The construction of the first church built on this site began as early as in the 12th Century – in 1187 – under bishop Absalon. The highest point near the town of Havn, later Copenhagen, was chosen. At least seven churches consecrated to the Virgin Mary – Our Lady have stood on this very spot before. Both the construction material and their architectural style kept changing during these times. From limestone to red brick … Parts of previous churches can be seen under the choir. They all were destroyed as a result of various causes – fires, lightning, religious clashes, conflagration… The immediate predecessor of the present day cathedral was baroque and was destroyed in Napoleonic wars in 1807 due to British bombardment during the Second Battle of Copenhagen.
Coronations of Danish monarchs were held here.
The present neo-classical church was designed by Danish architect Christian Frederik Hansen (1756-1845) who worked on it since 1811. It was consecrated in 1829. Hansen was inspired by Italian architecture of Rome´s antique buildings and by the Renaissance great master Palladio. C. F. Hansen is even called “Danish Palladio”. The cathedral is 83 m long, 33 m wide, 24 m high and its tower is 60 m high.
During his works on redesigning the cathedral, Hansen closely collaborated with Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), Danish neo-classical sculptor who was trained in Rome and who had been living in Rome for more than 40 years. He had a studio there, and in it he worked in 1811 on restoring statues brought from Greek island of Aegina from pre-christian Temple of Aphaea dating from the early 5th Century B.C. These figures are now exhibited in Glyptothek in Munich. For Copenhagen Cathedral Bertel Thorvaldsen crafted sculptures of Jesus Christ and 12 New Testament apostles. Initially he spent several years to create them of clay, then in 1828 the statues were made in casts of plaster and finally from 1838 until 1848 they were gradually replaced by these beautiful Carrara marble statues we admire in the church today. These statues were created specially with this cathedral in mind. Judas is replaced by Paul – a subsequent apostle noted for his travels and epistles to church members throughout the Medditerranean, including Rome. Apostle Paul is entirely the work of Thorvaldsen himself. Eleven remaining apostles were carried out by Thorvaldsen´s pupil Jens Adolf Jerichau (1816-1883).
Famous Lion Monument in Switzerland in Lucerne was designed by Thorvaldsen, too.
Decorations are simple and this enhances the striking beauty of the statues and they can shine even more.
On 14th May 2004 HRH crown prince Frederik of Denmark (born 1968) was married to Miss May Donaldson in this cathedral.
And why are Thorvaldsen statues the stars not in this temple only? Because these statues, especially the Christ statue, are much copied and replicas of this Christ as well as of the 12 apostles can be lately found also in Italy in Rome, in Rome Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.