Denmark Encyclopedia Online

By | December 18, 2021

Denmark State of central and northern Europe. Its territory includes most of the Jylland peninsula, the southernmost part of which belongs to Germany, and a few hundred islands. The Denmark is bathed by the North Sea to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east, connected to each other by straits of different width and depth (Skagerrak, Kattegat, Øresund). For Denmark democracy and rights, please check

The islands belong to the Denmark, but have a large autonomy Faroe Islands (➔) and Greenland (➔).

Physical characteristics

The base of the Danish land is constituted by a plate of stratified limestones, deposited on the bottom of the great Mesozoic sea that extended from the British Isles to Russia, at the edge of the Baltic shield. Following alternating phases of emergence and submersion, marls, clays and sandstones accumulated, in the Cenozoic, on the underlying Cretaceous rocks. Subsequently, the Quaternary glaciation spread over these lands, which shaped the ancient basement and covered it with moraine deposits; everything was then reshaped by running waters. The landscape is undulating in the eastern section of Jylland (max. Alt. 170 m); almost completely flat in the western section, covered by sandy and barren soils, the kingdom of moor and moor. Among the islands emerge Sjælland, Funen, Lolland, Falster and, apart from the others, Bornholm, SE of Scania (southern Sweden). The coastline facing the North Sea is flat and inhospitable for human settlement and activities (the only notable port is Esbjerg), interrupted by deep and articulated inlets that the Danes improperly call fjords. The Limfjorden it was transformed into a canal in the 19th century. (160 km long) and separates the northern part of Jylland from the rest of the peninsula. Long cords of coastal dunes tend to make this stretch of coast uniform, reducing the inlets to lagoons. The eastern coasts of the peninsula and the insular ones are modeled, on the other hand, by gulfs and canals of various origins, often fringed by islands and islets.

The streams are short, regular, with a slight slope. The longest is Gudenå (160 km) which originates from central Jylland and flows into Randers Fjord. The lakes are numerous on the island of Sjælland, but of modest size. The climate is transitional between the oceanic and the continental one; the average summer temperatures are around 15 ° C in Jylland, while the winter ones oscillate between 0 ° and −5 ° C. The annual excursion becomes more marked in the interior than along the coasts, proceeding from W to E. As the influence of the humid air masses coming from the Atlantic diminishes, the rains decrease from west to east and fall more frequently in the summertime.


The presence of man is attested at the end of the Pleistocene (Bromme station), at the time of the withdrawal of the Scandinavian glaciers. The Maglemosian culture (fishermen-hunter-gatherers) began around 7500 BC In some deposits of the culture of Ertebølle (➔) traces of the productive economy (domestic animals, cereals) and the oldest pottery have been found. In the Neolithic, groups of breeders introduced (first half of the 2nd millennium BC) the cultures of the fighting ax. In the Bronze Age (from 1000 to 500 BC), indications on funeral uses and clothing are provided by burials in coffins dug out of tree trunks and placed under the mound. At the beginning of the pre-Roman Iron Age, the traditions of the Bronze Age continue.


The conversion to Christianity (950-1050) led to the construction in Denmark of numerous wooden churches and, from the 11th century, in stone: in sandstone, of Roman and Anglo-Saxon influence (Vor Frue Kirke in Roskilde, Veng convent, at Skanderborg); in granite in the 12th century: cathedrals of Ribe, Viborg and Lund. A particular type are the circular fortress-churches on the island of Bornholm and in Bjernede (late 12th century); interesting is the church of Kalunolsborg (late 12th century), in brick, a use probably introduced by Lombard workers. Danish Gothic is inspired by that of northern Germany: St. Canute’s Cathedral in Odense, Brigidine churches in Maribo and Mariager.

In the Renaissance, after some isolated examples that are affected by S. Serlio and J.-A. Du Cerceau, Dutch influence predominated, with the van Steenwinkels: castles of Kronborg (ca. 580), of Frederiksborg, of Rosenborg (early 17th century); Charlottenborg Castle (1675) in Copenhagen is an example of sober Dutch Baroque. Impressive building and urban planning activity under Christian IV, himself an architect.

Around 1700, King Frederick IV, after his trip to Italy, tried to introduce an Italian style (Fredensborg, about 1722), soon supplanted by the Rococo palaces of Amalienborg in Copenhagen (about 1750), in a district planted by N. Eigtved. Document of eighteenth-century architectural culture are the two volumes « Vitruvio Danish “(1746-49) by Lauritz de Thurah. Exponent of classicism was CF Harsdorff, who was responsible for the chapel of Frederick V in the cathedral of Roskilde (1775) and the colonnade of Amalienborg. CF Hansen, his pupil, rebuilt St. Mary’s, Christiansborg Castle, the large adjoining church and the town hall (c. 1810) in Neo-Palladian style in heavy neoclassical forms. In the nineteenth century inspiration from European art was dominant. Only with JD Herholdt did the study of the national tradition begin, continued by H. Storck, HJ Holm and others.

From the end of the 19th century. and in the first decades of the 20th century, with significant contributions ranging from a new classicism to a sober expressionism, M. Nyrop, H. Kampmann, C. Petersen, A. Rosen, A. Rafn and PV Jensen Klint. Since the 1920s, interesting solutions, attentive to the new rationalist requests, have been provided in the design field by K. Klint and in the urban planning, residential, industrial and school building by K. Ficker, CF Møller, A. Jacobsen, J. Bo and J. Utzon. In the architecture of the 1990s, alongside the names of architects linked to international works, such as Utzon and JO von Spreckelsen, new creations testify to a rediscovered Danish identity. The Nielsen Nielsen & Nielsen studio has distinguished itself in numerous competitions (Cultural Center and Courthouse in Holstebro, 1988-91; the headquarters of the Danish association for gymnastics and athletics DGI in Vingsted, 1991-93; the headquarters of the Federation of Danish Architects in Copenhagen, 1994-96).