Heavenly Tunes at Copenhagen’s Church of the Holy Ghost

Come explore with us one of Copenhagen's oldest churches! You'll be surprised to know that its beginnings were different than what the church is now.

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This image shows a part of the facade of the Church of the Holy Ghost.
Church of the Holy Ghost from seen from the west. To the left, you can see the entrance to the Holy Ghost House.

Copenhagen center, a.k.a. Indre By (“Inner City”), is the beating heart of the town in regards of economy, history and culture. There you can find the most iconic locations, like Nyhavn, the Round Tower, the City Hall, among many other places. Like the Church of the Holy Ghost (“Helligåndskirken” in Danish), one of the oldest churches of the city. This is a landmark church located in the Niels Hemmingsens Gade street, right beside the pedestrian titan Strøget.

The Church of the Holy Ghost has a long history that spans more than seven centuries. And like many other buildings in Copenhagen, it has been repurposed over time. However, despite its long history, this place is far from becoming just another museum. That’s because it still offers religious services for the community, like sermons, baptisms, confirmations, concerts, etc.

This image shows the middle section of the church. The hall is surrounded by wooden benches and there's also a second level apparently wooden too.
On the way to the choir.
This image shows the church's choir. It's very colorful and exquisitely decorated with stained glasses and an altarpiece.
The choir.

Early beginnings

The Church of the Holy Ghost didn’t start like one, but as a hospital for poor people. Back in that time, the building had a different name: The Holy Ghost House. Bishop Johannes Krag stablished it back in 1295, with a small church and a priest attached to it. Later they transformed it into a monastery for the Holy Ghost order in 1469 by King Christian I. It’s known that he visited the pope in Rome to get his approval for the monastery himself.

After that, the church had several upgrades, like the building of the tower in 1520. This work took a long time and ended up achieving its completion almost half a century later. The church also had an expansion and some embelishment work on the roof. In 1662, the church adquired its organs for the first time, but these suffered damages during the great fire and were replaced in 1733.

Around the time that the building of the tower started, the Reformation movement quickly got to Denmark and the monastery closed, leaving the church in the hands of the city council. They decided to turn the building into a parrish church and, ever since then, it has remained so. In October 1728, the church was reached by the Copenhagen Fire, wich is the biggest fire in the city and lasted around 60 hours. Small repairment works followed the severe damage in the building and, later in 1872, there was a great refurbishment that brought the church back to its glory.

The music

This image shows the main organ used for the services at the church. Below, a beautiful mural can be seen.
Top: the main organ. Bottom: in the wall, “The Prayer” by Skovgaard.

Now if you’re lucky enough, someone will be playing the organs while you visit the Church of the Holy Ghost. This is unlike any other instrument, because the music that it plays sounds so ethereal that it makes you feel calm and drop whatever you’re doing. When they’re playing the organs, you listen to the melody very carefully, trying to hold on to the heavenly feeling that it exudes. This must be so much more evident when you’re visiting in Fall, because the lack of noisy groups of tourists gives more room to the sounds.

If you want to visit the church, really consider doing it during one of its concerts or services. That’s a great plan even if you’re not christian, because it allows you to witness the intrincacies of religious traditions. It’s also the perfect ocassion to see the choir and organs in action, perhaps together with some other instruments. Just make sure that you check the church’s schedule via their website before you go. Sadly, it doesn’t have an English version, but your browser should be able to translate it for you.

The Church of the Holy Ghost today

This image shows the entrance to the Holy Ghost House, a small establishment used for art exhibitions and other events.
The entrance to the Holy Ghost House.

Nowadays, the church is open everyday: from Mondays to Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a place that you can visit for free, be it to admire its beautiful architecture or to attend the religious services organized by the parrish on Sundays and holy days. There’s also a night service every Friday, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. If you want to know the events that are going to take place at the church, be sure to check their website.

Moreover, to the west side of the church, you can find the entrance to the Holy Ghost House. This spot now houses art exhibitions, chamber concerts and other public events, which you can experience for free too. During our visit, we attended a contemporary art exhibition that portrayed the human nature in a vulnerable state. Whenever you visit Copenhagen, don’t forget to pay a visit to this beautiful church with almost a millenium of history. You’ll feel like you’re travelling to a different time and it’ll show you a more spiritual facet of the city.

Would you like to visit the Church of the Holy Ghost? Have you been there already? Tell us everything about it in the comments section below!

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