C. F. Hansen was born in 1756 and received his education at ’The Royal Danish Academy of the Fine Arts’. At the Academy and during his stay in Italy, C.F. Hansen learned every detail of classical architecture, but he reformulated and juggled the concepts, creating surprising effects.

C.F. Hansen remained in his position as Professor at the Academy until the year before his death in 1845, but at that point young architects were abandoning the columns and straight lines. It was not until the beginning of the 1900s that Hansen’s buildings were once again viewed with appreciation.

Inspired by the Antique

During his two years of studies in Italy, C.F. Hansen became intimately acquainted with the Antique, and the reinterpretations of it during the Renaissance and the Classicism. He was familiar with Palladian villas from the 1500s with the enclosed buildings and open portals, and he definitely knew Rome’s ancient buildings such as the Pantheon and S. Andrea in Via Flaminia.

What C.F. Hansen did not see for himself in person, his library, which contained all the major key works, provided books on. He never made it to Greece, but he followed the “Greek revival” of the day, and knew the classical column orders, plans and temple fronts from books and accounts, such as the measurements of the Greco-Roman city Paestum. His knowledge is reflected in the portal of Church of Our Lady, which was constructed in “the chosen Greek style”.

In the church interior, the upper floor colonnade opens up above the stylobate, like in a Greek temple. But C.F. Hansen was forced to build a wall around it in order to protect it against the Nordic climate. It has often been said that the Castle Church by Christiansborg is his Pantheon and that Church of Our Lady is his Parthenon. Following his stay in Italy, he was named Regional Architect in Holstein and he left his significant touch on the main street Palmaillen in Altona near Hamburg.

The bombardment of 1807

In 1800 C.F. Hansen was called back to Copenhagen, a city badly scarred by fire sites and building grounds following the fires of 1794 and 1795. He was commissioned to lead the reconstruction of Christiansborg Castle and Church, and the task of building a new City Hall and Courthouse on the square ‘Gammel Torv’ also fell to him. Soon he was responsible for all the official construction work; a task that would grow even greater in 1807, when Copenhagen was bombarded by the English on the first days of September.

Church of Our Lady with its impressive 124 meters tall Baroque tower and spire must have been an obvious target for the Englishmen, and on the night before the 5th of September it was hit by Congreve rockets. The spire came tumbling down and most of the church burned to the ground. C. F. Hansen was assigned to design the new church, and his proposal was approved by the King on the 14th of June, 1811. Hansen also held a seat in the commission to build the church and served as both developer and master builder in charge of creating a grand building on top of the burned ruins. In the period leading up to the 1820s, he was the all encompassing arbiter of taste, supervising not only the church rebuilding but Danish architecture in its entirety.

Stubborn and headstrong

C.F. Hansen was firm, and probably also a little feisty. He was accustomed to getting things his way. A considerable bone of contention between the architect and the King was the question of the tower on Church of Our Lady. The King and the rest of the commission wanted a tower and a spire, but C.F. Hansen wanted a short tower – or, rather, no tower at all. He presented two options and used the economy as an argument for lower tower – and thereby got things his way.

Despite many concerns, C.F. Hansen did live to see his church complete with Thorvaldsen’s Christ, Angel of Baptism and the Apostles all in place. He also saw the Metropolitan School established on the area of the old cemetery, which is placed as a completion of the square behind the church’s rotunda. The School’s floor separation and variation of squared and rounded windows correspond perfectly with those of the church. The homogeneous entirety continues in Dyrkøb (the street running along the south side of the church), where Soldinsstiftelse (a property on the corner of Skindergade and Fiolstræde) outlines the square. There is a diagonal view from the colonnade of the church to the portal in front of the Courthouse and from this point an imaginary line leads to the Castle Church. Indeed, the classical Copenhagen belongs to C.F. Hansen.