I travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark recently. On one side of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum is a park. The entrance to the park has swastikas embedded in the metal gate posts.

Google Streetview Reference 1. (Google Streetview Reference 1.)

Also, on the side this brick building embedded with the bricks or granite stonework (I cannot precisely remember) are more swastikas.

Google Streetview reference 2. (Google Streetview reference 2.)

What is the meaning or history behind these swastikas in this complex?

So that my intent is clear, I realise:

  • Europe has a complicated history with swastikas from the era of the German National Socialist Party.
  • Swastikas have different meanings given their angle / tilt / mirror.
  • 33
    Swastikas had no negative connotations until the 1930's. The museum was opened in 1897. There would be nothing surprising or strange about swastikas as a decorative element in the 19th century. Sep 13, 2016 at 13:49
  • 4
    @PatriciaShanahan I don't think swastikas really went out of fashion until the early/mid-forties in Europe, and it's worth noting that in India, China, and related areas they are still quite popular indeed (which tends to cause a bit of cross-cultural mixup in international commerce). Sep 13, 2016 at 19:24
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    @WillihamTotland In India, they are one of the most popular religious symbols, like the cross for Christians. In every Hindu ritual, the Swastika is the 1st thing drawn. Sep 14, 2016 at 9:28
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about architecture, design, and history; not about travel. Questions asking about finding, visiting, tickets, opening hours of museums are about travel. Questions asking about why they were decorated a certain way back when they were built are not about travel. Being an interesting question does not make it an on-topic question. Sep 15, 2016 at 11:07
  • This symbol is also found on other (New) Carlsberg architecture from long before the Nazi time. Notably, the Elephant Gate which is part of the New Carlsberg brewery itself, features it. Sep 15, 2016 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


Regarding the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek:

The collection is built around the personal collection of Carl Jacobsen (1842–1914), the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries.

According to the same source, parts of the museum were originally Carlsberg's private villa. The rest of what is now the museum then formed around the villa.

The Carlsberg Group's official website states:

The Swastika is an ancient symbol of prosperity and goodness in Sanskrit. In 1881 Carl Jacobsen made it the symbol of the beer produced in his brewery 'Ny Carlsberg' which was a competitor to his father's 'Old Carlsberg' brewery.

Carl had a profound interest in ancient Greece and Rome where the symbol was also often used.

In 1940 Carlsberg stopped using the swastika symbol for good.

Apparently, the particular type of gates referred to in OP are from 1882. As you suggest in OP, this was certainly before the Swastika had acquired the negative associations it presently carries (in the West.)

Gate from 1882. Image source

There are also other Swastikas and Sauwastikas in the museum:

Swastika in ceiling. Image source

Swastika in concrete.

Image source

The emphasis is mine in both quotes.

  • 4
    It's worth noting that the first and the second images are "Swastika" but the third one isn't. Sep 13, 2016 at 16:23
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    @SanjayT.Sharma how is the third not a swastika? It's a left-hand swastika, to be sure, and not the more familiar (in modern/western context) right-hand swastika, but as far as I know it's still a swastika.
    – Doktor J
    Sep 13, 2016 at 21:07
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    @DoktorJ: I'm an Indian; the 3rd is not a swastik, at least not in the sense the word "swastik" was associated with Hindu culture. The Carlsberg website specifically mentions "The Swastika is an ancient symbol of prosperity and goodness in Sanskrit" and I'm pretty sure there is only a single way to re-present Swastik; there is no "left-hand" swastik. Sep 13, 2016 at 21:42
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    @SanjayT.Sharma Check out this article. There is certainly a counterclockwise Swastika. It's used a lot in Buddhism. It's certainly not as common in Hinduism, but it does exist there also.
    – Fiksdal
    Sep 13, 2016 at 22:26
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    Just because the symbol may appear on a Buddhist temple doesn't mean it is a Swastika. According to the source of knowledge which is always true and accurate, Wikipedia's article on Swastika notes, "four legs bent at 90 degrees", and Nazi's used "A mirrored left sided swastika". I would tend to call the other version a "Manji" (Wikipedia's article on Manji), though I may be heavily biased from familiarity w/ a Japanese product, Zelda 1 (1st example of Zelda Controversy)
    – TOOGAM
    Sep 14, 2016 at 13:14

The Carlsberg brewery started using the swastika as their logo in 1881. After the nazis adopted the swastika as their most prominent symbol, Carlsberg stopped using it some time in the 1930ies, but it is still in place on some of their older buildings, e.g. at the Glypotek musuem.

Here is an example of an old Carlsberg beer bottle label:

enter image description here

  • 1
    This particular label is from 1902 (New Carlsberg). See Lys Skattefri or Lys og Mørk Carlsberg - Skattefri (both with text in Danish). Sep 15, 2016 at 12:44
  • @JeppeStigNielsen What's the deal with skattefri? Did some beer have tax and some not?
    – Fiksdal
    Sep 16, 2016 at 0:38
  • @Fiksdal The Danish text in my last link says (my translation): In 1891, beer taxes had been introduced in Denmark. However, there was no taxation of beer with an alcohol percentage under 2.8; therefore Carl Jacobsen named his beer Light and Dark Tax-Free Beer. The beer caught on quite well even in teetotal circles. In 1917, taxation legislation was changed and now these beer types became taxable as well. Tax-Free was rebranded as "New Pilsner". Sep 16, 2016 at 9:13
  • @JeppeStigNielsen Very interesting, takk.
    – Fiksdal
    Sep 16, 2016 at 9:15

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