The statue of Christ above our altar is a copy of the statue made by Karl Albert “Bertel” Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). The story of this statue is very interesting. The original statue stands today behind the altar in the Protestant Cathedral in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Bertel Thorvaldsen made the form of Christ in clay with arms outstretched, raised high in gesturing command, his head held high in triumph. He left the figure to harden for a few days and when he went back to finish his work, he couldn’t believe what he saw. Because of a heavy rain storm the dampness had invaded his studio and the figure had changed entirely. Instead of head held high, it had bent downwards-the-arms had fallen low. Thorvaldsen felt his statue of Christ was beyond repair. He grabbed a hammer and was about to demolish the statue but he just couldn’t do it. With a pang of remorse he fled from the room.
For quite sometime he couldn’t go near the room where the statue stood, but finally he went back to the studio accompanied by a friend. WHEN THEY OPENED THE DOOR THEY STOOD IN AWE. Bathed in light, the lowered arms no longer depicted defeat-they saw in them the truth of God’s compassion-sympathetic arms encircling the sorrow and needy-the head was now bowed low with contrite countenance as if to say, “I understand your travail.” Some greater power had breathed meaning into the artist’s ruined statue. This was no defeated Christ; this was a compassionate Savior.
The 10 ½ foot high statue is made in what artists call heroic size, and the statue is placed on a pedestal. On the pedestal in the cathedral are inscribed the words, “Come unto me” from Matthew 11:28. Yet Thorvaldsen did not portray Jesus as He spoke these words here on earth. The invitation comes from the exalted Christ. The nail prints in His hands and feet remind us of His eternal love.
You can see the inviting hands from nearly every place in the church but one can only see the eyes of Christ in a kneeling position.
Rev. C.C. Hein, D.D. Trinity’s pastor from 1902 to 1924, was visiting at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Emil Mayer when Mrs. Mayer showed Rev. Hein a picture of the Thorvaldsen statue of Christ that she had seen in the Ladies Home Journal. In 1903 the chancel, sacristy, and organ room had been built. The organ was taken from the balcony and placed in its present location. The art glass windows were donated at that time by individuals as memorials. (This is very interesting story in itself).
After seeing the picture of the statue Rev. Hein thought a great deal about it. There just seemed to be an empty spot in the sacristy so sometime between 1903 and 1917 the statue was bought and placed in its present position.