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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The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

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The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

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