Royal and Protestant Denmark
Tour Rosenborg Castle to learn about Denmark’s Renaissance king, the dynamic Christian IV, who doubled the city’s size during his long reign. The austere Lutheran cathedral nearby features work by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
Complete Video Script
Copenhagen has lots of idyllic parks. Its most royal is the King's Garden surrounding the Rosenborg Castle. We're here in July, and sun-loving Danes are getting the most out of the long days of their short summer.
Once upon a time, this was the king's garden. That king, Christian IV is the most memorable character in Danish history. Ruling from 1588 until 1648, he was Denmark's Renaissance king.
Rosenborg Castle was the king's summer residence. For anyone entering the Audience Room, all eyes were on Christian IV. Check this guy out — often depicted as a Roman emperor, he was a big personality.
Christian IV was dynamism in the flesh — earring, fashionable braid, hard drinker, hard lover, big spender, energetic statesman, warrior king. During his reign of over 50 years, the size of Copenhagen doubled.
His study was small… cozy, easy to heat. Like any good king, Christian did a lot of corresponding. Historians know a lot about his rule because 3,000 of his handwritten letters survive. He was eight years old when his father died… still too young to rule without a regent. A portrait shows his mother. And this one shows the king in his prime.
In another room a case displays the bloodstained clothing Christian wore when wounded in battle. Riddled with shrapnel, he lost an eye. No problem for Denmark's warrior king. He fashioned these earrings — made from the shrapnel yanked out of his eye and forehead — and gave them to his mistress. The king died, after half a century on the Danish throne, leaving a colorful legacy.
Christian lived to be 70 years old, had two wives, three mistresses, and fathered roughly 25 children. After Christian, three more kings used this palace.
Here in the long hall, tapestries celebrate glorious Danish military victories over Sweden (but not the losses) and the king's throne is surrounded by symbols of royal power.
The treasury is safely stored in the basement. Christian IV's coronation crown dates from 1596. With seven pounds of gold and precious stones, many consider this the finest Renaissance crown in Europe. Its six gables radiate symbolism: there's justice (the sword and scales), charity (a woman nursing — promising that the king will love his people as a mother loves her child), and the pelican, which in legend pecks its own flesh to feed its young, just as the king would make great sacrifices for his people. The shields of various Danish provinces lining the inside remind the king that he's surrounded by his realms.
Cases of treasures dazzle visitors.
Today's royal jewels were made in 1840 of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and pearls from earlier royal jewelry. Imagine these on the dance floor. The crown jewels are still worn by the queen on special occasions.
Denmark's Kings embraced Lutheranism as the state religion during the reformation back in the 16th Century. This memorial celebrates Denmark's break from the Roman Catholic Church.
Across the street stands Copenhagen's very Lutheran cathedral. Rebuilt in the early 1800s, the façade mimics a Greek Temple. At that time, Golden Age Copenhagen fancied itself as a Nordic Athens. John the Baptist stands where you'd expect to see some Greek god.
He welcomes worshippers into a world of neoclassical serenity. Statues of the 12 apostles line the nave — carved by the great Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. Inspired by the famous Italian sculptor Canova, his art complements the relative austerity and comforting simplicity of Lutheran worship.
The apostles lead to Thorvaldsen's masterpiece: a statue of the risen Christ. Thorvaldsen was a master at showing both heavenly and human characteristics. Wearing his burial shroud Jesus opens his arms and says, "Come to me."