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The city celebrated its thousandth anniversary in 1988, commemorating the first mention of the town's name in a letter dated 18 March 988 from the German Emperor Otto III which granted rights to Odense and neighbouring settlements.The territory, previously part of the vast Archbishopric of Hamburg, was created a Catholic diocese in 988.

It was here the English monk Ælnoth wrote Denmark's first literary work, Vita et Passio S. In the Middle Ages, a number of churches and monasteries were built in the town. Knuds Kirke), now the cathedral, dates from the end of the 13th century and was closely connected to the Benedictine Order.The town's other old churches are St Mary's (Vor Frue Kirke) and St John's (Skt. Greyfriars Monastery (Gråbrødre Kloster) was founded by the Franciscans in 1279.Several major industries are located in the city including the Albani Brewery and GASA, Denmark's major dealer in vegetables, fruits and flowers.The city is home to Odense Palace, erected by King Frederik IV who died there in 1730, the Odense Theatre, the Odense Symphony Orchestra, and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, situated in the house that was the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. Odense is served by Hans Christian Andersen Airport and Odense station, which lies on the line between Copenhagen and the Jutland peninsula.An 8 kilometre (5.0 mi) long, 7.5 metre (25 ft) deep canal from Odense Harbour to Odense Fjord was built between 17 to facilitate the growth of Odense as a port city, radically increasing its level of trade and population.

From the 1840s, the city enjoyed a period of rapid expansion beyond its traditional boundaries, becoming Denmark's second largest city.The first recorded bishops of Odense were Odinkar Hvide and Reginbert, who was consecrated by Archbishop Æthelnoth of Canterbury, in 1022.Canute IV of Denmark, generally considered to be the last Viking king, was murdered by unruly peasants, discontent with the high taxes he imposed on the town, in Odense's St Alban's Priory on 10 July 1086.In 1720, Frederick IV ordered the rebuilding of Odense Palace, partly on the foundations of the 13th century St.Hans’s Monastery, and the construction of St Hans’s Church by the Knights Hospitallers.The priory no longer exists, although a church has been situated on the site since about 900.