Church of Our Saviour

Copenhagen, Denmark

Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelsers Kirke) is a baroque church, most famous for its corkscrew spire with an external winding staircase that can be climbed to the top, offering extensive views over central Copenhagen. It is also noted for its carillon, which is the largest in northern Europe and plays melodies every hour from 8 am to midnight.

When Christian IV planned Christianshavn in 1617, it was intended as an independent merchant's town on the island of Amager and it therefore needed a church. A temporary church was inaugurated in 1639 but construction of the present Church of Our Saviour, the design of Lambert van Haven, did not start until 1682. The church was inaugurated 14 years later in 1695 but important interior features like the altar had a notoriously temporary character and the tower still had no spire. The church got its permanent altar in 1732 but plans for construction of the spire was not revitalized until 1747 under the reign of Frederik V. The new architect on the project was Lauritz de Thurah. He soon abandoned van Haven´'s original design in favour of his own project that was approved by the King in 1749. Three years later the spire was finished and the King climbed the tower at a ceremony on 28 August 1752.

The church is built in a Dutch baroque style and its basic layout is a Greek cross. The walls rest on a granite foundation and are made of red and yellow tiles but in a random pattern unlike what is seen in Christian IV's buildings where they are generally systematically arranged. The facade is segmented by pilasters in the palladian giant order, that is they continue in the building's entire height. The pilasters are of the Tuscan order with bases and capitals in sandstone. The cornice is also in sandstone but with a frieze in tiles. Between the pilasters are tallround-arched windows with clear glass and iron cames. There are entrances at the gable of the cross arms except for the eastern gable where the sacristy is added. The main entrance is in the western gable below the tower and has a sandstone portal. All entrances are raised four steps from street level. At each side of the tower, there is a gate at street level leading to the two crypts of the church. The roof is vaulted and covered in black-glazed tiles.

The altarpiece is the work of Nicodemus Tessins the Younger. It depicts a scene from the Garden of Gethsemane between two columns, where Jesus is comforted by an angel while another angel hangs in the air beside them, carrying the golden chalice. On each side, two figures of Pietas and Justitia illustrate the King's motto. The two columns carry a broken, curved architrave and gable. Behind the opening of the broken gable is placed a pane with Jahve's name in Hebrew inscribed and lit from behind. Around the pane is an arrangement of gilded beans and cloud formations.

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Founded: 1695
Category: Religious sites in Denmark
Historical period: Absolutism (Denmark)

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