Take a look at historic maps of Copenhagen, and you will see that the city was once protected by a bastioned wall. Take a look at Google Maps today however, and you will see that the impressive fortifications stands no longer.
The fortifications were dismantled in the mid 19th Century by Christian VIII. Yet, when we compare the city then and now, interesting details emerge – including, the lasting legacy the fortifications has had on the city’s shape and landmarks today.
Kastellet and Christianshavn
The most noticeable remnant of the fortifications are Kastellet (meaning “The Citadel” in English), and the curious geometry of the southeastern side of Christianshavn and Freetown Christiania. Kastellet, a key structure of the old fortifications, was built to guard the northern coastal port entrance into Copenhagen. It remains largely unchanged from earlier centuries.
And if you ever wondered why the eastern side of Christianshavn and Freetown Christiania is shaped thus, now you know – the triangular extensions are the former bastions of the old fortifications, and the water is the former moat.
Nørreport, Vesterport, Østerport and Amagerport
Along the fortifications, there were only four entrances into the city – the northern gate (“Nørreport”), the western gate (“Vesterport”), the eastern gate (“Østerport”), and the southern gate that leads into Amager Island (“Amagerport”).
While these gates were dismantled in 1857, their memories are intact. Nørreport, Vesterport and Østerport were located near where the Nørreport, Vesterport and Østerport Stations are today. It is very fitting that these stations are some of the busiest train stations in the city – a waypoint for commuters travelling in and out of the inner city, as it has been for centuries.
Even today, cars and bicycles still cross the Amagerport bridge, on their way to and from Christianshavn and Amager Island.
The City Today
Since the dismantling of the fortifications, the city has evolved and expanded beyond the old walls. While there is no need for fortifications any longer, it is still fascinating to see how the walls has left a lasting impact on the shape of the city – especially at key landmarks that are still very much frequented by locals and visitors today.
Sources of maps:
- Harvard Library Image Delivery Service
- Wikipedia – 1, 2
- Google Maps
Georeferencing was conducted by myself using QGIS and Georeferencer.com