There are many traces on Aarø from the time when the island was the northernmost German island. From the war in 1864 and up to the reunion in 1920, the Danish border ran along the Kongeåen river. Aarø belonged to the part of Southern Jutland that ended up under German rule.
Less than 10 minutes’ walk from the marina, you will find the village Aarø By with the church located on the outskirts of the village. It looks like a traditional Danish church, but it was actually built while the island was under German rule. The church was ready for consecration in 1906 and was christened Julekirken – ‘the Christmas Church’ – by the bishop of Schleswig.
All the way up to the present, the islanders thought the name was due to the church being consecrated at Christmas. However, recent research has brought an entirely different story to light. It turns out that the bishop had been to Jerusalem with the German imperial couple and had visited the German church there. And, not surprisingly, that was also called the Christmas Church. The bishop brought the name with him to Aarø – much to the surprise of the islanders.
Dikes built by convicts
The dikes on Aarø are also worth a visit. When you are on your way from the harbour into the village, you will encounter one of the two dikes on the island that were built by Russian prisoners of war who were quartered on the island. This is the dike south of the road, which was constructed after the great flood of 1872 when the water broke through the old dikes. The Russians also built the dike that protects the island along the northern shores, and to this day both dikes are known as “the Russian Dikes”.
The first dike that was constructed on the island dates from before the Flood. It was built in 1869 at “Æ højvej” – ‘the high road’ – that is located a short distance north of Julekirken.
The dikes are important on an island like Aarø, and to this day the islanders have a dike guild who continually maintain the protection against the water at high tide.
Incidentally, the island also has a 150-year-old pumping station for draining the island. Without the pumping station, the water head would be almost 2,7 metres (approx. 11 ft) higher! The damming has provided several extra hectares of prime farmland on the island.