Statue in marble, Church of Our Lady’s altar

The statue


Christ has his arms stretched in embrace towards us, but is simultaneously leaning back with the weight on his right foot. He is dressed in a large, draped cloth that reaches above both shoulders, but leaves the left side of the upper body naked.

Thorvaldsen has chosen to depict Christ as the resurrected saviour, with stigmata on his hands and feet from the nails of the crucifixion and wound on the chest from the lance. Christ stands in a large golden niche framed by two pillars that hold up a large triangular fronton. Inscription directly above the altar table: ’And surely I am with you always’ Inscription on the base below Christ: ’Come to me.’ Inscription above Christ: ’This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.’

When Thorvaldsen made the statue of Christ, the most common depiction was to show Christ suffering, nailed to a cross. His monumental portrayal of Christ as the resurrected saviour is new and a little unusual, but at the same time Thorvaldsen portrays Christ in a very traditional form, making him easily recognisable.

The names ’Jesus’ and ’Christ’ are used simultaneously. Jesus is the name God tells Mary, and Christ means ’One who is anointed’. It can be explained like this: his name is Jesus and he is Christ, but both are used as his name.

The story

Christ is sentenced to death by Jews and Romans, who did not enjoy the fact that he called himself the Son of God and socialised amongst outcasts and spoke of salvation and a new Covenant to replace the Ten Commandments.

Christ was crucified, died on the cross and was laid in a tomb. When Mary Magdalene and some other women brought pleasant-smelling oils to the tomb, it was empty and instead they were met by an angel, who said: ’He is not here, He is resurrected.’

In the days after the crucifixion, Christ appeared before several of the women and the apostles, and they were all witnesses when forty days later he was consumed by a cloud and ascended to Heaven.

Thorvaldsen has depicted Christ in his condition from the days between the Crucifixion and the Ascension.
 

The facts

In November of 1819, Thorvaldsen received the order for a Christ statue for the Christiansborg Castle Church, at the same time also receiving the order for the Twelve Apostles for Church of Our Lady.

Several preparations and sketches for the Christ statue are known. The statue is completed in 1821 and passed on to Pieri Tenerani for sculpting in full size.

In 1827 a plaster cast is sent to Copenhagen and put up in Church of Our Lady at the consecration in 1829. A plaster copy is sent to the marble quarries in Carrara to be transferred to marble by Bienaimé, which was completed in 1828.

The statue was put up in marble in Church of Our Ladyin 1833. It never made it to Christiansborg Castle Church, but it was not finally settled that it would remain in Church of Our Lady before 1838.
 

Note

The inscriptions underline three stages in the life of Christ: Divinity, when God legitimises Christ as his son: ‘This is my son…’ The life of Christ on earth amongst the outcasts: ‘Come to me…’ And finally life after death and resurrection, where we are to pass on the message: ‘And surely I am with you always...’