Frederiks Kirke - Marmor Church - the Marble Church

the Marble Church from the square of the Amalienborg Palaces at sunrise

From the start, from 1749, with planning for a new quarter of the city beyond the old east gate, there was to be a large new church on the major cross axis and it was to have a centralised plan rather than being cruciform or having a hall and aisle form. It is shown on maps and drawings from the middle of the 18th century set in a square church yard on the cross axis of the four palaces that were to become the royal palaces or Amalienborg Palaces. Plans for the church were drawn up by the architect Nicolai Eigtved who was responsible for the overall plan of the new area and for many of the new houses and palaces.

Plan of the new quarter with the Amalienborg Palaces at the centre and the new church above

Commencement of building work on the church was marked by the laying of a foundation stone by the king, Frederick V, on the 31st October 1749 but construction did not progress well. Eigtved died in 1754 and he was succeeded by the French architect Nicholas-Henri Jardin on the recommendation of a compatriot, the sculptor Jacques Saly who had been employed by the royal court from 1752. Jardin submitted new and much grander designs for the church but it was clear that his proposals would have been exorbitantly expensive to build and yet more designs were prepared and submitted in 1756. These revisions were still extravagant but were actually accepted and some funds were committed but again building work progressed slowly. 

Jardin gained favour at court and was appointed Royal Building Master in 1760 and took over responsibility for all major building works for the king and responsibility for new work on the royal parks. He had also taken on teaching at the recently founded Royal Danish Academy of Art and by 1764, with so many distractions and with uncertainty about funding, the walls of the church had only been built up to about 9 metres. 

In 1766 the king died and his son Christian VII, on his succession, agreed to work on the church halting. By 1770 all work stopped and it would appear that scaffolding and lifting equipment was sold off.

By 1771 the political mood in Denmark was changing, becoming less favourable to employing foreigners in important court posts, and Jardin returned to France where he was appointed first to the Royal Academy of Arts in Paris and then, in 1778, he became the Royal Architect to Louis XV.

There were further delays in making a decision about Frederiks Kirke and it was not until 1795 that it was agreed that work on the church would resume with yet more new proposals but now from the Danish architect Caspar Harsdorff who had studied under Jardin at the Royal Danish Academy. He produced two new plans and a model but was not well and died in 1799 and again there seems to have been little or no progress with construction. Again work stopped and this time the stonework was left as a ruin for over 70 years … the walls and tumbled stones are shown in a painting of 1835 by Frederik Sødring that is now in the collection of the national gallery in Copenhagen - Statens Museum for Kunst.

Marmorpladsen - the square of the Marble Church - in 1835 by Frederik Sødring - painting now in the Statens Museum for Kunst.

In 1874 the site and the ruins of the base of the church were sold by the Finance Minister Andreas Frederik Krieger to Carl Frederik Tietgen on the condition that he completed the building but could, in return, build a development of new apartments on either side of the church.

Even then, progress was not assured. In January 1877 a court case was instigated against Krieger on the accusation of corruption over the deal although he was acquitted.

The new architect appointed by Tietgen to complete Frederiks Kirke was Ferdinand Meldahl who had been responsible for the reconstruction of Frederiksborg Castle following the fire there in 1859.

Yet more plans were drawn up and work then took over fifteen years and the completed church was opened on 19 August 1894.