Patriotic Danes were shocked to discover today that a bronze statue of the mythological Viking hero Holger Danske has been put up for sale by its owners, the Hotel Marienlyst, in Helsingør.
Many others were probably equally shocked just to find out that the two-tonne bronze sculpture – commissioned by the hotel in 1907 – actually exists, as it is not the same Holger Danske statue that is a popular tourist attraction.
That statue sits in the cellar of Kronborg Castle in Helsingør and, according to myth, will rise from its slumber to protect Denmark if it ever again comes under attack.
The sale of the virtually-unknown bronze version of the statue has provoked a strong reaction from nationalistic Dansk Folkeparti (DF), which wants parliament to buy the statue in order to prevent it from ending in foreign hands.
“In my opinion it is a national treasure that shouldn’t end up in a random person’s hands,” DF's values spokesperson Pia Kjærsgaard told BT tabloid. “That is why I want to propose that parliament buy the statue and place it outside Christiansborg [the parliament building].”
DF MEP Morten Messerschmidt also called for action to ensure the statue remained in Denmark.
"I think the culture minister needs to make a friendly phone call with a museum, such as the Nationalmuseet, and ensure that it buys the Holger Danske statue," Messerschmidt told Berlingske newspaper. "It's a part of Danish culture and ought to be placed in a fitting setting."
According to Berlingske, the Danish agency for palaces and cultural properties, Slotte & Kulturejendomme, turned down an offer to buy it after not being able to agree on a price, much to Messerschmidt's disappointment.
"Many see this statue as a personification of Denmark and an important cultural treasure, and national symbols are difficult to put a price on," he said.
There have in fact been three copies of the Holger Danske statue – the plaster original that was originally placed in Kronborg Castle, the bronze version cast from it that is owned by Hotel Marienlyst, and the concrete version which replaced the plaster original in the cellar of Kronborg in 1985 after it suffered from water damage.
Hotel Marienlyst owner Ulrik Finnemann confirmed to BT that he put the statue up for sale after unsuccessfully trying to strike a deal with public institutions.
“We have been approached many times by potential buyers and we hope the statue will find a new home somewhere more centrally located,” Finnemann told tabloid BT. “I think the buyer would have an interest in putting the sculpture somewhere public.”
The statue has received a lot of interest since it was put up for sale on the auction website Lauritz.com with a starting price of 1,750,000 kroner.
As of Monday evening, there had been dozens of bids that had taken the price up to 3,730,000 kroner. The auction is running for another ten days.
Holger Danske appeared in various myths over the past thousand years but assumed his position as a symbolic national hero after an opera was written about him in 1789.