Copenhagen Cathedral, Denmark

The Cathedral of St. Mary in Copenhagen has had a long history of destruction and reconstruction. The first church was constructed here, at the highest point in the city, around 1187. Building work continued sporadically until 1209.

A fire destroyed this cathedral entirely in 1314 and a brick version was built in its stead. This seems to have been completed in 1388, with the tower added some years later.

During the Reformation the people of Copenhagen took Lutheranism to heart and the Cathedral became an object of revulsion. Worse was to come when a Royal Decree forced Catholics and Lutherans to worship together in the Cathedral. On 27 December 1530 this uneasy situation erupted into violence. The Lutherans stormed the Cathedral and tore the interiors to pieces; everything of value was looted and everything else was destroyed. The church was renamed as “Our Lady’s Church” to avoid any saintly appellations. By 1568 the Cathedral was now Lutheran and its interiors were spare and undecorated.

In 1573 the Cathedral was struck by lightning; just 12 years later it happened again and most of the roof and tower were badly damaged. The tower was knocked down in 1609 and rebuilt.

This chain of misfortune continued in October 1728 when a third of Copenhagen burnt down, including the Church of Our Lady. Rebuilding took place once more and it was completed by 1738. A new massive tower was completed in 1743.

Alas, this new tower provided target practice for the British Navy who bombarded Copenhagen in September 1807 during the Napoleonic Wars. For three days Copenhagen was bombed and once more the Church was totally destroyed.

Once more Copenhagen was faced with rebuilding its church. Work began in 1817 and was largely completed by 1829. The tower, which is rather clunky, was added about 10 years later to assuage demands of the population of the City.

In 1924 the Church became a Cathedral once more after Zealand was split into two Dioceses.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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