide space. The dimensions are thus suitable for housing the preserved wreck of the Kolding cog in a special area where there would, furthermore, be the possibility of telling the story of the cog's development and of Kolding's maritime history through an exhibition and interactive media.
The cog in the manege would in this way form a spectacular element in the exhibition of Kolding's history, with cross-references between the exhibition of local history in the north wing and the cog exhibition in the south wing.
Before the exhibition of the wreck can become a reality it needs to be preserved. Firstly, the parts of the wreck must be moved from Herringløse to Kolding and temporarily stored in large steel tanks which can later be used in the conservation. It is estimated that the conservation will take about 5 years, and during the course of it certain parts of the wreck will at the same time be restored to their original form in order to make later exhibition possible.
In the meantime the manege will be structurally renovated, including, amongst other things, the installation of a closed climate shield, since after its conservation the wreck must be kept in a constant climate.
Nationalmuseets Bevaringsafdeling will lead the conservation work on the Kolding cog. Locally, much of the work will be carried out by Koldinghus museum's conservation technician under guidance from Konserveringscentret i Vejle.