Fire Devastates Copenhagen’s Historic Stock Exchange

Its signature 184-foot spire collapsed, but rescuers salvaged some of the valuable artworks inside

Copenhagen's Old Stock Exchange was undergoing renovations when the building caught fire on April 16, 2024. Emil Hlems / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP via Getty Images

Copenhagen’s 400-year-old Stock Exchange partially collapsed in a blazing fire on Tuesday. As sirens blared and smoke billowed, first responders and passersby sprang into action to evacuate some of the building’s artistic treasures.

“A piece of Danish history is on fire,” wrote Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in a translated Instagram post during the catastrophe. “The stock exchange is one of Copenhagen’s most iconic buildings. A symbol of 400 years of business history in Denmark.”

The fire began on the Exchange’s roof on April 16. The disaster caused no casualties, but the Exchange’s signature central spire was reduced to rubble, reports Jan M. Olsen of the Associated Press (AP). Police have not yet determined the cause of the blaze.

The Stock Exchange was built in the early 1600s by Christian IV. Jebulon / CC0 1.0 DEED via Wikimedia Commons

The Exchange, or the Børsen, is one of Denmark’s capital city’s oldest structures, according to the New York Times’ Derrick Bryson Taylor and Maya Tekeli. Located in the heart of Copenhagen near Denmark’s parliament, Christiansborg Palace, the Exchange’s architectural majesty made it a major tourist attraction: It’s known for its red brick walls, a roof of green copper and—until the recent fire—a 184-foot spire resembling the intertwined tails of four silver dragons.

Finished in the early 1600s, the Børsen exemplifies the Dutch Renaissance architectural style. Christian IV, the king of Denmark and Norway in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, commissioned the project “with the aim of turning Copenhagen into a major trading center,” writes BBC News’ Paul Kirby. The building housed the Danish stock market until 1974, and it’s currently home to the country’s Chamber of Commerce.

A firefighter attempts to extinguish flames engulfing the Børsen. Emil Nicolai Helms/ Ritzau Scanpix / AFP via Getty Images

As the fire raged, Brian Mikkelsen, chief of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, and his staff were seen flipping through a record of paintings housed inside the building, reports the AP. He said a team of rescuers used crowbars and other tools to remove valuable artworks and carry them to nearby buildings. Civilians on the street stepped in to help, an effort Jakob Engel-Schmidt, Denmark’s culture minister, called “touching.”

One of the rescued works, Peder Severin Kroyer’s From Copenhagen Stock Exchange, is over 13 feet long, per the Danish newspaper Avisen Danmark. Five or six people were required to carry the 1895 painting to safety.

Mikkelsen told reporters that rescuers were able to save many works, per the AP. Nevertheless, he described the damage as “a national disaster.”

The painting
Peder Severin Kroyer’s painting From Copenhagen Stock Exchange was among the rescued works. Peder Severin Krøyer / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

As Engel-Schmidt tells the Times, the building’s artworks “tell us something about ourselves as a nation and as a people,” and the building itself is part of the Danish psyche. “That’s why there are people standing in the streets, looking incredibly sad,” he adds. “It affects me, too.”

For four centuries, the Børsen has stood as a Copenhagen landmark, with its dragon spire contributing to the capital’s reputation as the “city of towers,” as Denmark’s king, Frederik X, said in a translated statement yesterday.

Piece in hand
Danish Chamber of Commerce Chief Brian Mikkelsen holds a piece of the Stock Exchange building's toppled dragon spire as he speaks to reporters. Ida Marie Odgaard / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP via Getty Images

“We have regarded the historic building as a beautiful symbol of our capital and a building that we, as a nation, have been proud of,” he added. “The Queen and I would like to thank all those who, since early this morning, have ensured that no one has been hurt, and who have fought to save as much as possible of both the building and the many cultural treasures and works of art that Børsen contains.”

On Wednesday, firefighters worked to extinguish the “last pockets” of fire, according to the AP. Officials started speaking about rebuilding, which could take “up to ten years.”

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