Monday, January 18, 2016

Copenhagen - Christiansborg Palace

Date of visit: 15th October 2015

Denmark is a Constitutional Monarchy country, just like Malaysia. Christiansborg Slot as pronounce by Danish, is a palace and government building on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen. Similar to Palace of Westminster in London, it is the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister's Office and the Supreme Court of Denmark. Several parts of the palace are used by the Danish monarch, including the Royal Reception Rooms, the Palace Chapel and the Royal Stables. The palace is thus home to the three supreme powers, the executive power, the legislative power, and the judicial power forming a complete Constitutional Monarchy. It is the only building in the world that houses all three of a country's branches of government.

We came to this papalce from Marble Bridge and the pavilions, thanks to Jacob, our tour guide who is an expert with the city routes. The bridge was extremely elegant; built using the sandstone covered with medallion decorations by the sculptor Louis August le Clerc. The pavements were paved with Norwegian marble, hence the name the Marble Bridge (Marmorbro), and the roadway paved with cobblestones. The pavilions were every bit as magnificent as the bridge. They were covered with sandstone from Saxony, and the sculptor Johan Christof Petzoldt richly decorated the concave roofs with the royal couple's back-to-back monograms and four figures on each roof symbolising the royal couple's positive traits. The interior decoration was by the court's master stonemason Jacob Fortling. The bridge and pavilions were completed in 1744.

Marble Bridge & Pavillions. Notes: our group were on the bridge

In 1996, when Copenhagen was European Capital of Culture, the Palaces and Properties Agency finished a restoration of the Showgrounds that had taken many years. The Marble Bridge and Pavilions were restored between 1978 and 1996 by architect Erik Hansen.

Pavillion's Dome

Right next to the entrance is Christiansborg Riding Grounds and the Royal Stables where we able to see the remains of the first Christiansborg Palace. They consist of two symmetrical wings with a straight, low and narrow stable building followed by a high broad building and narrow, curved stables, after which a one-story narrow end building closes off the wings at the Frederiksholm Canal end. The stables completed in 1746 where 87 hunting horses and 165 carriage horses moved into this area.

In 1766-67, the architect Nicolas-Henri Jardin built a court theatre on the floor above the big stables, seen in above photo. It now houses the Theatre Museum. The Royal Stables are home to the horses and carriages used to perform the ceremonial transport for the Danish Royal Family during state events and festive occasions. In 1789 the number of horses reached a peak with 270 horses stabled. Today, there are about 20 horses left, and some parts of the original stable buildings have been converted into offices and garages. From 2007 to 2009 the Royal Stables underwent a thorough renovation to meet the requirements of current animal welfare law.

Next, we gathered at King Christian IX's equestrian statue. The statue monument of King Christian IX was commissioned shortly after his death in 1906. The statue is erected on Christiansborg Riding Ground Complex as a pendant to the statue of King Frederick VII on the Palace Square. Sculptor Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen, the wife of composer Carl Nielsen, won the competition with her proposal for a new equestrian statue. In the proposal, the statue was shown on a high pedestal, on the sides of which were reliefs depicting a procession of the leading men of the day. The reliefs were later axed, and the architect Andreas Clemmensen designed the pedestal that bears the horse today.

The palace today bears witness to 3 eras of Danish architecture, as the result of two serious fires. The first fire occurred in 1794 and the second in 1884. The main part of the current palace, finished in 1928, is in the historicist Neo-baroque style. The chapel dates to 1826 and is in a neoclassical style. The showgrounds were built from 1738 till 1746, in a baroque style. Christiansborg Palace is owned by the Danish state, and is run by the Palaces and Properties Agency. Several parts of the palace are open to the public, i.e the place that we entered that day in below photo.

Historically, the first castle on the site was Absalon's Castle (Bishop Absalan's statue can be seen at the palace square). According to the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, it was Bishop Absalon who built the castle in 1167 on a small island outside Copenhagen Harbour. The castle was made up by a curtain wall, encircling an enclosed courtyard with several buildings, such as the bishop's palace, a chapel and several minor buildings. At the death of Absalon in 1201, possession of the castle and city of Copenhagen were passed to the bishops of Roskilde. A few decades later, however, a bitter feud erupted between crown and church, and for almost two centuries the ownership of the castle and city was contested between kings and bishops. Visitors may be able to see a part where there’s an underground excavations part showing the ruins of Absalon's Castle.

Absalon's castle was demolished in 1369 and the ruins on the island were covered with earthworks, on which a new stronghold, Copenhagen Castle, was built. The castle had a curtain wall and was surrounded by a moat and with a large, solid tower as an entrance gate. The castle was still the property of the Bishop of Roskilde until King Eric VII usurped the rights to the castle in 1417. From then on the castle in Copenhagen was occupied by the king. The ruins of Absalon's castle and Copenhagen Castle were excavated at the start of the 20th century and can be seen today in the subterranean excavations under the present palace.


King Christian VI commissioned architect Elias David Hausser to build the first Christiansborg Palace, and in 1733 work started on a magnificent baroque palace. By 1738, work on the main palace had progressed so far that it was possible to start on the other buildings included in the total project. The palace included show grounds and chapel. Most of the palace complex was completed in 1745 and was the largest palace in Europe at that time. The palace and church were ruined by a fire in 1794, but the showgrounds were saved.

Palace courtyard

While the royal family lived in temporary accommodations at Amalienborg Palace, the master builder of Altona, architect Christian Frederik Hansen, was called to Copenhagen to resurrect the palace. Hansen started building the second Christiansborg in 1803 in a French Empire style. By the time the palace was finished in 1828, King Frederick VI had decided he did not want to live there after all, and he only used the palace for entertainment. King Frederick VII was the only monarch to live in the palace, between 1852-1863. After the introduction of the constitutional monarchy with the Constitution of 1849, the south wing of the palace became the meeting place of the two houses of the first Danish Parliament (the Rigsdagen). The second Christiansborg burned down in 1884. Saved were the showgrounds and Hansen's chapel.

Construction of the third and present palace took place in 1907 with the designed by Thorvald Jorgensen and completed in 1928. The palace was to contain premises for the royal family, the legislature and the judiciary, and was built in Neo-baroque style in reinforced concrete with granite-covered facades. A weather vane with two crowns was later added to the tower, and at 106 meters became the tallest tower in the city. During the digging work, they came across the ruins of Absalon's Castle and Copenhagen Castle. It was decided to make them publicly accessible, and the ruins under the current palace, and the historical exhibition opened to the public in 1924.

Source of reference: Wikipedia

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