Copenhagen

Church of Our Saviour: The Corkscrew Church

The Corkscrew Church (aka Church of Our Savior)
The Corkscrew Church (aka Church of Our Savior)

Do you see that church in the photo on the top-right of this post; the one with the corkscrew-shaped spire? Yes, I know it doesn’t look like a church spire, but trust me, it is. And that’s a church below it. And it’s in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In English, the church is called the Church of Our Saviour. I don’t know what it’s called in Danish. I didn’t write the Danish name down or even look for the name when I was there. I simply got from the guide app I was using and the app showed only English. Sorry about that.

No matter what the church is formally called, I’ll always think of it as the corkscrew church because of that spire. Then again, maybe it’s because I’m ethnically Jewish and resolutely atheist that I have trouble holding the word “saviour” in my mind.

The corkscrew isn’t just decoration. Those are steps. If you go during visitor hours you can climb up them for a fee (you can forgo the fee if you buy the Copenhagen Card, which includes admission).

A couple of days before going to the church I took a canal tour of Copenhagen. The guide said that the spire steps were built so the parishioners of the day (the spire was completed in 1752) could get closer to heaven. I don’t know. Maybe the guide made that up. I’m not big on the bible—any bible—but wasn’t there a bible story about Babel in which building tall edifices with the purpose of getting closer to heaven was seriously frowned upon?

Before you reach the steps of the metal corkscrew, you have to climb a lot of interior wooden steps, many of them too narrow for two people to pass and some of them a bit steeper than the average step. There is only one stairwell, so you sometimes have to wait on a landing of one of the narrow sections while people going in the opposite direction pass.

View from the corkscrew church
View from the corkscrew church

The View

When you reach the base of the corkscrew you’re outside and on an observation platform that circles the spire and provides broad views of the Copenhagen area

(After I exited the church I overheard a few tourists talking. I had arrived slightly before closing time. They arrived too late to go up the. They were discussing whether to come back the next day. One of them said she heard that you could see Sweden from up there. I wouldn’t know. I can’t differentiate between Denmark and Sweden from that height.)

Speaking of heights, I have a fear of them. Or, rather, a fear of open heights. I’m OK on balconies of tall buildings as long as there’s a good, sturdy, solid half-wall between me and the deadly drop. However, put me anywhere near the edge of a cliff and my heart will start pounding loud enough to be heard in neighbouring area codes, sweat will flow profusely from my brow and I’ll quickly develop an overwhelming need to take a few hundred steps back from the edge. The upper rungs of even short ladders are the same for me except for the part about feeling the need to take steps back. Climbing down is a more appropriate reaction in those circumstances.

View from the corkscrew church
View from the corkscrew church

The observation deck at the corkscrew church was right around the border between OK and not OK for me. The metalwork railing was not quite substantial enough to stave off my fear of heights entirely, but it wasn’t flimsy enough that I experienced a full-blown panic attack. I probably would have enjoyed the view more if my brain wasn’t fully engaged with trying to decide if this was an appropriate time for hysteria or not.

The corkscrew steps were a bit weird. You would expect to find some sort of observation deck at the end of your climb. If you expect that, be prepared to have your expectations shattered. The steps slowly narrow as you climb, to the point where they are impassible. That is all you get for your efforts. I found it to be an anti-climax.

If you decide to visit the church, be warned that with both the interior steps and the corkscrew steps, you’re in for a somewhat grueling climb unless you’re in better shape than I am (which probably includes at least three-quarters, if not 95 percent, of the population). Before visiting the church I read that you have to climb 400 steps to get to the top. I didn’t count them, but that’s probably accurate, give or take a million.

At this point, you’re probably looking for a description of the inside of the church. Stop looking. You won’t find it here. I didn’t go inside. I’m writing this a couple of days after going to the church and I can’t remember why I didn’t go inside. I might have visited outside of opening hours, the church might have been reserved for special prayers that day, or maybe the saviour wanted some quiet time. I forget.

Been there? Done that? Do tell.