Copenhagen's 'Notre Dame moment' as old bourse burns, loses spire

A general view of the old stock exchange. The historic stock exchange in the Danish capital Copenhagen is on fire. picture alliance / dpa
A general view of the old stock exchange. The historic stock exchange in the Danish capital Copenhagen is on fire. picture alliance / dpa

The Danish capital Copenhagen suffered its "Notre Dame moment" after the historic stock exchange, one of its oldest and most iconic buildings, was engulfed by a major fire on Tuesday, causing its spire to collapse into the flames.

Even hours after the fire broke out, smoke was still rising, flames were blazing and people were gathering at the site.

According to the fire brigade, the fire had already engulfed around half of the huge building by mid-morning. The fire has damaged supporting structures, the brigade said later, confirming that part of the 400-year-old building was badly burnt.

However, the emergency services said they did not initially expect the entire building to collapse.

Around 120 firefighters and around 60 volunteers from the armed forces were deployed, according to the Danish news agency Ritzau.

The building, known as Børsen in Danish, houses a large art collection, including the monumental 19th-century oil painting "From Copenhagen Stock Exchange" by PS Krøyer, which was carried away by several people.

The police announced on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that several streets and the area around the building had been cordoned off.

Danish Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen expressed his shock. "Terrible pictures from the Børsen. So sad. An iconic building that means a lot to all of us. Our own Notre Dame moment," he wrote, comparing the blaze to the one that severely damaged the famous Paris landmark five years ago.

Notre Dame Cathedral is expected to reopen in December after its reconstruction, with the spire restored.

King Frederik X wrote in a statement of a sad sight. "An important part of our architectural heritage was and still is in flames."

The striking Dragon Spire, which has now collapsed, has helped to shape the cityscape and define Copenhagen as the "City of Towers," the king said.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen also expressed her dismay. "Terrible images we are seeing right now. A piece of Danish history in flames," Frederiksen wrote on Instagram.

"The stock exchange is one of Copenhagen's most iconic buildings. A symbol of 400 years of business history in Denmark. Irreplaceable cultural heritage. It hurts to see," Frederiksen wrote.

At the same time, the prime minister thanked the fire brigade, police and everyone "who bravely fought the fire."

"I will do everything I can to ensure that the Dragon Spire once again towers over Copenhagen as a symbol of Denmark's strong history as a trading nation," Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt wrote on X.

The cause of the fire was initially unclear.

The Dutch Renaissance-style building was completed in 1625 with a 56-metre-high spire featuring four intertwined dragon tails and is one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen. The spire is a symbol of the city.

Located on the eastern tip of the island of Slotsholmen on the Holmens Canal opposite the National Bank of Denmark, it is a major tourist attraction.

Today it houses the Chamber of Commerce, which also owns the building.

It is currently being restored and is therefore covered in scaffolding. The restoration was intended to correct an improper renovation of the building in the 19th century and restore the façade to its original appearance.

The Provianthuset, a wing of Christiansborg Palace where several MPs and journalists have offices, was also evacuated in the morning due to the fire.

The palace itself houses Denmark's parliament. Meetings in the parliamentary chamber and committee rooms were initially scheduled to take place as planned.

However the Copenhagen police said the Ministry of Finance buildings would be evacuated.