The history of Christiansborg Palace begins with a castle and includes devastating destruction by sieges and fires, but early construction on the palace grounds is the very beginning of Copenhagen’s rise. In 1157, when the city was in its earliest stages of development, Copenhagen and its surroundings were gifted to Bishop Absalon, the founder of Copenhagen. Ten years later, Bishop Absalon’s Castle was built to protect the city as it grew.
Absalon’s Castle safeguarded Copenhagen for over 200 years, but after Bishop Absalon died, the city faced numerous attacks. How bad *** was the Bishop that no one attacked the castle until he died? As part of a 1370 peace treaty agreement, Copenhagen had to demolish the castle, but Copenhagen Castle rose on the ruins near the end of the century. For many years afterward, Denmark’s Kings rebuilt and made additions to the castle.
Then, in 1660, as Denmark became an absolute monarchy, the Copenhagen Castle was deemed too small for King Christian VI’s needs, so he had it torn down and built the first Christiansborg Palace, a huge ode to the decadence of the throne. Fire destroyed that monstrosity, so in 1828, the second Christiansborg Palace was built, but King Frederick VI decided he liked another castle better and gave this building to parliament.
Can you guess what happened to this palace? If you’re still with me at this point and you guessed, “Fire”, you win one Danish kroner. In 1884, the second palace burned down, but because of political bickering (sound familiar?), the ruin stood for almost 23 years before the current palace foundation was to be laid in 1906.
The ruins were uncovered in 1906 by workers preparing the site for the third Christiansborg Palace after the 1884 fire. The care taken by Denmark to preserve such an important part of their history is seen in the way the ruins exhibit is laid out for visitors. They explain and show diagrams so the castle is reconstructed right before your eyes. From the strategic defense ring tower to the all important “secret” drains for Mother Nature’s call, you are able to see an early Dane’s life in Copenhagen.
It may seem odd that my favorite part of touring the Christiansborg Palace would be in the dank, dark basement, but to me, this place was alive with stories. Pirates who attacked Copenhagen had their heads cut off. Bishop Absalon placed the severed heads on spikes outside of the curtain wall. This same crumbled curtain wall I walked along in the basement.
King Christian IV’s daughter was imprisoned in the Blue Tower for almost twenty-two years for her husband’s treason when he escaped the country. This same collapsed tower I passed in the basement.
I love history and just like cheese, the older the better, so this was such a complete delight for me. The disappointment in the two day delay to visit the palace was counterbalanced by my elation wandering through the ruins today. We will be saying goodbye to Denmark tomorrow since it’s our last day. See you one last time in Copenhagen!