Spire collapses as fire breaks out at Copenhagen’s historic Old Stock Exchange

Passersby carry paintings away from burning building which had been under renovation and clad in scaffolding

A fire ripped through Copenhagen’s Old Stock Exchange, one of the Danish capital’s most famous landmarks, on Tuesday, engulfing its spire which collapsed in a scene reminiscent of the 2019 blaze at Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Emergency services, employees from the Danish Chamber of Commerce, including its chief executive Brian Mikkelsen, and even passersby were seen carrying large paintings away from the building in a race to save historic artefacts from the flames.

A video showed the flaming spire breaking in half as it tumbled down, sending a large part crashing to the ground next to a fire truck.

“Everybody is crying at the Danish Chamber of Commerce right now. It’s their workplace, but also their history,” Mr Mikkelsen told reporters, shaking his head in disbelief.


“It’s our cultural heritage that I’m looking at. It’s 400 years that have shaped Danish cultural history and the society we live in today.”

Denmark’s National Museum sent 25 employees to the scene to help evacuate cultural artefacts and paintings, it said on X.

Video from local media showed people sitting on the ground outside the building, looking through paper catalogues listing and depicting the artefacts inside.

“We are saving everything we possibly can,” Copenhagen fire department chief Jakob Vedsted Andersen told reporters.

Among the works saved were paintings by Denmark’s Peder Severin Kroyer, a renowned 19th century impressionist.

Rescued items would be sent to Denmark’s National Museum for examination, its head of collection storage and curation Camilla Jul Bastholm told Reuters.

The historic building, whose spire was shaped as the tails of four dragons intertwined, had been under renovation and clad in scaffolding when the fire broke out.

Parts of the roof had collapsed and the fire spread to several floors of the building, the fire service said, adding the firefighting operation would continue through the night.

There were no reports of injuries, police said, and it was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.

“Horrible pictures from the Bourse. So sad. An iconic building that means a lot to all of us ... Our own Notre-Dame moment,” defence minister Troels Lund Poulsen wrote on X.

As sirens wailed, thick grey smoke rose above the city. Around 90 conscripts from the Royal Life Guards, an army unit, were helping cordon off and secure valuables, the military said.

“I am very, very sad ... At first I couldn’t believe it was true,” schoolteacher Elisabeth Handberg (80) said, adding that she and her pupils had watched the smoke from their classroom window.

“My fifth graders said ‘it’s been there since the time of King Christian IV and then it burns’. They were also very touched by it,” she added. “I’m hoping it will be rebuilt, it can’t be any other way.”

Another passerby, software engineer Thor Koustrup (23) said he would be late for work because he had stopped to watch the blaze. “It’s crazy. I can feel it hitting me inside,” he said.

Mr Mikkelsen said he had received hundreds of emails from people asking how they could help.

The Dutch Renaissance-style building no longer houses the Danish stock exchange, but serves as headquarters for the Chamber of Commerce.

The building was originally built to accommodate stalls where goods such as tea and spices were traded.

“It was imagined that a lot of gold would be generated for Denmark and that’s why they put dragons above it because they are known to guard gold,” senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, Ulla Kjaer, told Reuters.

The spire also had three crowns at the top, symbolising the great kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, she added.

“This spire is absolutely iconic and there is no other like it in the world,” Kjaer said.

“An important part of our architectural heritage was and still is in flames,” King Frederik wrote in a post on Instagram. “For generations, the characteristic dragon spire has helped to characterise Copenhagen as the ‘city of towers’.”

The scaffolding around the building made it harder for the emergency services to get through to the flames, while the copper roof was trapping the heat.

The nearby finance ministry was evacuated as a result of the fire, the police said.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce, which has owned the building since 1857, has worked on restoring it to the style of Denmark’s King Christian IV, who had the building constructed in the 17th century.

“The building is full of irreplaceable art that speaks volumes about who we are as a people and a trading nation,” culture minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt told reporters. – Reuters