The motif

A kneeling angel presents a large shell with both hands. The sculpture is the church’s baptismal font. The water for the baptism is poured directly into the sea shell.

The story

Originally the church had a baptismal font made of wood, and ordering a new one had not been brought up; never the less Thorvaldsen had been working on the baptismal font as it can be seen in the church today since 1823. In 1828 The building Commission was made aware that Thorvaldsen was working on a baptismal font where a kneeling angel holds forth the baptismal bowl, and inquiries were made as to whether it was possible to get it for the church, and in 1833 the baptismal font arrived in Copenhagen along with many other sculptures from Italy. The font was first used on the 19th of May, 1839, where the daughter of sculptor H.E. Freund was baptised with Thorvaldsen serving as the godfather. Thorvaldsen made several fonts in the shape of a cube with reliefs on all four sides, but he only made this one version of the kneeling angel. However, many others have later copied it, and some artists made the angel bear the characteristics of for instance famous people in the parish.

The facts

There is a long tradition in sculpting of having angels assist at the baptism. There are many known examples from the 1700s of hovering angels carrying a sea shell, baptismal bowl or a lid for the font, and Sct. Petri Church, which is directly across from Church of Our Lady, used to have a standing angel with a baptismal bowl. Thorvaldsen would likely have known of the large angels in Rome which stand at the church entrances with holy water.