Königsberg Cathedral

Kaliningrad, Russia

Königsberg Cathedral (Königsberger Dom) is a Brick Gothic-style cathedral in Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg. Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945, and the easternmost large German city until it was conquered by the Soviet Union near the end of World War II. In 1946 the city was renamed Kaliningrad.

The construction of the cathedral is considered to have begun in 1333. The soil on which the cathedral was built was marshy, and so hundreds of oak poles were put into the ground before the construction of the cathedral could begin. After the relatively short period of almost 50 years, the cathedral was largely completed by 1380. Work on the interior frescoes lasted until the end of 14th century. The choir contained murals from the 14th and 15th centuries, late Gothic wood carvings, and medieval monuments in the Renaissance style, the chief of which was a statue of Albert, Duke of Prussia, carved by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt in 1570.

The cathedral originally had two spires. The spires overlooked the entrance of the cathedral. In 1544 the two spires were destroyed by fire. The south spire was rebuilt, but the north spire was replaced by a simple gable roof. In 1640 a clock was built underneath the rebuilt spire, and from 1650 the famous Wallenrodt Library, donated by Martin von Wallenrodt, was situated underneath the gable roof. From then on, until 1945, the cathedral remained Protestant.

In late August 1944, British bombers carried out two night raids on Königsberg. The second raid destroyed most of the old part of Königsberg and the cathedral was hit. Amongst many others in the city, about a hundred people, mostly children, who had gathered inside the part of the cathedral directly underneath the spire to find safety from the air raid, were killed.

After the war, the cathedral remained a burnt-out shell and Kneiphof was made into a park with no other buildings. Shortly after Kaliningrad was opened to foreigners in the early 1990s, work began to reconstruct the cathedral. In 1994 a new spire was put in place using a helicopter. Today, the cathedral has two chapels, one Lutheran, the other Russian Orthodox, as well as a museum. The Lutheran chapel is where the people under the spire died during the second air raid of August 1944.

The tomb of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, the 'Sage of Königsberg', is today in a mausoleum adjoining the northeast corner of the cathedral. The mausoleum was constructed by the architect Friedrich Lahrs and was finished in 1924 in time for the bicentenary of Kant's birth. Originally, Kant was buried inside the cathedral, but in 1880 his remains were moved outside and placed in a neo-Gothic chapel adjoining the northeast corner of the cathedral. Over the years, the chapel became dilapidated before it was demolished to make way for the mausoleum, which was built on the same spot, where it is today. Also Albert, Duke of Prussia, and some of his relatives, as well as other dignitaries, were buried in the cathedral.

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Founded: 1333
Category: Religious sites in Russia

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