Advent Calendar – Door 11: Welcome to the Jamboree

Holger Damgaard, A Gate at the Second World Scout Jamboree in Ermelunden, 1924
National Library of Denmark, Copenhagen (CC BY-NC-ND)

Let’s stay in Denmark for now, more precisely in Ermelunden, just outside of Copenhagen. It was here that in August 1924 the Second World Scout Jamboree took place. And it was here, and on that occasion that the above photo was taken: Two boy scouts – one of them holding what appears to be the Finnish flag – are standing before a rough-hewn wooden gate before a camp of tents set up in a meadow. It is one of many photos of the event taken by Holger Damgaard (1870-1945) who is considered Denmark’s first press photographer.

Holger Damgaard, The Second World Scout Jamboree in Ermelunden, 1924
National Library of Denmark, Copenhagen (CC BY-NC-ND)

And there was indeed plenty to photograph. Thousands of boy scouts from all over the world had gathered in Ermelunden for over a week, engaging in sports, folk dancing, campfire singing and other activities. But the scouts were far outnumbered by curious spectators from Copenhagen and the surrounding area: On the opening day, August 10, alone, 35.000 people are said to have visited the site of the Jamboree!

Holger Damgaard, Dutch Boy Scouts Peforming before Visitors at Ermelunden, 1924
National Library of Denmark, Copenhagen (CC BY-NC-ND)

But what of the gate in the first picture? To be honest, I have no idea what its purpose was or may have been. Erected in the middle of a meadow and not leading anywhere it doesn’t seem to have any practical function. But who knows, maybe it was used during some of the activities, or perhaps it was just there for decoration. Or perhaps it was even intended to provide a photography backdrop. But what sparked my interest wasn’t so much its potential function anyway, but its outline: With its central gable and its flanking towers topped by spires, it immediately recalls a medieval church facade. I would even go one step further and suggest that it imitates the front of Denmark’s most important medieval building, Roskilde Cathedral:

Roskilde Cathedral
from: Illustreret Norges Historie, Kristiania 1885, p. 207.

The British Library, London (Public Domain)

So whatever that wooden gate may have been made for, I believe that one of its functions was to represent Denmark’s architectural heritage to the host of scouts from abroad. – And now if you’ll excuse me, with all this talk of boy scouts, I feel the sudden urge to go and rewatch Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom


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