About Vartov

Vartov

Vartov, situated next to Copenhagen’s city hall, is a large redbrick edifice with four buildings arranged around a placid courtyard. Vartov is known mostly because of Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig who was a pastor in Vartov Church from 1839 till his death in 1872.

Vartov as it looks now was built in 1724-1755. In earlier days, Vartov was a hospital for poor and elderly people. The sickbays were placed in the southern wing of the building – with an open view to the Vartov Church placed right in the middle of the wing. In its heyday about 500 people lived in Vartov. A family could own and inherit “a bed” in Vartov and so take care of elderly people in the family.

Today Vartov is owned by Grundtvigsk Forum, a grundtvigian society started in 1898 and still dedicated to reinterpret Grundtvig’s thoughts and make him known in Denmark and abroad. The society has members doing local work all over Denmark. Grundtvigsk Forum takes part in current debates and arranges conferences and seminars. Furthermore the organization runs The Grundtvig-Library and the Grundtvig-Academy which are also based in Vartov. Vartov also houses three children’s institutions and several ngo’s such as The Danish Cultural Institute and the Association of Danish Museums. Two university centres are based in Vartov, namely Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre and The Grundtvig Study Centre.

Grundtvig

The poet, theologian and educator N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) is one of the most influential persons in Danish history, his ideas having left their mark on church, school and politics and still being vividly discussed in the Danish society.

Grundtvig lived most of his adult life in Copenhagen – hometown in the 19. century of as well the philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, as the physicist H.C. Ørsted, the author H.C. Andersen and the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

His thoughts were crucial for establishing the folk high schools. The folk high schools intended to enlighten peasants to take part in society and political life in the new democracy – Denmark had its first democratic constitution in 1849. The folk high schools are boarding schools based upon free conversation between student and tutor. Today they have spread all over the world. Grundtvig got his high school vision from his travels to England where he visited the colleges of Oxford University.

Due to his fight against the establishment Grundtvig was under censorship for a long period, and his struggle for freedom of religion has made a deep impact upon the Danish legislation and the life of the Danish church. Among others Grundtvig wrote a third of the hymns in the hymnbook of the Danish Church.

A cultural movement in Danish society is named after and inspired by Grundtvig: Grundtvigianism. It has influenced art, schools, buildings, church life and the democratic institutions. The Grundtvigians are popularily seen as the happy Danes who, referring to the first line of a wellknown Grundtvig song, live “a plain and active, joyful life on earth”. This overall cultural broadmindedness is combined with the emphasis of christian life in church, stressing the sunday service with the two sacraments, the baptism and the Eucharist.

Vartov Church

In 1753-55 Vartov Church was rebuilt and placed in the eastern corner of Vartov. Vartov Church houses a Grundtvigian “valgmenighed”, a free congregation. The church is a selfgoverning institution. Although being a part of the Danish Lutheran Church it has its own legislation and freedom. For instance an elective congregation nominates their own pastor, who is not necessarily a theologian. The church is still in use and guests are welcome to attend Sunday services.

See the program for activities in Vartov (in Danish)

Read more


The Vartov courtyard