THE ROYAL NAVAL DOCKYARD


Anyone who has had the opportunity of arriving in Copenhagen by sea knows that it is from this side that you get the most beautiful and characteristic view of the country’s capital. Upon your approach you are met by the distinctive features of the sea fortresses and between the many towers of the city you can catch a glimpse of the landmark of Holmen, the large Rigging sheers.
On the starboard side you have the waterfront at Langelinie, Kastellet (the Citadel of Copenhagen), and the fine warehouses from the great period of Danish trade. On the port side you can see the beautiful 18th century buildings at Nyholm. Then follow the many workshops, storage houses, slipways and the dock on the now abandoned Royal Naval Dockyard. Behind the elevated cranes you catch a glimpse of the storage houses and the graceful Naval Arsenal built by the architect Philip de Lange.
During the period beginning in the middle of the 16th century and ending in the 1850´s this large area developed into a city within the city. There was a well-defined boundary between the Naval Base Holmen, the Royal Naval Dockyard and the other facilities on one side and the rest of Copenhagen on the other. The Navy had its own laws, hospitals and schools. It also had its own prison, churches and churchyards and was on the whole able to supply its employees with any basic necessity; work, education, housing, food, fuel and clothing.

Over the years Holmen became the collective name for all the areas and institutions where the equipment of the Royal Danish Navy was made, repaired, maintained and stored. The area encompassed Gammelholm, Nyholm with the berth of the Navy, Frederiksholm, Dokøen and Arsenaløen, Bodenhoff´s Plads and the dock on Christianshavn. For more than 300 years Holmen was the country’s largest workplace and the leader in new technology. In 1970, however, the last ship was launched from the Royal Naval Dockyard and in 1991 the last artisan left the old dockyard.

This marked the end of an era. The Copenhageners lost a workplace that was not only one of their largest but also the one most rich in tradition. But Holmen lives on. It remains an area of great natural beauty and significant architectural value. Cultural institutions are flourishing in abandoned workshops and fantasy abounds in the old halls. Slowly, Holmen is filled with life and the Copenhageners have found a refuge in the middle of their noisy and crowded city.