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

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Adres Ginting (4 months ago)
Amazing landmark design ...
FUNNY FPV France (5 months ago)
Magnificent! You will see the Prussian heritage of the city. Don’t miss Kant’s grave there!
Julia Freeth (2 years ago)
We enjoyed organ concert. Mozart sounded so wonderful. I am very impressed
Cristian Serban (2 years ago)
The museum is built on three floors with E Kant is the central figure. The Russian/German historians did a great job collecting, restoring and displaying a pig collection of artifacts from that period(coins, buttons, keys and more).
Evelin Maddison (2 years ago)
It's a museum and not a church. There is a very big and beautiful pipe organ, that's something to see but nothing much. It's more like a place for concerts.
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.