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Climate

Denmark’s historic stock exchange goes up in flames

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The former home of the Copenhagen stock exchange, one of Europe’s oldest trading floors, has been ravaged by fire in its 400th anniversary year.

Børsen, which opened in 1624 as a commodities trading place and was home to the Danish capital’s stock exchange until 1974, caught fire early on Tuesday and its iconic dragon-tailed spire collapsed within a few hours.

“They are simply such sad pictures,” said Mette Frederiksen, Denmark’s prime minister. “It is a piece of Danish history that burns before our eyes. I think it gave us all a jolt when the spire fell.”

Firefighters said the blaze was under control on Tuesday afternoon but would take several hours to put out. Large parts of the building had been destroyed, they added.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce, the building’s owner, will rebuild Børsen “no matter what”, said Brian Mikkelsen, the organisation’s head.

The cause of the blaze is still unknown, but firefighters said it seemed to have started in the area where renovation work was taking place ahead of anniversary celebrations in the autumn.

Ole Hansen, a bricklayer working on scaffolding, told trade union newspaper Fagbladet 3F what happened. “There was fire on the ridge of the roof . . . I took a picture and then said: ‘We’re going down.’ Some stonemasons shouted: ‘We have to get out.’ I have never experienced anything like this.”

The building, completed in 1640, is located next door to Christiansborg Palace, the home of Denmark’s parliament and office to the prime minister that is colloquially known as Borgen.

“It was like an oven,” said Mads Damsbo, head of Christiansborg Palace. “It is built mainly in wood, all the roof is made of wood, and it’s not a particularly tall building but with a huge roof. That itself makes the building vulnerable to fire. The firefighters couldn’t get into the fire.”

He compared the fire to the blaze that damaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. “How could it happen at Notre-Dame five years ago? Certain historic buildings built mostly of wood are particularly vulnerable.”

A Copenhagen resident told public broadcaster DR: “It’s horrible. It’s one of the city’s most beautiful buildings. It’s Notre-Dame all over again.”

Locals believed Børsen’s spire, made up of four intertwined dragon tails, protected the historic building from mishaps and fires after it was twice spared when the palace burnt down in 1794 and 1884.

Situated on Copenhagen’s waterfront, Børsen was originally home to dozens of market stalls after being built on the orders of King Christian IV to help develop trading in the Scandinavian country after two big wars with the Hanseatic League.

It became home to the stock exchange in the 19th century. In 1918, the site was violently stormed by trade unionists protesting against high unemployment.

The Børsen building in 2020
A photo of Børsen and its now- destroyed spire in 2020 © Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The building, constructed in the Dutch Renaissance style, is used as a conference venue.

Jakob Engel-Schmidt, Denmark’s culture minister, praised Børsen employees for helping to save large paintings and other treasures from the building. Television pictures showed flames devouring the spire while thick smoke billowed across the Danish capital.

Mikkelsen added: “It is a huge disaster. We have lost our cultural heritage.

“It is one of the most important buildings in Denmark, and we were in the process of restoring it so that it could shine and we could show what it has meant to Danish business for 400 years.”

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