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March 20, 2010
From journal Fall 2009 Trip to Europe
by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
February 9, 2005
Despite such plebeian parishioners, however, the church’s interior is laden with heavy-handed absolutist symbolism. The elephants holding up the church’s immense organ represent the royal Order of the Elephant, although you could be forgiven for thinking they’re simply there to indicate its heft! The Order, induction into which is Denmark’s highest honor, was founded by King Christian V, who commanded the church’s construction. The king held himself in higher regard, both literally and figuratively, as his initials are emblazoned on an arch above the ceiling’s nave, on the same level as symbols depicting the four apostles.
The spire is the masterpiece of Laurids de Thurah who based it upon the lanterns inside the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome. It is one of the most distinctive features of Copenhagen’s skyline, of which it offers an excellent view. Its spiral staircase winds to the right, rather than to the left, as King Frederick V had ordered, leading to the legend that de Thurah threw himself off it when he discovered the error (he actually died penniless in 1759). The golden globe, topped with a 10-foot Jesus holding a flag, was a target for Admiral Nelson’s fleet in 1807, although they only managed to hit its leg!
The staircase may be ascended daily from 11am to 4:30pm between April and August (from noon on Sundays) but only when the weather is clear, an all-too-infrequent occurrence in Denmark’s cloudy capital. I spent an entire week in Copenhagen in June without being able to do so, and when I returned in August and finally found the tower open to visitors, the reason for the restriction became apparent. Not only are the 400 steps quite a workout even if you’re in good shape, the final 150, which circle the spire itself, are slanted and made of copper, making them slippery even on sunny days. To make matters worse, the church does not appear to regulate traffic in any manner (as has been my experience at such towers elsewhere), meaning that there is often a pedestrian traffic jam as people try to squeeze past each other on the narrow steps. Don’t be discouraged, however; the inconvenience is worth it!
From journal The Beauty of Copenhagen