Sunday, January 3, 2016

Fredriksborg Castle Chapel and Religious Art

Fredriksborg Castle, in Hillerod, Denmark, about 23 miles northwest of Copenhagen, was built as the residence for King Christian IV of Denmark-Norway in the early 1600s. The castle is quadrangular and built of red brick. The bell tower is on the west or Chapel Wing and was completed in 1606. The main or King's Wing, was completed in 1604, and the Princess's Wing on the east side was completed in 1608. All three of these wings are two storeys high. The Terrace Wing, completed in 1609, is only one storey. In December 1859 much of the castle burned down, but the chapel was not seriously damaged. Reconstruction was paid for largely by the public, but with a substantial contribution by J.C. Jacobsen of the Carlsberg Brewery. It was reopened as the Danish Museum of National History.  
Fredriksborg Castle in Denmark.
The Chapel Wing with the bell tower.

The Chapel Wing with a jet contrail going through the bell tower steeple. 

One of the entrances. Note the extravagant carvings on the wood door.
The Neptune fountain in front is a copy of the original created from 1620 to 1622 and symbolizes Denmark's position as the leading Nordic power of the early 1600s. The sea god, Neptune, symbolizes the Danish king. Swedish troops dismantled the original fountain and took it to Sweden for war reparations in 1659. This copy was made in 1888 by funds provided by J.C. Jacobsen. 
The Neptune fountain
Artwork inside the castle also illustrates early Danish maritime and military exploits. Much of it showing history much earlier than the 1600s.

The chapel, also part of the museum, was consecrated in 1617, and extends the entire length of the west or Chapel Wing. The organ was built in 1610 by Esajas Compenius and is the oldest organ in Denmark. The chapel held all of the coronations and anointments of all Danish monarchs from 1671 to 1840, but one. 
The two story chapel. The organ is at the upper back-end. The altar is immediately beneath where the picture was taken. 
A closer view of the organ pipes.
A view of the second storey with intermittent paintings and coasts-of-arms.
The richly decorated ceiling.
The pulpit. We were not able to go to the first floor and view the altar. 
Stained glass surrounded by coats-of-arms.

The chapel has also been used as the ceremonial chapel for the Order of the Elephant and Order of the Dannebrog since 1693. The Order of the Elephant is worn by members of the Danish royal family and can also be bestowed on foreign heads of state. Very rarely, it can be bestowed on commoners. The Danish monarch is the head of the order which also includes 30 noble knights. The badge of the order is a white elephant carrying a castle. The Order of the Dannebrog is an order of Denmark that has been reformed over the years, originally only for members of the royal rank, but now is a means of honoring meritorious civil or military service, or contributions to the arts, sciences or business life, or those working for Danish interests. The badge of the order is a white Dannebrog cross with a red border. The coast-of-arms of recipients of the two orders are displayed on the chapel walls, a type of feature I've not seen anywhere else. It is very striking and very interesting. 
Coats of arms fill the chapel walls.

The Order of the Elephant (noted by the white elephant and castle at the bottom) for Nelson Mandela.
The order of the elephant for Charles DeGaulle.
The order of the elephant for Francois Mitterand.
The order of the elephant for Stanislaw Wojciechowski, president of Poland from 1922 to 1926.
The order of the elephant for Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. 
The order of the elephant for Dwight D. Eisenhower, bestowed in 1945 for Eisenhower's World War II leadership, a rare conferral on a commoner. 
The order of the elephant for Winston Churchill.
The Dannebrog Cross (note the cross at the bottom) for Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts Association. 
The chapel was built as the private church for the royal family. When it was built between 1606 and 1617 skilled craftsmen were brought from all over Europe to work on it. Today it is used as a parish church for Fredriksborg Parish with weekly Sunday services and has four priests and two organists. Presumably it is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, the state church and largest denomination in Denmark with 77.8% of the population of Denmark as members. The church is financially supported by the state, but membership is voluntary. The church is organized into 11 dioceses, each led by a bishop. The Bishop of Copenhagen is the senior bishop. There are about 111 deaneries and 2,200 parishes. I'm not sure if commoners are allowed to attend services here. 

The chapel also houses the Danish royal family's art collection. Included in that collection and housed in the Oratory are 23 paintings depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ by the Danish artist, Carl Heinrich Bloch, created between 1865 and 1879, apparently as part of the restoration program following the fire. The lighting was not ideal and locations were often in corners or other difficult settings, so the photographs are not great, but they provide a flavor. Here is a panorama of all of Bloch's paintings in the Oratory with much better resolution. Reproductions of these paintings are often used in LDS publications, chapels and temples.  
The Annunciation. 
Mary's visit to Elizabeth - when the pre-birth John the Baptist leaped in her womb. 
The Birth of Jesus.
Annunciation to the Shepherds. 
Jesus cleansing the temple.
The Sermon on the Mount.
The Transfiguration.
Jesus healing the blind man.
The resurrection of Lazarus.
Suffer the little children to come unto me.
Jesus at Gethsemane.
Peter's denial.
The Crucifixion.
The burial of Jesus.
The resurrection.
The following are not Bloch paintings, but also included in the Chapel:
Jacob receives Joseph's coat from his other sons. 
A crucifixion scene.
A nativity scene. 


  1. Fredriksborg Castle is quite an amazing blending of church and state. I don't think something like this would be possible today--certainly not in the US. It is a spectacular merging. Bloch's paintings are some of my favorite depictions of Christ. I do wish they were displayed where they could be seen better instead of in the dark and crowded place where they currently are.

  2. Odd that those amazing paintings are not easily viewed, but the family coat of arms are.