Foto: Øm Kloster Museum

The cultural history of Gudenåen

The cultural and historical Gudenå

Interaction between Gudenå and people

All along the Gudenåen you will find traces of human interaction with the Gudenåen. Stone Age hunters and gatherers entered the country via Gudenåen and settled down. Medieval monks and nuns built monasteries and harnessed the power of the Gudenå River’s water for milling. The power of water was also the basis for significant constructions such as hydropower plants and factories during early industrialization – where the river was also an important transport and trade route. Gudenåen and its landscape have also inspired artists and writers.

Foto: Mogens Lykkegaard

Barge building in the 19th century

The towpath along Gudenåen was created by the barge traffic that had its heyday in the second half of the 19th century
Read more about the history of barge building

Gudenåen's many monasteries

One of Denmark’s largest concentrations of monasteries can be found along the Gudenåen river. Not much remains of the centers of learning that the monasteries once were, but you can still sense a special atmosphere where they were located in the Middle Ages. And with a little imagination and knowledge, you can almost hear how prayers of the hours were called here, just like in other medieval monasteries in Europe. The photo is of Tvilum church, which today serves as the parish church.

Read more about churches and monasteries at Gudenåen
Tvilum kirke. Foto: Kristoffer Uhre Knattrup

Stone Age settlements by Gudenåen

So many Stone Age finds have been made at Gudenåen that for a large part of the 20th century an actual Gudenå culture was considered to exist. However, it was later discovered that it could not be categorized as an independent culture, but that doesn’t change the fact that traces of many settlements have been found at Gudenåen. The river allowed access to the forested land and provided a solid pantry.


Read more at Museum Silkeborg

Hydropower plants and early industrialization

The water of the Gudenå River has been used as an energy source since monks and nuns started building watermills in the Middle Ages. Especially on the southern stretch of the Gudenåen, there were also many watermills for many years after the Middle Ages. In the late 1800s, the Gudenå River was exploited in the beginning industrialization – e.g. Vilholdt Mill, Klostermølle and Vestbirk Hydropower Plant and Gudenåcentralen/Tangeværket.

Foto: Gudenåcentralen