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02.11.2020

St. Peter's Church, Copenhagen

St. Peter's Church - Parish Church of the German-speaking community in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is located on the corner of Nerregade and St. Peders Strede streets in the Latin Quarter of the city. Built as a one-nave church in the middle of the 15th century, it is the oldest building in downtown Copenhagen. It is also notable for its vast complex of grave chapels.

St. Peter's Church in the Middle Ages was one of the four Catholic parish churches in Copenhagen. First mentioned in 1304, but most likely it was founded in the 12th century. The first church burned down in 1380, but was rebuilt soon after that. After the Reformation, the church building was used for some time as a canonical and bell foundry.

Frederick II presented St. Peter's Church to his German-speaking subjects in 1585. The building was restored by Hans van Steenwinkel the Elder, who also added a pediment to the top floor of the unfinished tower, which, however, was replaced by a spire in the XVII century. The church became the center of the political, economic, cultural and military elite of Copenhagen, which, like the royal court, relied on German in everyday life.

The rapidly growing community made it necessary to expand the church in several stages. Christian IV added the northern transept in 1631 and the southern transept in 1634. In just 60 years, Christian V expanded the northern transept by three more parts. Distinctive coffin chapels appeared between 1648 and 1740.

St. Peter's Church was severely damaged in a fire in Copenhagen in 1728. The interior was lost due to the fire, but the outer walls remained intact, and the church could easily be restored by Johann Cornelius Krieger. In 1756-57, the church first received a short lantern spire, which was replaced by the current copper spire. The spire survived the British bombing during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807.

With the growing tension between Denmark and Germany in the mid-18th century, which culminated in the First Schleswig War of 1848-1850, the church lost its special position, and thus its members, prestige and financial support.

Over time, the maintenance of a large complex of buildings became an impossible task for the community, and in 1994, the state again took the church under its care. It was handed over to the Agency for Palaces and Real Estate, which in the late 90's carried out extensive restoration and partial reconstruction under the guidance of architect and Professor Hans Munk Hansen.

Originally St. Peter's Church was built as a single-nave church, but with the addition of northern and southern transept by Christian IV, it received a cruciform layout that characterizes it today. Most of the church, including the nave, choir and the lower part of the tower, dates back to the mid-15th century. The main entrance is located in the southern transept and is marked by a richly carved 1731 baroque portal carved by the sculptor Diderik Gerken. The spire from 1756 to 1757 was built in the Rococo style by the carpenter.

The church has an extensive complex of tombstones, which began in 1643 and was not completed until 1681-83, when Hans van Steenwinkel Jr. completed the construction of the tricuspidal chapel in the direction of Larsleystrade. The complex contains numerous tombs and epitaphs of important German families in Denmark. Under the tombs are sarcophagi of the most prominent members of the family, and other coffins in three or four layers are placed in the underground crypts.

The church today belongs to the Danish Palaces and Real Estate Agency, but on a daily basis the church is still actively used by the German-speaking Evangelical-Lutheran community with 900 members, which is part of the Danish National Church. The congregation organizes excursions, concerts and other cultural events in the historic building. Together with St. Peter's School and the Cultural Center located on the church's territory, it forms the center of German culture in Copenhagen.

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