Bjørnebrønden – The Bear Well

Bjørnebrønden (“The Bear Well”) is a very nice fountain in the heart of Nykøbing, at the main square, Torvet. It is made of granite from the Danish island of Bornholm, by Mogens Bøgghild (1901-1987). The Bear has been donated by the wholesaler E. Jeppensen in 1939 to celebrate Nykøbing Falster’s 400th anniversary as a market town.

The architect Kaare Klint, in charge of the project, mentions that “the bear is a well-known symbol of a nation, and thereby related to a nearby house and a famous visit that took place in the year 1716”. That year in July, the Russian Tzar Peter The Great visited Nykøbing Falster, where he chose to eat (and perhaps also stay overnight) at the inn, which has since been known as the Tsar’s House (Czarens Hus).

It is also the wholesaler Jeppesen who’s behind the preservation of the Czar’s House and the Falsters Minder Museum in the same building. There is thus a close connection between the story of this protected building on the corner of Langgade / Færgestræde and Bjørnebrønden.

The “Bear project” is a result of an architecture competition, and was submitted on November 24, 1937, at Charlottenborg.

The original drawing of the Bear Well project. (Source : KØS)

In a letter dated 29 August 1938, the architect Kaare Klint wrote to the mayor: “After Mogens Bøggild has completed the model of the bear, it is my conviction that Nykøbing will have a work of art of rank, therefore it is very important to me that the surroundings be arranged in the best way ”.

Both architect Kaare Klint and sculptor Mogens Bøggild are important national representatives of each their art discipline, architecture and visual arts. For this reason, the Bjørnebrønden’s presence in the middle of the town square (Torvet) is an important, cultural-historical landmark in Nykøbing Falster.

Unvailing Bjørnebrønden, the original press article (Source : Lolland-Falster Historiske Samfund)

The Bear Well has been renovated in 2002-2003. The old elm trees have been replaced by two linden trees. The round benches were restored in oak, prepared according to the original drawings. Everything, both sculpture, well, paving, benches and trees are in very good condition, and the renovation respected the original drawings.

Unfortunately, the main square is being renovated (2019-2020) : the Bear Well will move, to let place to a “puddle”, the benches and trees will be removed… In a petition from 2018, on Facebook, the Cultural Heritage Association wrote that “it will be no less than a scandal and, to the extent, disrespectful of the history”. They set as example the latest renovation, : “It was done with the help of The Conservation Fund and Nordea. The square can easily be subjected to renovation without breaking it up.”

So far, as I’m writing this story (April 2019), the renovation of Torvet has just started. A fountain has already been removed (The Canon), but this didn’t break the heart of local people, because most considered it as an “ugly piece of modern art”. At the contrary, The Bear Well is cherished by the town’s inhabitants and visitors. Let’s hope he will keep the place it deserves…

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