Berlin Cathedral

Berlin, Germany

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.

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Details

Founded: 1894-1905
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: German Empire (Germany)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Noora - (8 months ago)
Magnificent church with beautiful details. You can watch short video clips in German/English which are fun and educational. There are also some information boards. The view at the top is nice but you need to walk up 200+ steps. Definitely worth the entry price though. Visit the church, you won't regret it :)
Corissa George (9 months ago)
Just as beautiful as when I first visited it in 2004 as when we visited in 2017. Gorgeous building! We didn’t pay to go inside inside but enjoyed the grounds around it admiring the beauty of the architecture. We also admired the water fountain/feature close by.
Paul Peglow (9 months ago)
Interesting building even if you're not interested in history or church. You have a great view of the city skyline if you make it to the top. There is a cafe and a souvenir shop on the right hand side of the building downstairs. Good place if you have to wait for your family to climb the stairs to the top.
Adele Hexamer (9 months ago)
The magnificent dome of the Cathedral Church (Berliner Dom) is one of the main landmarks in Berlin’s cityscape – and marks the spot of the impressive basilica housing the city’s most important Protestant church. With its elaborate decorative and ornamental designs, the church interior is especially worth seeing.
Leo McDonagh (9 months ago)
A beautiful cathedral, particularly on the inside. It has been very well maintained and definitely worth the price of entry, especially for students. The paintings are exquisite and the many tombs and coffins are interesting to look at. There is a huge sense of grandeur when you enter the main doors. There are also screens where you can listen to some history in both German and English. You can climb to the top for a view, but the stairs are very narrow and steep so be careful. You can enjoy the cathedral without doing this. Gift shop and cafe also at the end of the route.
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