Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Christiansborg Palace is a palace and government building on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen, Denmark. It is the seat of the Danish Parliament (Folketinget), the Danish Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court of Denmark. Also, several parts of the palace are used by the Danish monarch, including the Royal Reception Rooms, the Palace Chapel and the Royal Stables.

The palace is thus home to the three supreme powers: the executive power, the legislative power, and the judicial power. It is the only building in the world that houses all three of a country’s branches of government. The name Christiansborg is thus also frequently used as a metonym for the Danish political system, and colloquially it is often referred to as Rigsborgen (Castle of the realm) or simply Borgen (The castle).

The castle is roughly divided in the middle with the Folketing’s premises in the south wing and the royal premises in the north wing. There are six floors, like the former castles, but they are differently distributed. The main floor is the 1st floor, Beletagen, which in both wing contains the most significant rooms.

In addition to the Royal Chamber of Representatives, the royal wing contains the Supreme Court, which is located on the ground floor, and the Ministry of the Interior, which is located in the premises originally intended as the monarch’s private apartment above the Royal Representative premises.

Christiansborg has been burnt and rebuilt twice, and today Christiansborg is still part of the three buildings of the castle. The buildings around the riding track (stables, riding house and Theater Museum in Hofteatret) are from the first Christiansborg; The same goes for Thorvaldsen Museum, which was originally a car park, but now it is very different. From the second Christiansborg, the castle church is the only entire building left. However, there are some details and parts that have been reused in different places.

The palace is roughly divided in the middle, with the Parliament located in the southern wing and the Royal Reception Rooms, the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister’s Office in the northern wing.

Several parts of the palace are open to the public after published schedule with guided tours available, for a substantial fee. It is centrally located in Copenhagen’s Indre By (“City Center”) district.

The Queen Gate
The Queen Gate, which connects the inner castle courtyard with Slotspladsen and Prins Jørgens Gård respectively. The royal gate does not have much function as none of the main sections of the castle has entrance therefrom; however, the royal gate has the entrance to the underground exhibition of the ancient castle ruins. The queen gate is the main entrance to the royal premises in the north wing.

The Supreme Court has its main entrance in Prins Jørgens Gård, where it has been reused the entrance gate from the royal gate at the former castle, which has now been lifted to a location at the end of the entrance staircase. The entrance to the Folketing is located in Rigsdaggården.

The facades are covered with granite; except for the lower floors of Prins Jørgens farm, where you have chosen to use sandstone that was recycled from the former castle. Granite has the advantage that it is very weather resistant and virtually maintenance-free, but at the same time it means that the decorative elements are quite coarse, as this stone is not suitable for refining finer details. On the living and basement floors, stones were used which were collected and submitted from more than 700 different parishes in Denmark. The many different rocks give a certain color scheme, which is emphasized by the fact that the outside of the bricks is roughly chopped and therefore has a natural rough surface.

Most of the stone sculptures for the ornamentation of the facade were produced by the sculptor Anders Bundgaard. Over every window in most of the ground floor are granite masks of prominent men in Danish history.

The royal residence’s representation rooms are located in the royal wing’s ground floor and in the first floor. The venues are used by Kongehuset for official events such as gala dinners, dinner parties, New Year’s Eve, ambassador receptions, audiences and cabinet ministers.

The Royal Representative premises
The royal residence’s representation rooms are located in the royal wing’s ground floor and in the first floor. The venues are used by Kongehuset for official events such as gala dinners, dinner parties, New Year’s Eve, ambassador receptions, audiences and cabinet ministers.

There is access to the Royal Representative premises through the Queen Gate. From here, two main staircases lead into the royal wing: The second Kongestad, which through the Drabant Hall is the main entrance to the Representative premises, and partly the Queen’s staircase which is smaller and leads on to the upper floors.

On the ground floor at the foot of the Kongestad is the Audiensgemakket and the State Council Hall. In the first floor are the Tronsalen, the Knights Hall, the Taffelsalen, the Library and the Alexander Hall.

Royal Reception Rooms
The Royal Reception Rooms at Christiansborg Palace are located on the ground floor and first floor in the northern half of the palace. The Rooms are used for official functions of the monarch such as banquets, state dinners, the New Year’s levée, diplomatic accreditations, audiences and meetings of the council of state.

The Reception Rooms are richly adorned with furniture and works of art rescued from the two earlier palaces, as well as decorations by some of the best Danish artists, such as Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Laurits Tuxen, Joakim Skovgaard and Bjørn Nørgaard.

The Royal Representative rooms contain paintings, tapestries and works of art by Danish artists such as Nicolai Abildgaard, Bertel Thorvaldsen, C.W. Eckersberg, Laurits Tuxen, Joakim Skovgaard and Bjørn Nørgaard. The premises also contain several furniture and fixtures that originate from the second Christiansborg.

Throne Room
The King’s Stairway gives access to the Tower Hall (Tårnsalen). The Tower Hall displays a series of tapestries with motifs from Danish folk songs, woven after cartoons painted by Joakim Skovgaard.

The oval throne hall is located in the middle of the main wing facing the castle square. Salens two trunks are designed by C.F. Hansen and originated from the second Christiansborg. The tronal hall is used in connection with the New Year’s Eve and for ambassador receptions. In addition, there is a tradition that newly appointed rulers are invited from Tronsalen’s balcony.

Facing the Palace Square is the oval Throne Room (Tronsalen) where foreign ambassadors present their credentials to Queen Margrethe II. The Throne Room gives access to the balcony where the Danish monarchs are proclaimed. The Throne Room is decorated with a large ceiling painting by Kræsten Iversen, depicting how the Danish flag, Dannebrog, fell from the sky in Estonia in 1219.

The Royal Reception Rooms also include the Fredensborg Hall (Fredensborgsalen) with Laurits Tuxen’s painting of King Christian IX and his whole family together at Fredensborg Palace and parts of the Queen’s Library.

Great Hall
The Knights Hall is Christiansborg’s largest room with a length of 40 meters and a ceiling of 10 meters. There is room for about 400 dining guests in the hall, used for receptions, royal dinner parties and gala dinners during state visits.

The Great Hall is the largest and most spectacular of the Royal Reception Rooms. The Hall is 40 metres long with a ceiling height of 10 metres, and a gallery runs all the way around the room. The Hall seats 400 guests and is used for banquets, state dinners and receptions.

The Great Hall was renovated on the occasion of Queen Margrethe II’s 60th birthday when artist Bjørn Nørgaard’s 17 tapestries recounting the history of Denmark were hung on the walls. The tapestries were a gift from the Danish business community on the occasion of Queen Margrethe II’s 50th birthday.

The Alexander Hall (Alexandersalen) is named for Bertel Thorvaldsen’s marble frieze “Alexander the Great Enters Babylon”. The frieze was made for the second Christiansborg Palace, and parts of it survived the fire. It was later restored and mounted in this room. The Hall is used for smaller receptions and official dinners, often in connection with state visits.

Parliament Wing:
In the Riksdag wing there is a thorough walking hall that ends in the east of the Folketing Hall and in the west of the former county hall. Along the Vandrehallen there are various venues such as the chairman’s office and the parliamentary secretariat.

The Folketing Chamber
The first floor of the Parliament Wing is structured around the Lobby. At both ends of Lobby are the chambers of Rigsdagen, the former bicameral parliament; the Folketing chamber is located at the far end and the Landsting located at the other (the far chamber has been the only one in use since the Folketing became the sole legislative assembly in 1953). Along the hall are various rooms such as the Speaker’s office and offices for the administration.

The hall was opened in 1918, where the first meeting was held on 28 May. The chairs of the members are located in horseshoe-shaped rows with the chair and the chair in the center towards the outer wall of the slot. To the sides there are several floors that are distributed to, among other things, the press, the royal house, former members and the public. The chair is made of one large egestam which originally has been part of a stump mill at Møn. The parliamentary hall extends through three floors and the interior is characterized by the oak panels of the walls and the large pieces of work on the upper walls and in the attic. On the wall behind the recliner there are also the major polling boards and partly a picture carpet made by the artist Berit Hjelholt. On the opposite wall are two landscape paintings made by Olaf Rude.

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Members have permanent seats, and they try to distribute them after political observation so that “left” and “right-wing” are sitting respectively. left and right (seen from the chair). In addition, the seats are typically distributed as rapporteurs and members with high seniority are at the forefront and closest to the chair. The distribution becomes more difficult, the more different parties represented and also if more seats are to be obtained for ministers who are not members of the parliament.

Ruins under the palace
Under the present palace lie the ruins of Bishop Absalon’s Castle and Copenhagen Castle. When the foundations of the present Christiansborg Palace were being cast, workers came across ruins of several buildings and parts of a curtain wall.

Experts were called in from the National Museum of Denmark and the ruins, which lay beneath the inner palace yard, were unearthed. Public interest in these ruins, which dated back to around the year 1167, was tremendous. It was therefore decided that the ruins should not be covered over again but preserved for posterity. The reinforced concrete structure erected to cover the ruins was the biggest of its kind in Denmark when it was built in 1908.

The ruins beneath the palace square were excavated in 1917 and a cover was also built over them. The ruins have been open to the public since 1924. The Ruins Exhibition was renovated during the period 1974-77 and has remained more or less untouched since then.

The Palace Chapel
Christiansborg Palace Chapel is part the palace which is at the disposal of the Danish Monarch. It is used for religious ceremonies for members of the Danish Royal Family, most notably baptisms, confirmations and official lying in state. It is also used by the Danish Parliament for the Church service in connection with the opening of parliament.

The history of Christiansborg Palace Chapel goes back to the first Christiansborg Palace, which was built by the contractor general Elias David Häusser from 1733-45. King Christian VI was keen on architecture, and he commissioned a talented young architect in the King’s building service, Nicolai Eigtved, to design the palace chapel (1738–42). Eigtved seized the opportunity and designed one of the most distinguished Rococo interiors in Denmark.

In 1794 fire ravaged the palace and it was decided to demolish the ruins completely. The demolition, however, never took place.

Architect Christian Frederik Hansen, who resurrected the palace between 1803–1828, was also commissioned to rebuild the palace chapel in 1810. Work commenced in 1813, using the existing foundations and masonry as far as possible. The church and main palace were built in strict neo-classical style, with a dome construction on top of a central church interior. The palace chapel was inaugurated on Whit Sunday, May 14, 1826, to mark the 1,000 anniversary of the introduction of Christianity to Denmark.

The second palace fire in 1884 spared the church, as the fire was stopped in the buildings linking it to the palace. However, fate finally caught up with the church June 7, 1992. The church burned to the ground, probably set ablaze by fireworks set off during the Whitsun carnival.

During the 1992 church fire, the roof, dome and dividing floor were burned down and the inventory severely damaged. Shortly afterwards, the Danish Ministry of Finance’s Palaces and Properties Agency began rebuilding the chapel in collaboration with Erik Møller’s Drawing Studio A/S and Royal Inspector of Listed State Buildings Jens Fredslund. No drawings existed of the dome and roof, but a systematic exercise in building archaeology registered the charred remains of the building, and made it possible to recreate the dome and roof. Historically accurate building methods were also used throughout the rebuilding process.

Danish craftsmen were unable to undertake the difficult work of restoring and recreating the interior’s scagliola. One of Germany’s leading experts, Manfred Siller, took charge and taught the venerable technique to Danish stucco workers.

The rebuilt church was inaugurated on January 14, 1997 to celebrate Queen Margrethe II’s Silver Jubilee. The rebuilding was awarded the prestigious Europa Nostra prize.

The royal stables
There has been a significant horse team at the castle and therefore also a considerable stable. Most of the ground floor in the horse-riding buildings, including the roundabouts of the Marmor Bridge, was thus stable facilities with a total of 87 riding horses and 165 driving horses. Parts of this stable are still unchanged with its extravagant equipment of marble columns and marble crusher; Other parts are designed for the carriage museum with the old horse-drawn vehicles. Finally, some parts are transformed into other purposes such as offices and garages for the royal house cars. There is still a horse team with a number of horses used by Kongehuset.

The riding house
Ridehuset is located in the northern horse lane, opposite Hofteatret. The decor is largely unchanged since it was built together with the first Christiansborg. It is built with a king-size chair and a balcony so watched have been able to attend the riding exercises and competitions that were held. The royal chair is remarkable because it is of the few preserved rooms with original decor from the first castle.

The riding house is still used to train the horses in the Royal Stables. In addition, the room is used occasionally for various cultural events such as theater and opera performances.

The Court Theatre
The Court Theatre is located over the stables in the southern wing of the Riding Ground Complex, opposite the Riding School. Since 1922 the Court Theatre has housed the collection of the Theatre Museum. The auditorium is often used for theatre performances, lectures and television programmes.

Already at the Copenhagen Castle, one of the wings was fitted out as a theatre. However, the first Christiansborg Palace was constructed without a theatre. During the early reign of King Christian VII it became customary to have theatre performances in the Banqueting Hall, and in 1766 it was decided to construct a proper court theatre. A harness storeroom was adapted to an auditorium. The theatre was designed by the French architect Nicolas-Henri Jardin and inaugurated by King Christian VII and Queen Caroline Matilda in January 1767. Little remains of this original theatre as it was reconstructed in 1842 following the designs of architect Jørgen Hansen Koch. In time the Court Theatre came to function as an annex to the Royal Danish Theatre. In 1881 the theatre was closed as performance venue following the tragic fire of the Ringtheater in Vienna which underlined the dangers involved in the continued use of old theatres.

The Tower
In June 2014, a viewing platform in the Tower, still the tallest in the city, was made accessible to the public, while the interior of the Tower was refurbished and a restaurant opened in place of what was once a storage room. Access to the viewing platform is free, though passing through a security check is required due to the official nature of the building. There is the comfortable elevator.

Other features
The Marble Bridge and the pavilions
In Häusser’s original project from the first Christiansborg, the two wings of the palace were linked by a gatehouse at the Frederiksholm Canal end, and a drawbridge led over the canal. The Palace Building Commission was not completely satisfied with the proposal and asked two young architects working for the royal building authority, Nicolai Eigtved and Lauritz de Thurah, to come up with an alternative suggestion.

Their proposal included a permanent bridge over Frederiksholm Canal forming the main entrance to the palace and two portal pavilions flanking an open drive and closing the complex off between the two wings. Both bridge and pavilions were in the new rococo style.

Responsibility was transferred to Eigtved, who was the prime mover behind the project.

The bridge was extremely elegant— sandstone covered with medallion decorations by the sculptor Louis August le Clerc. The pavements were paved with Norwegian marble, hence the name the Marble Bridge (Marmorbro), and the roadway paved with cobblestones.

The pavilions were every bit as magnificent as the bridge. They were covered with sandstone from Saxony, and the sculptor Johan Christof Petzoldt richly decorated the concave roofs with the royal couple’s back-to-back monograms and four figures on each roof symbolising the royal couple’s positive traits. The interior decoration was by the court’s master stonemason Jacob Fortling. The bridge and pavilions were finished in 1744.

In 1996, when Copenhagen was European Capital of Culture, the Palaces and Properties Agency finished a restoration of the Showgrounds that had taken many years. The Marble Bridge and Pavilions were restored between 1978 and 1996 by architect Erik Hansen and the Show Grounds from 1985-1996 by Royal Inspector of Listed State Buildings Gehrdt Bornebusch.

King Christian IX’s equestrian statue
A collection was started for the construction of a monument to King Christian IX shortly after his death in 1906. The following year four artists were invited to compete for the commission. There was no discussion about the position of the statue. It would be erected on Christiansborg Riding Ground Complex as a pendant to the statue of King Frederick VII on the Palace Square.

Sculptor Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen, the wife of composer Carl Nielsen, won the competition with her proposal for a new equestrian statue. In the proposal, the statue was shown on a high pedestal, on the sides of which were reliefs depicting a procession of the leading men of the day, including industrialist Carl Frederik Tietgen, politician Jakob Brønnum Scavenius Estrup and poets Jens Peter Jacobsen and Holger Drachmann. The reliefs were later axed, and the architect Andreas Clemmensen designed the pedestal that bears the horse today.

The sculptor sought throughout the country for the right horse to stand as a model, but found it in Hanover in Germany. This gave rise to a good deal of displeasure among Danish horse breeders.

The monument took a long time to complete, but in 1927, 21 years after the king’s death, it was unveiled on the Riding Ground Complex.

Christiansborg Palace is owned by the Danish state, and is run by the Palaces and Properties Agency. Several parts of the palace are open to the public.

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