St. Nicholas' Church

Berlin, Germany

The St. Nikolai-Kirche, (St. Nicholas' Church) is the oldest church in Berlin. The area around the church is known as the 'Nicholas quarter', and is an area of restored mediaeval buildings. The church was built between 1220 and 1230, and is thus, along with the Church of Our Lady at Alexanderplatz not far away, the oldest church in Berlin.

Originally a Roman Catholic church, the Church of St. Nicholas became a Lutheran church after the Protestant Reformation in the Electorate of Brandenburg in 1539. In the 17th century, the prominent hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt was the minister of this church, and the composer Johann Crueger was musical director. The prominent Lutheran theologian Provost Philipp Jacob Spener was the minister from 1691 to 1705. From 1913 to 1923 the minister at the Church of St. Nicholas was Wilhelm Wessel, whose son Horst Wessel later became famous as a Nazi: the family lived in the nearby Jüdenstraße.

On Reformation Day in 1938 the church building served its congregation for the last time. Then the building, the oldest structure in Berlin proper, was given up to the government, to be used as a concert hall and ecclesiastical museum. The number of parishioners had shrunk due to the ever intensifying commercialisation of the inner city with residential premises being superseded by offices and shops. The congregation later merged with that of the Church of Our Lady.

During World War II the Church of St. Nicholas lost by fire the tops of its towers and the roof as a result of Allied bombing. In 1949 all the vaults and the northern pillars collapsed. The ruins were in East Berlin, and it was not until 1981 that the East German Democratic Republic authorities authorised the rebuilding of the church, using old designs and plans. The Church of St. Nicholas as seen today is largely a reconstruction. Today the church serves again mainly as a museum and occasionally as a concert venue, administered by the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin (Landesmuseum für Kultur und Geschichte Berlins). It is renowned for its acoustics and the rebuilt church has been equipped with a fine set of 41 bells.

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Details

Founded: 1220-1230
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ivan Bok (13 months ago)
Beautiful church with unbelievable uniquely uncorrupted Zehndenick Altardecke! Must see.
Novi Manurung (13 months ago)
Full of history and valuable artifacts
Talal Chahoud (19 months ago)
interested and old space to visit.. wood and a lot ...to see... toilette available for visitor..
Carla Lowe (19 months ago)
Very interesting. There are some pieces that are worth seeing. Like the wooden pieces of the altar and the Cloth, among others. The museum is only 5 Euro per person and it gives information in German and English so to can really enjoy it and learn about the history of the church and Berlin. Plus, the people that work there as hosts, are very kind and ready to answer your questions. There's a young man who spoke English to me and gave me some interesting facts. I didn't get his name but I assume he's always there. I'm walking in crutches and he offered a chair that you can transport around the church to sit on it. That was great help for me given my temporary handicapped situation. This church is either the oldest or the second oldest in Berlin.
Ashadka A (2 years ago)
nice museum with audio guide, affordable tickets and impressive church organ. the staff is very friendly. There is a toilet for visitors) The souvenire shop is small but has pretty unique items to offer. The exibits allow to dive deeper in the history and local legend. The one about the giant's bone is really cool. The feature I noticed and liked is the ultramodern light bulbs which can be seen if you go upstairs. The church's situated on a cool historic square, surrounded by pleasant cafes and shops.
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The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

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In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

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20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

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Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.