( Rundetaarn )

The Round Tower (Danish: Rundetårn) is a 17th-century tower in Copenhagen, Denmark, one of the many architectural projects of Christian IV of Denmark. Built as an astronomical observatory, it is noted for its equestrian staircase, a 7.5-turn helical corridor leading to the platform at the top (34.8 meters above ground), and its views over Copenhagen.

The tower is part of the Trinitatis Complex which also includes a chapel, the Trinitatis Church, and an academic library, which were the first facilities of the Copenhagen University Library founded in 1482.

 Rundetaarn. Illustration from the architect Laurids de Thurah's Hafnia hodierna of 1748.Background

Astronomy had grown in importance in 17th-century Europe. Countries had begun competing with each other in establishing colonies, creating a need for accurate navigation across the oceans. Many national observatories were therefore established, the first in 1632 at Leiden in the Dutch Republic. Only five years later the Round Tower Observatory, first referred to as STELLÆBURGI REGII HAUNIENSIS, would follow. [1]

Planning and preparations  Vignette of Rundetaarn Observatory, as depicted Johann Doppelmayr's map of the southern celestial hemisphere, ca. 1742.

After Tycho Brahe had fallen out of favour and left Denmark, Christian Longomontanus had become Christian IV's new astronomer and the first professor of astronomy at the University of Copenhagen. In 1625 he suggested the king build an astronomical tower as a replacement for Brahe's Stjerneborg which had been demolished.[citation needed]

Longomontanus' initial proposal was to erect the new observatory on the top of the hill Solbjerget, now known as Valby Bakke. But since there were also plans for the construction of a new students' church and a library for the university, the idea of merging the three buildings into one grand complex emerged.[2]

Already in 1622, Christian IV had bought the land where it was ultimately decided to build the Trinitatis Complex. His original plans for the site are not known but as it was conveniently located next to the Regensen dormitories and the university, it was chosen for his new prestigious project.

Although there is no clear proof, it is generally accepted that Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger was charged with the commission to design the new edifice though he did not live to see the tower completed.

 Cross section of the tower and the church from Thurah's Hafnia Hodierna

From 24 November 1636, stones were brought to the site for the foundation, first from the city's ramparts and later from the area around Roskilde. Bricks were ordered from the Netherlands since local manufacturers could not meet the high quality standards requested. In February 1637, a contract was signed with a Henrik van Dingklage in Emden for the supply of bricks for the construction. The first three ship loads were to be delivered in May, the next three loads the following month and the remainder on demand.

The Trinitatis Complex was set for construction in a crowded neighbourhood of narrow streets and alleyways. The area first had to be cleared. On 18 April 1637, 200 men, soldiers and personnel from Bremerholm began to demolish the half-timbered houses occupying the site.[3]

Construction phase

The foundation stone was laid on 7 July 1637. When Hans van Steenwinckel died on 6 August 1639, Leonhard Blasius was brought to Denmark from the Netherlands as new Royal Building Master. Unlike his predecessor, he would become a mere transitional figure in Danish architecture, dying just four years after his arrival in the country without leaving any notable buildings of his own design. On several occasions construction work came to a standstill due to shortage of funds. Churches in Denmark and Norway were therefore ordered to contribute a share of their earnings during the construction years.[2] In 1642, the tower was finally completed, though the church was completed only in 1657 and the library in 1657.

Time as an observatory

Christian Longomontanus became the first director of the observatory. In the Great Fire of 1728 the Trinitatis Complex was severely damaged but was rebuilt.

Demise and later years  The interior of the tower on a drawing by H.G.F. Holm in connection with his proposal to move the tower to a position next to the church Rendering made by Anton Rosen in connection with his proposal to move the tower to a position next to the church

During the early 19th century, the Round Tower became outdated as an astronomical observatory. Instruments were growing still larger while the tower could not be expanded and, at the same time, light pollution from the surrounding city and vibrations caused by the ever increasing traffic in the streets below had made the observations inaccurate.[4] The University therefore decided to build Østervold Observatory on the old bastioned fortifications of the city, which had become outdated and were being decommissioned. The new observatory was inaugurated in 1861 to the design of Christian Hansen.

Notable ascents In 1716, The Czar Peter the Great ascended the staircase on horseback while visiting Copenhagen. His wife, Catherine I, reportedly ascended behind him in a carriage. In 1902, a Beaufort car was the first motorised vehicle to ascend this Round Tower. A medal in the Round Tower's collection of medals indicates that the first bicycle race held in the tower took place as early as 1888, possibly in connection with The Nordic exhibition of Industry, Agriculture, and Art. In 1911, the newspaper Socialdemokraten arranged a bicycle race down the Round Tower. In 1971, Ole Ritter won a bicycle race against Leif Mortensen up the Round Tower in a time of 55.3 seconds. In 1993, Henrik Djernis won a bicycle race against Jens Veggerby in a time of 50.05 seconds. In 1989, Thomas Olsen went up and down the Round Tower on a unicycle in 1 minute and 48.7 seconds, which is a world record.[5]
^ "Centuries of Astronomy Astronomy in Denmark". Rundetaarn. Archived from the original on 2009-02-02. Retrieved 2009-12-01. ^ a b "Bygningen af Rundetaarn". Rundetaarn. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2009-12-01. ^ "Trinitatis Kirke og Rundetaarn". Archived from the original on 2011-01-09. Retrieved 2009-12-02. ^ "Østervold". Danmarks Natur- og Lægevidenskabelige Bibliotek. Retrieved 2009-08-03. ^ "Sære måder at bestige tårnet på". Rundetaarn. Archived from the original on 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
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