Death By Inconsolable Shame


The spiral or circular ramp. These have fascinated architects and their clients through centuries.

Rundetaarn (The Round Tower) 1642 of Copenhagen, Denmark has a ramp some 685 feet long spiraling around a hollow core. King Christian IV rode up and down this ramp with a horse and carriage. Home to Europe’s oldest functioning observatory, which sets a top with the viewing platform. A haven for scientists, intellectuals and teachers.

An inscription on the side is a rebus or code. “Lead, God, into the heart of King Christian IV The Right Teaching and Justice, 1642.” The tower is over 114 feet tall with a view of old Copenhagen that is a pleasure to behold.


The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

 

The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

In view from Rundetaarn is another spiral design, The Church Of Our Savior, 1752.

There is a tragic legend of this tower’s architect, Laurids de Thurah. Spirals found in fortress towers turn to the left giving guards a free hand and extended reach advantage for defending right handed swordsmen. Conversely spiral stairs found in churches have a right turn helix.

The legend say when Laurids inspected his completed work a realization fell upon him like a mortifying pall. His spiral sprung the wrong way. His design was flawed.


His shame was so inconsolable he threw himself from the top of what was supposed to be his masterpiece.

The story must of stuck in my mind. Everywhere I turned in Copenhagen that church spire seemed to always catch some part of my peripheral site. The lurking ghost of Laurids. I was compelled time and time again to photograph this tower. Lovely site, sad legend.
But alas, if one happens to come across a book of history’s greatest urban legends, this story is surely amongst them. Architect Laurids de Thurah, in fact, enjoyed opening day as a moment of great pomp and circumstance. King Frederik V walked all the way up this grand spire as 27 canons saluted in the church square.


All the pomp and circumstance was repeated in 1996 upon the church’s restoration. Prince Joachim made the same walk as Frederik. No one then, or before, dove from the tower.

What is true, however, Laurids de Thurah died only seven years after completion of his spire. Reportedly Poor and forgotten. Maybe the legend was created to remember him in a more dramatic and enduring way. Not just to say he died in bed one day.


Thanks to Tom. His rendering of the church tower story to me and his metaphorical descriptions of Copenhagen and its features were of sublime inspiration. Also to Heather for research on the design theory of spiral towers (Right hand vs left helix).

More views from a top Rundetaarn).

 

Dan Soderberg
I am Dan Soderberg, award winning documentary film maker and phototgrapher specializing in architecture, historic preservation and nature.
2 COMMENTS
  • danielsoderberg

     

  • Eric

    Great story and pictures. I fowards it to my mother…

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