Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Travelogue - Thorvaldsen

I posted this a couple years ago on my family blog and it's easily my most visited page because of the pictures I took of the Thorvaldsen apostle statues. I'm moving it over here to reduce unfamiliar traffic. Because the audience was different, the writing was more explicitly religious than I try to be here generally. But then, this is religious artwork.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tuesday and Wednesday will be just work, so today was my one chance to tour Copenhagen. I was wondering last week what I should go see. Then I listened to General Conference and heard with new ears an old story told by Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
In 1976 an area general conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Following the closing session, President Spencer W. Kimball desired to visit the Vor Frue Church, where the Thorvaldsen statues of the Christus and of the Twelve Apostles stand. He had visited there some years earlier and wanted all of us to see it, to go there.
To the front of the church, behind the altar, stands the familiar statue of the Christus with His arms turned forward and somewhat outstretched, the hands showing the imprint of the nails, and the wound in His side very clearly visible.
The second shot is crooked because my camera wouldn't lie flat on the pillar
but this is the most steady and clear shot of the lot since I didn't want to use my flash while people prayed.

Along each side stand the statues of the Apostles, Peter at the front to the right and the other Apostles in order. ... In Peter’s hand, depicted in marble, is a set of heavy keys. President Kimball pointed to those keys and explained what they symbolized. Then, in an act I shall never forget, he turned to [the Copenhagen Stake President] and with unaccustomed firmness pointed his finger at him and said, “I want you to tell everyone in Denmark that I hold the keys! We hold the real keys, and we use them every day.”
I will never forget that declaration, that testimony from the prophet. The influence was spiritually powerful; the impression was physical in its impact.
We walked to the back of the chapel where the rest of the group was standing. Pointing to the statues, President Kimball said to the kind custodian, “These are the dead Apostles.”
Jacob (known to most of you as James); John; Andrew;
Bartholomew; Matthew; Jacob (known to most of you as the other James);
Philip; Simon the Zealot; Thaddeus;
and Thomas. Paul (with a sword!) rounds out the group to 12.

Pointing to me, he said, “Here we have the living Apostles. Elder Packer is an Apostle. Elder Thomas S. Monson and Elder L. Tom Perry are Apostles, and I am an Apostle. We are the living Apostles.

Standing: Elders Scott, Hales, Holland, Uchtdorf [now in the place of John], Bednar, and Cook.
Seated: Pres. Packer, Elders Perry, Nelson, Oaks, Ballard, and Wirthlin
not pictured: Pres. Monson [Peter], Pres. Eyring [Jacob/James], and Elder Christofferson [perhaps in the place of Paul]
“You read about the Seventies in the New Testament, and here are two of the living Seventies, Elder Rex D. Pinegar and Elder Robert D. Hales.”
The custodian, who up to that time had shown no emotion, suddenly was in tears.
I felt I had had an experience of a lifetime.
And so did I. I've visited Bach's St. Thomas Church and the church where Martin Luther hung his 95 theses, as well as several cathedrals and missions around California, New York City, and Germany. None touched me as profoundly as seeing the two rows of apostles, with Jesus in the center, arms outstretched. Under him the inscription reads (translated) Come to me.

It wasn't quite like being in the temple. Very little is -- that's why it's the temple. As with Bach's and Luther's church, I felt the sacred dedication that had happened there. But there was one important difference: this church made me think about Jesus. Bach's church was special because of Bach and his dedication to God, and with pictures of Bach posted on the walls and a museum to Bach in one of the wings and a tour guide talking about Bach in the background, I thought about Bach and how he tried to bring people to Jesus. Luther's church was special because of Luther and his dedication to God, and with Martin Luther Day being celebrated outside (by drinking), I thought about Luther and how he tried to bring people to Jesus. But there was no sign of Thorvaldsen anywhere in the building. He was completely absent. The entire focus was on the cross-lit Savior in the front and His witnesses along the side. That directed my focus not towards the artist or the artwork, but the Master Artist. It was wonderful.

The rest of the building was very simple, with relatively little ornament (compared to other great churches in Europe).
Peter, John, and Jacob are on the right side furthest from the camera.
Paul is the furthest on the left. Peter and Paul face Jesus.

Standing outside as sentinels are David and Moses (both depicted with their shopping lists ;) )

1 comment:

  1. I am one of those who wanted to see a picture of the statue of Peter spoken of in my lesson (N.T. 13) I can only imagine the power and the spirit that must have been there when the Prophet of God as he explained who He was.
    Thank you so much for the pictures.
    How beautiful.