There is a Christian from Denmark who matters a lot today, he lives in London and is a sportsman – he is Christian Eriksen the football playmaker plying his trade for North London side Tottenham Hotspurs in the British Premier League. He was the emphatic life force behind Denmark’s 5-1 thrashing of Croatia to qualify for the world cup and leads perhaps the most talented of the Nordic teams in Russia 2018 (including Kasper Schmeicel, Simin Kjær, Sisto Pione and Nicklas Bendter).
But he is not the Christian on my mind today. Today’s Christian existed in the distant past but lives on throughout the city in the Christianshavn district and all around the city.
Spot the logo
It began when I noticed the common C4 insignia on many buildings around Copenhagen. It was obviously put up to receive the adulation or notice of others – like how CR7 and MSN are/were short hand for references (and signs of endearment) for footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar respectively. The only 4 I knew were the Fantastic Four and F4 a Taiwanese boyband.
Whereas such monikers tended to be given by others, C4 was however self-awarded by the then-king Christian IV.
Christian as I was to come to learn, wasn’t shy about self-praise and adulation. Besides the logos on buildings, he named a whole district in Copenhagen and a whole city (today’s Oslo) after himself.
Christianshavn in Copenhagen where Christiania Free Town is located
I guess you could say he was in love with himself (there are a couple of Scandanavian footballers who might have a similar attitude to things like Nicklas Bendter and Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic). But with his accomplishments its not hard to see why. Christian IV ruled from 1596, taking the crown of King of Denmark-Norway as a 19 year old and holding on to that crown for a whopping 59 years. That tenure has not been broken yet by any other Scandanavian monarch ever.
Coronation of Christian IV by Otto Bache
Under his early reign a rich Denmark built massive fortifications including the fortress of Christiania next to the main city of Copenhagen. There was massive investment in the military with the fleet size of the navy increasing threefold by the mid of his rule. And with increased military power the confidence to involve Denmark in the Thirty Year War.
It wasn’t just this one war, long as it was, Christian would take part in many wars including the Kalmar War, Torstenson War and countless smaller wars with Sweden.
The early 1600s coincided with the economic boom in Europe as a result of mercantilism which inspired Christian to establish the Danish East India company and the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.
The Danish Stock Exchange in Copenhagen
In all these cases, his frame of reference was the Dutch, who were a booming power then – explaining the Dutch look to the city (such as at Nyhavn).
Unlike the Dutch however, the Danish enterprise did not result in much success and the country was left much poorer for it. This drove Christian to attempt to join the colonisation game which resulted in a fortuitous meeting with a leader in India and the estbalishment of settlements(mainly a city called Tranquebar in modern day Tamil Naidu) that would form part of Danish India.
In effect, despite setting up colonies, and building a military and building new things, Christian’ oversaw the declining influence of Denmark-Norway. When he was crowned King, The Danish empire was top dog in the region, by the end of his life Sweden was the top nation in the region.
Despite all this, Christian is more well known for lending his name to cities: Christianopel and Christianstad in present-day Sweden, Glückstadt in present-day Germany (a line within the royal household), Christianshavn in Denmark, Christiania (now Oslo), Konningsberg (King’s Mountain) and Christiansand in Norway.
I just wonder why he didn’t rename Copenhagen after himself…