Grundtvig’s Church was built in memory of the priest, hymn writer, and educator Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783 – 1872). His significance for Denmark was so great that it was decided to build a memorial in his honor. Two competitions for proposals were held in 1912 and 1913, with a church designed by architect Jensen Klint selected as the winner over simpler columns and statues…and at much greater expense, roughly twenty times what was planned! The foundation was laid in 1921 and the structure was completed just as WWII was breaking out in 1940. This was built from the ground up as a Danish Protestant church so it was never originally a Catholic church that had been converted during or after the Reformation.
Many of the nearby buildings have the same yellow bricks and similar red roofline. The intent in selecting the site on then-unpopulated Bispebjerg Hill was to create a new neighborhood with affordable, high-quality homes for the working class. Funds for construction were collected from people across Denmark and Danes living abroad, with the Danish government matching the amount collected. Thus the church belongs to all Danish people.
Let’s go inside…
The interior of the Grundtvig is very monochromatic, with none of the Technicolor the Catholics like. It’s a striking contrast to the Catholic De Krijtberg church we saw in Amsterdam.
The altar…The tin candlesticks were designed by Jensen Klint’s son Kaare, who actually completed the church after his father died in 1930. Kaare Klint became known as the father of modern Danish furniture design. He designed the chairs in the church too.
The church is similar in size to Copenhagen’s cathedral. It has seats for 1,440.
It has been noted that the church is like Grundtvig himself. The bricks are humble building materials, but stacked to dizzying heights they “unite the heavenly and the worldly just as in Grundtvig’s hymns.”
You won’t find saints, popes, or stained glass here but there is a ship, quite common in Danish churches given their seafaring history. Model ships are given by sailors who have been rescued from sea peril, fulfilling their promises to God or a saint for their protection. There are more than 800 model ships in Danish churches.
The church’s monochromatic interior is similar to the Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Danish and Icelandic branches of Protestantism are closely related.
The Grundtvig Church organ has the largest organ pipes in Denmark.
Although we didn’t find Reverend Grundtvig here in his church, we did find this statue of him across town in front of Frederik’s Church.