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Copenhagen in the Renaissance
Christian IV (1588-1648)
King of Denmark and Norway 1596-1648

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In Denmark, one of the most remarkable examples of Renaissance architecture, Rosenborg Castle,  is found in the heart of Copenhagen, erected during the reign of king Christian IV (1588-1648). Although the castle has undergone many conversions and extensions, it nonetheless bears the appearance of an integrated building, adorning the city skyline with its verdigris roofs. 

Rosenborg Castle was built as the private summer residence of King Christian IV, outside the ramparts of Copenhagen, some time between 1606 and 1634. Christian IV, who was the architect behind the castle, was very fond of Rosenborg and died there in 1648. The castle has been the residence of four Danish kings; the final royal resident, Frederik IV, moved from Rosenborg around 1710. 

Denmark 2006. Renaissance. Rosenborg Castle, exterior. Denmark 2006. Renaissance. Rosenborg Castle, the Long Hall with two Royal Thrones and the Silver Lion. Denmark 2006. Renaissance. Rosenborg Castle, The stucco ceiling of the Long Hall.

King Christian IV was king of Denmark and Norway, crowned in 1596. The below Danish and Norwegian stamps commemorate the 400th anniversary of his birth. 
Denmark 1988. King Christian IV. Denmark 1988. King Christian IV's Cypher, adorning one of the many buildings he erected in Copenhagen during his reign. Norway 1988. Portrait of King Christian IV. Norway 1988. Reverse side of 1 Riksdaler coin with the Norwegian heraldic lion.

When Rosenborg's time as a royal residence was over, the castle became a storehouse for the royal family's art treasures, including the crown jewels, which are still worn by the Queen on official state occasions. At the beginning of the 19th century, the idea arose of displaying the royal collections to the general public. The result was that in 1838, Rosenborg became a museum of the royal family, as well the first museum of contemporary history in Europe. The Royal Danish Collections, also known as "the Rosenborg Collections", comprise paintings, furniture, works of art, tapestries, costumes, etc., from the time of Christian IV to the present. In 1977, the collection was extended with a department at Amalienborg Palace, which is where items associated with the monarchs from Christian IX to Frederik IX are now exhibited. 

King Christian IV was the one who established the Danish Postal System in 1624. These two mirrored stamps are from a block of four, commemorating the tercentenary of Post Denmark. There are two more blocks of 4 in the series, containing face values of 15 øre (violet), and 20 øre (brown). 

One of the strong characteristics of the king was the long plait along his left cheek.

  • Denmark 1924. King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway. 

Denmark 1924. King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway. Stamp #1 of two. Denmark 1924. King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway. Stamp #2 of two.

Denmark 1985. First Day cover of Hafnia-sheet No. 1 (1987).

Denmark 1985. Hafnia-sheet No. 1 (1987), showing the Postal Decree given by King Christian IV in 1624.

Nyboder in Copenhagen is the earliest strip building in Denmark and was erected during the reign of King Christian IV, as quarters for the permanent personnel of the Navy. The buildings were erected 1631-1641 and comprised 20 one-storeyed double wings with about 600 flats. The compound, now restored, still stands in Central Copenhagen, but only a single wing of the original buildings has been preserved, which now serves as a museum. 

Denmark 1981. The compound of Nyboder in 350 years. Residential wing. Denmark 1981. Aerial view of the compound of Nyboder, Copenhagen.  Denmark 1981. The compound of Nyboder, First Day Cancel, showing King Christian IV's Cypher.

The Round Tower is one of the landmarks of Central Copenhagen, built by King Christian IV in 1642 towards the end of his life. On the front is King Christian IV's Royal Cypher and the year 1642. There is no stairway inside the tower, but a spiral walkway, where tourists can walk up to the top and have a splendid aerial view of Copenhagen. Legend has it that a Russian Czar visiting Copenhagen did not want to take the walk to the top, but instead drove his four-horse equipage from the street level directly to the top, and then down back again!  Today the dome on the top serves as an astronomical observatory. 

Denmark 1944. Round Tower of Copenhagen, with surcharge. The Round Tower is built as a belfry to the Trinitatis Church, which is the low building immediately behind the tower. Denmark 1968. The spiral walkway inside the Round Tower.

Greenland 1968. The spiral walkway inside the Round Tower.

A water colour drawing of Christian IV's royal cypher, seen from the inside of the wrought iron balustrade at the top of the Round Tower in Copenhagen.

Christian IV was active, not only in Copenhagen but also in North Sealand, in his time a recreational area several day-travels north of the capital, and today part of the Greater Copenhagen region. Close to the regional town of Hillerød (c. 25 km north of Copenhagen) lies Frederiksborg Castle, which today has been transformed to the Danish National Historic Museum, and the Danish National Portrait Gallery. 
  • Denmark 1978. Centenary of Frederiksborg Museet with the equestrian statue of King Christian IV, and Frederiksborg Castle seen through the horse's legs. 
  • Denmark 1978. Close-up of Frederiksborg Museet. 
Denmark 1978. Centenary of Frederiksborg Museet with the equestrian statue of King Christian IV, and Frederiksborg Castle seen through the horse's legs. Denmark 1978. Close-up of Frederisborg Museet.

Panoramic view of Frederiksborg Castle, seen from the market square of Hillerød.

Among Danish personalities of international fame, living during the reign of Christian IV, were at least two who are both depicted on stamps. One is the astronomer Tycho Brahe, and the other is the physician and naturalist Ole Worm. 

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), of Danish nobility and destined to life as courtier, proved to be somewhat of an outsider; not only did young Brahe promenade a silver nose, because his own nose had been sliced off in a duel, he was also interested in modern science. Instead of studying law in Leipzig, he sneaked out in the middle of the night to watch stars, and very soon he engaged himself seriously in studies of the planets' movements. In the autumn 1572 Brahe discovered a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia, and the following year he published a small book "De Nova Stella" [About the New Star]. 

Brahe's discovery contradicted the theory of the immutability of the universe first established by Aristotle, and gave way for modern astronomy, and the Danish king Frederik II (the father of Christian IV) offered the young scientist the island Hven, situated in the sound between Denmark and Sweden, as research station that became important to scientists from all over Europe. However, in 1597, one year after the coronation of Christian IV, Brahe moved to Prague, where he continued his researches. In 1601 he died from a mercury [quicksilver] intoxication.  

Denmark 1946. Tycho Brahe's 400th birth anniversary. Denmark 1973. 400th anniversary of Tycho Brahe's discovery of the New Star in the constellation Cassiopeia. Denmark 1995. Uranienborg, Tycho Brahe's research station on the island of Hven. Joint issue with Sweden. Denmark 1995. The sextant constructed by Tycho Brahe. Joint issue with Sweden.
Denmark 1998. Ammonit Parapuzosia, a fossil discovered by Ole Worm.

Ole Worm (1588-1654) was originally physician in Copenhagen, but it was as a naturalist and founder of Denmark's very first museum that he inscribed his name in history. 

The museum was named after himself, "Museum Wormianum", and was a true cornucopia of antiquities, ethnographic items, and stuffed animals. During the Renaissance such museums were established many places in Europe and called "Nature Cabinets" and served as a kind of research libraries for anything not yet described in books. The Danish museum no longer exists, but most of the items are now transferred to and on display in the National Museum and Zoological Museum. 

Denmark 1988. 400th birth anniversary of Ole Worm.

Denmark is one of a handful of nations which have a separate "royal" anthem from the people's "national" anthem. The royal anthem is one of the oldest in the world; adopted in 1780. The lyrics first appeared in Johannes Ewald's historical drama "The Fishermen". Special events for the royal house are marked with the royal anthem. The 'Popular Anthem' is "Der er et yndigt land", meaning "There is a lovely land", which is always performed by the Danish football crew before a match. 

USA 1940. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the translator of the Danish Royal Anthem "King Christian".

350 years after his death, King Christian's spirit is still alive in the Danish community through the majestic royal anthem "King Christian Stood By Lofty Mast, in Smoke and Mist". 

It is interesting to know that the Royal Anthem was translated to English by the renowned American poet and linguist Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). 

  • USA 1940. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 
The Danish painter, Vilhelm Marstrand (1810-1873), one of the best known artists belonging to the Golden Age of Danish Painting, has immortalized the scenario on the battleship "Trinity" in the Battle of Kolberger Heide in the Bay of Kiel (Germany), in which battle the king lost one of his eyes. It is the king in the middle of the painting with a bandage around his head. 

The Danish Navy's achievements, and King Christian's personal energy saved Denmark from a threatening collapse in the war against Sweden 1643-45, where the Swedes turned big parts of Scania (in Sweden, then part of Denmark) and Jutland into ashes. 

Note the characteristic plait along his left cheek, also shown on the Danish 1924-stamp at the top of this page. Vilhelm Marstrand's sketches and studies for this work are at display in the Cathedral of Roskilde, in the Chapel of Christian IV. 

Painting by Vilhelm Marstrand, Denmark. King Christian IV in the battle of Kolberger Heide.

In his time King Christian was a good king to his people, and really cared for them and their needs. Although he nearly ruined the country with his endless wars against neighbouring states, and was renowned for his taste for fine food, exquisite wines, and willing women, he also found the necessary means to finance many (now historical) buildings such as the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, the Naval Church (Holmens Kirke), the Royal Breweries, the Arsenal Supplies (Tøjhuset), the Royal Housing Compound 'Regensen' (for lodging students at Copenhagen University), and Trinitatis Church with the belfry known as the Round Tower. 

Denmark 1955. Copenhagen Stock Exchange, another splendid example of Danish Renaissance architecture, with its famous dwindled snake-tower, erected by King Christian IV.

Because of his building activities Copenhagen had grown considerably under his 52 years of reign, and by his death the inhabitants numbered around 30,000 souls. In short, Christian IV made Copenhagen competitive with other flourishing European Metropolises. 

To this comes the foundation of new cities, all named after him. Examples are Kristiania (now Oslo) in Norway, and Kristianstad (in Scania, Sweden), and Christianshavn, then an independent city immediately south of Copenhagen, now a fully integrated part of the central city. 

Such cities were planned and laid out according to the prevalent Renaissance theories about orderly, geometrical, and and rectangular principles. 

Christian IV was married twice and fathered 25 children, fourteen of them by his two wives. The illegitimate children, however, were ennobled with such names as Gyldenløve [Golden Lion], Rosenørn [Rose Eagle] and similar, and whose names are now remembered in the naming of streets in Copenhagen and other Danish cities.  

Sources and links:

This web page as a whole is inspired by the festival program "Copenhagen at the time of Christian IV" published by Golden Days featuring Renaissance Cities in Europe in the period 1st-24th September 2006. 

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Revised 29-aug-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
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