Travel Destinations

Monday, June 16, 2014

Copenhagen's Churches: Ships, Swans, Staircases, and Statues

View from Vor Frelsers Kirke Copenhagen Denmark
Stunning views of Copenhagen from atop Vor Frelsers Kirke.
While Denmark is an archipelago and Copenhagen is situated on one of Denmark’s islands and riddled with canals and waterways, it is sometimes easy to forget somehow that this cosmopolitan country has an extensive seafaring history.  However, visiting Denmark’s churches provides a reminder as most of the churches have model ships hanging from the ceilings, something you don’t often see in a European church.  Denmark’s churches have for centuries been visited by women praying for the safe return of their seafaring fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons.  This is just one of the unusual and unique features you will see when visiting some of Copenhagen’s churches during your travels.

One of the first examples of a church with a ship hanging from the ceiling we visited while in Denmark was Copenhagen’s Holmens Kirke, or the Church of the Royal Danish Navy.  The burial chapel is where some important Danish naval figures are buried.  Beyond the intricately carved oak pulpit and alter piece, the church is fairly simple, and yet was where the current Queen married.  A visit to Holmens Kirke can be combined with a visit to nearby Christiansborg Palace.

Holmens Kirke Copenhagen Denmark
Holmens Kirke, Church of the Royal Navy, with a ship hanging from the ceiling.
Vor Frelsers Kirke, or the Church of Our Savior, is probably the most outwardly unusual looking church of Copenhagen.  Vor Frelsers Kirke’s unique feature is its spiral tower with an outdoor winding staircase colored brown and gold.  Visitors can climb up the 400 step staircase, past the churches’ bells, for the best panoramic views of Copenhagen.  Vor Frelsers Kirke is just a few blocks away from Christiania.

Vor Frelsers Kirke Tower Copenhagen Denmark
Vor Frelsers Kirke's outdoor spiral staircase.
The most recognizable church in Copenhagen is Marmorkirken, also known as Frederiks Kirke, Frekerik’s Church, and Marble Church.  Marmorkirken has the landmark dome seen near Amalienborg Palace.  Marmorkirken was built in the style of St. Peter’s Basilica.  Marmorkirken has a Pantheon style interior with a bright dome and a pipe organ with a pair of swans, which are Denmark’s national bird.

Marmorkirken Dome Copenhagen Denmark
Marmorkirken's dome.
Marmorkirken Pipe Organ Copenhagen Denmark
Marmorkirken's colorful pipe organ.
Vor Frue Kirke is Copenhagen’s cathedral founded in 1191, though the current structure was built starting in 1829.  The outside of the church is fairly plain and non-descript, as is the inside.  However, Vor Frue Kirke contains some very important sculptures created by one of Denmark’s best known artists, Bertel Thorvaldsen.  Thorvaldsen’s most acclaimed works are on display, Christ and the twelve Apostles.  The statues were created in the early 1820s, and the image of Christ created by Thorvaldsen became the most emulated model for future statues of Christ.  Casts of the sculptures can be more closely examined in the Thorvaldsen Museum in the Christiansborg Palace complex.

Bertel Thorvalden's Christ and the twelve Apostles displayed in Vor Frue Kirke.

On your next trip to Copenhagen, be sure to include visits to some of Copenhagen’s churches in your itinerary.  You might be surprised by how different they are from European churches you have visited in the past.

The churches of Copenhagen Denmark.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.