Frederiks Church, Copenhagen 1740s-1894

Frederiks Church
Frederiks Church · Credit: RIBA Library photographs collection

Completed in 1894, in the first year of the RIBA Journal’s publication, the Frederiks Church (or Marmorkirke) in Copenhagen was designed by historicist architect Ferdinand Meldahl.  The original project by Nicolai Eigtved – for a circular church surmounted by a hemispherical dome in the new district of Frederiksstaden – dated from the 1740s, and was altered at the architect’s death in 1754 by his colleague Nicholas-Henri Jardin. His marble church proved so expensive that work was halted in 1770, when both the external wall and ambulatory arcade had only reached the point of springing the drum. In spite of various proposals for its completion over the following century, the building remained a half-finished ruin until 1874, when industrialist Carl Frederik Tietgen bought it from the state and commissioned Meldahl to design and execute the missing sections. Using limestone rather than marble, Meldahl added a ­columned portico and a dome inspired by that of St Peter’s in Rome. This grandiose structure – the largest church dome in Scandinavia – has become one of Copenhagen’s major landmarks. Meldahl also designed the elegant apartment buildings bordering the church square.

Valeria Carullo