Historic Copenhagen Stock Exchange Catches Fire

The 17th-century landmark, whose dragon-tail spire collapsed in the flames, houses one of Denmark’s most valuable art collections.

Apr 16, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
Smoke rises from the Copenhagen Stock Exchange on April 16, 2024, via AP Photos


The historic Copenhagen stock exchange caught fire early Tuesday morning. Denmark’s Deputy Prime Minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, called the fire “our own Notre Dame moment,” referring to the Paris cathedral fire that started almost exactly five years ago today. Firefighting efforts at the historic landmark are still ongoing, and no casualties have been reported.

“400 Years of Cultural History in Flames”

Copenhagen stock exchange, via Antonis Chaliakopoulos


Fire broke out around 7:30 A.M. in the roof of the Copenhagen stock exchange. The flames quickly spread to the building’s lower floors. While the cause of the blaze remains unknown, the building’s large copper roof and surrounding scaffolding have complicated rescue operations. The stock exchange had been undergoing renovations to celebrate its 400th anniversary.


Jakob Engel-Schmidt, Denmark’s minister of culture, said on X that 400 years of Danish cultural heritage are in flames. Known locally as Børsen—“the exchange” in Danish—the historic building was commissioned by King Christian IV in 1619 and completed in 1640. The 17th-century monarch hoped the building would make Copenhagen an important international trading center.


The Copenhagen stock exchange exemplifies Denmark’s unique interpretation of Dutch Renaissance architecture. Situated next door to Christiansborg Palace in central Copenhagen, the building is a popular tourist destination. It also home to a valuable national art collection and currently serves as the headquarters of the Danish Chamber of Commerce. 



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Distinctive Dragon Spire Succumbs to the Blaze

The spire of the Copenhagen stock exchange collapses in the fire, via Reuters Photo


After being engulfed in flames, the 180-foot spire of the Copenhagen stock exchange snapped and collapsed onto the street below. The distinctive dragespir was constructed in the shape of four dragons, whose long tails twisted into a spear and three crowns. The design symbolized Denmark’s close ties with neighboring Norway and Sweden. The dragons were also said to protect the building from enemies and fire.


Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, “It is a piece of Danish history that burns before our eyes. I think it gave us all a jolt when the spire fell.”


Onlookers Help Save Art From Copenhagen Stock Exchange Fire

Rescuers carry a painting out of the flaming building on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, via Getty Images


Official rescue crews, building staff, and onlooking members of the public rushed into the burning building to rescue art and artifacts before flames could reach them. Brian Mikkelsen, the head of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, was reportedly among these rescuers, as were staff from the nearby National Museum. Cultural minister Engel-Schmidt said it was “touching…to see how the employees at Børsen, good people from the emergency services, and passersby worked together to rescue art treasures and iconic images.”


The fire department chief said that all of the paintings and other valuable objects that were possible to save have already been removed from the building. One of the most important works in the collection—From Copenhagen Stock Exchange by the 19th-century Danish painter Peder Severin Krøyer (1895)—was recovered.


The fire was considered under control as of Tuesday evening but will take several more hours to extinguish completely. The Danish Chamber of Commerce has already announced its intention to rebuild the historic stock exchange “no matter what.”

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.