The history of the cathedral on Berlin’s Spree Island began in 1465, when the St. Erasmus Chapel in the newly built royal palace of Cölln on the Spree was elevated to the stature of collegiate church. In 1536, Elector Joachim II moved the it into the former Dominican church, south of the palace.With Martin Luther’s support, the elector established the Reformation in 1539, and the church became a Lutheran. In 1608, the collegiate church was dissolved, and the Dom was declared the highest parish church in Cölln on the Spree. When Elector Johann Sigismund converted to Calvinism in 1613, the Cathedral became Court and Parish Church.
From 1747 to 1750, Frederick the Great commissioned Johann Boumann the Elder to build a new baroque building to the north of the city palace. After the coffins were transferred from the crypt, the old, dilapidated Cathedral was torn down. On the occasion of the union of Prussia’s Lutheran and Reformed communities, the interior and exterior of the Cathedral were renovated. The classicistic conversion by Karl Friedrich Schinkel was completed in 1822.
Planning for the new Cathedral building in the Lustgarten began in the 19th century. Between 1825 and 1828, Karl Friedrich Schinkel presented numerous plans for a new Cathedral building. In 1842, construction began on a voluminous five-aisled basilica, based on drafts by August Stüler. However, due to the builder’s hesitations and the limited financial means, building advanced slowly and was stopped in 1848, at which point only the burial place had been completed.
Not until the reign of King William I, who later became Emperor, were the plans for a monumental Cathedral building advanced again. In 1893, after the demolition of the old Cathedral, the foundations of the new structure were begun. The laying of the foundation stone took place on June 17th, 1894. The central building, a baroque-influenced Italian high Renaissance structure, was consecrated almost 11 years later, on February 27th, 1905. Flanked by four corner towers, the Cathedral’s dome rose 114 meters above street level. The interior and exterior of the Cathedral were ornamented with an extensive pictorial scheme illustrating the New Testament and the history of church reformation. Criticism of the building had already begun before the Cathedral was dedicated, and it still continues today. The Cathedral is accused of being too ostentatious, the expression of imperial “Byzantinism” and “showmanship”. Despite all of these discussions, the Cathedral has always found many enthusiasts, who find the architecture uplifting and festive. At the same time, it provides a place for stillness and prayer within the restless center of Berlin.
The most prominent damage to the Cathedral caused by an air raid in 1940 was the loss of the altar windows. In 1944, the impact of a liquid incendiary bomb struck the foot of the dome lantern. Because access to this location was so difficult, the fire could not be extinguished, and the entire dome construction was destroyed. Parts of the burning dome crashed into the church and through the floor, causing the fire to spread all the way into the crypt below. Within one night, the Cathedral had been transformed into a ruin. Vandalism and weathering caused further damage. Money for the necessary protection of the structural materials came slowly. The bells chimed again for the first time after the war’s end in November of 1948, and a provisional roof for the Cathedral’s dome was only built in 1953. During this period, services and church music took place in the crypt area beneath the memorial church.
With financial support from the German Protestant Church and the government of the Federal Republic, reconstruction of the still war-damaged Cathedral began in 1975. The memorial church on the north side and the imperial underpass on the south side of the Cathedral were torn down. The restored Baptismal and Matrimonial Chapel has been back in use for services and events of the Cathedral congregation since 1980. Construction work on the exterior façade of the Cathedral – with extreme alterations in the dome area – was essentially complete in 1983. Work on the interior began in 1984. On June 6th, 1993, the Sermon Church was reopened in a ceremonial service. The windows in the chancel and the mosaic paintings in the dome of the sermon church were reconstructed in the years that followed. In 2002 the last of the dome mosaics was festively unveiled.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.