History of Denmark between 1659 - 1770
The 16th century was a period of boom in Denmark, but around 1600 a trade crisis set in. The crisis deepened during the following decades and became a long-term slump which only began to abate around 1740. A turnaround in domestic policy occurred in 1660. Christian III’s coronation charter had given the Rigsråd a final say in the affairs of the kingdom. The dominance of the aristocracy lasted until 1660-1661, when absolute monarchy was established in line with other European kingdoms.
Denmark was very much a farming community. Corn and cattle, which constituted the only export articles, were mainly sold to the densely populated Netherlands. There was no industry to speak of, even though Christian IV attempted to set up some industry in the capital and also tried to establish a mining industry in Norway. All his attempts were unsuccessful, however, and it was only at the end of the 17th century that wartime conditions gave a boost to international trade. Non-agrarian production and international shipping were still a thing of the future. The growing financial crisis cast doubt on the credibility of the Rigsråd, and it finally collapsed in 1660-1661 when the country’s political system changed.
Absolutism was a result of the lengthy political crisis and the acute state of emergency which resulted from the last of the Karl Gustav wars against Sweden in 1657-1660. Despite his weak position when elected king in 1648, Frederik III’s political skill allowed him to succeed in ousting two of his main adversaries in the Rigsråd as early as the 1650s. The two were the seneschal Corfitz Ulfeldt and the governor of Norway Hannibal Sehested, who were both Frederik’s brothers-in-law. The king’s heroic conduct during the siege of Copenhagen in the winter of 1659 had, in addition, made him widely popular at a time when the nobility and the Rigsråd were increasingly being discredited. In October 1660, these events led the estates – the nobility only reluctantly – to create a hereditary monarchy.
The new system meant that the king was no longer dependent on the Rigsråd, and he immediately used his new power to introduce absolutism, which was temporarily established on 10 January 1661 in the Hereditary Monarchy Act before being fully set out in Kongeloven (the Royal Law) of 1665, the basic law of Danish absolutism. The change of system in 1660-1661 introduced a hectic period of reforms which culminated during the reign of Christian V (1670-1699), and lasted until the reign of his successor, Frederik IV. The aim was to consolidate the new system of government and to ensure that Denmark became a well-organised, hierarchical society with the absolute monarch as its focal point.
The aristocratic departmental government now became a collegiate administration divided into different government departments. The old division into estates was replaced by a new hierarchy in which the officials of the Crown took the leading positions. The old hereditary nobility were deprived of most of its privileges and were suddenly joined by a large number of ‘new men’. In the course of a lifetime, Denmark was transformed from a self-managing mediaeval society divided into estates to a modern bureaucracy. Legislation was standardised as all laws were collected in a systematically organised Statute Book, Christian V’s Danske Lov 1683 (Danish Law), which applied to the whole country and thereby replaced the old provincial laws.
With the help of the astronomer Ole Rømer, new uniform systems of weights and measures were introduced; the greatest administrative feat, however, was a full survey and registration of all agricultural land in the country. The land register was intended to enable the administration to create a uniform basis for taxation, and proved that the State had discarded the old system of relying on revenue from crown lands and gone over to direct taxation of land owners and land users.
Although the big landowners continued to play an important role in the administration of taxes and the conscription of soldiers, and although the first absolute monarchs found it difficult to find their political position in relation to the new large bureaucracy, there is little doubt that the reforms which were introduced at the end of the 17th century created a solid foundation for the stable bureaucratic absolutism of the 18th century.
The spiritual life of the population was strongly influenced by the Reformation throughout the whole of this period. The Danish Church was subservient to the State, which purposely used the widely ramified organisation and its school system as a useful means of indoctrinating the population with the Lutheran dogma of the divinity of authority. At the end of the 16th century, the reformation rebellion had settled into Lutheran orthodoxy. There was no real reaction against this indoctrination until 1700, when Evangelical movements from Germany brought a call for a devotional life of a more intense personal nature. The national Church allowed the mother tongue to become better established, although Latin continued to play an important role as a language of learning.
The most noteworthy contributions in Danish during this period include Chancellor Arild Huitfeldt’s Danmarks Riges Krønike (The Chronicle of the Kingdom of Denmark) from the 1590s, in which he describes the history of the Danes from Saxo Grammaticus up to his own time in a very pithy style. Also worthy of note are the hymns written at the end of the 17th century by Thomas Kingo, the Bishop of Odense, who admirably demonstrated how expressive the Danish language could be in the hands of an expert. These examples also highlight another contemporary issue: A feeling of Danish national identity was slowly beginning to emerge amongst the leading strata of society.
The last two Dano-Swedish wars, the Skånske Krig (Scania War) 1675-1679, and Store Nordiske Krig (Great Nordic War) 1709-1720, were both started by the Danes in an attempt to win back Scania from the ailing Swedish superpower, and break the troubling alliance between Sweden and the Dukes of Gottorp. Even though the Danes more or less won both wars, they did not succeed in reclaiming Scania since the big European powers opposed it.
In acknowledgement of this, and because Sweden had again been reduced to the same level as Denmark, the government dropped the Dano-Swedish issue from the foreign policy agenda. The border through the Sound was there to stay. The Gottorp issue was satisfactorily resolved at the same time, and the lengthy Danish-Swedish rivalry was soon replaced by a new partnership in the shadow of the emerging Russian power. The peace of 1720 introduced a long period of peaceful coexistence between the two Nordic kingdoms.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.