Memorial Day in Copenhagen Part 2
Every educated person who visits Copenhagen ought to see the statue of the Little Mermaid. The city’s famous brewer was enchanted by the ballet performance of the Hans Christian Andersen story and commissioned a statue as a gift to the city of Copenhagen. On the way to the statue, however, it is well worth a detour to see St. Alban’s Anglican Church.
Denmark and England have had a rocky relationship, to say the least. The Old Danes used to terrorize the English coast, and since then they have been in various wars or turmoil. In times of peace, however, there existed a trade between the two countries. Both Scots and English migrated to Denmark during the 16th century. The English established shipping agencies. The English desired to worship in their own language and by their own traditions, Anglican. Frederik the Third had forbidden all religions save the practices of the Lutheran church in the King’s Law of 1665. The English worshiped at home, although the practice of communion was forbidden. Religious freedom to worship was not granted until the Danish Constitution of June 5th, 1849.
The English took advantage of this and tried to establish a church of their own. It took thirty years and the help of the Princess of Wales, Alexandra, to finally ensure this church became a reality. September 19th, 1885, Princess Alexandra placed the foundation stone for this church. Attending this ceremony was her husband the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria), King Christian the Ninth of Denmark and his queen Louise (Alexandra’s father and mother), Tsar Alexander III and his wife Tsarina Feodorovna (sister and brother-in-law of Alexandra), the Danish crown prince Frederik (brother of Alexandra), and several other Royal family members and representatives of other Royal Houses in Europe.
St. Alban’s was consecrated on September 17th, 1887. Again, the same royal relatives were present. Following the consecration the Prince and Princess of Wales hosted a lunch on their royal ship for those who had worked to make the church a possibility. This church, although first and foremost a house of worship promoting freedom of religion, was as much a tool to connect European nations.
The architect who designed the church was Sir Arthur Blomfield. The actual execution of the church was done by Danish architect Professor L. Fenger. The vision for this church was to create a church, unlike the Danish churches that populated Copenhagen. And so this building was created to look as much like a typical English church would look.
This church has survived and worship has been conducted without interruption since its consecration. It is interesting to note that even during the German occupation, service continued as usual. The reason for this is that the Germans did not see Denmark as an occupied country but as an independent country under German protection. The Germans did not consider closing the church to be important enough to apply to the Danish authorities for permission to close it.
Although I was unable to visit the inside, this little church has an incredibly complex and rich history. During my next trip to Copenhagen, I will make a point to arrive early enough to make the visiting hours and see the inside of this stunning little English-Danish gem. For now, it was enough to learn about the rich, interesting history that surrounded this house of worship.
St. Alban’s Anglican Church, Copenhagen, Denmark
St Alban’s Church, Copenhagen. “About the church building.” (2016).