The exact age of the original St. Mary's Church (Marienkirche) site and structure is not precisely known, but it was first mentioned in German chronicles in 1292. It is presumed to date from earlier in the 13th century. The architecture of the building is now largely composed of comparatively modern restoration work which took place in the late 19th century and in the post-war period. The church was originally a Roman Catholic church, but has been a Lutheran Protestant church since the Protestant Reformation.
Along with the Nikolaikirche, the Marienkirche is the oldest church in Berlin. The oldest parts of the church are made from granite, but most of it is built of brick, giving it its characteristic bright red appearance. This was deliberately copied in the construction of the nearby Berlin City Hall, the Rotes Rathaus. During World War II, it was heavily damaged by Allied bombs. After the war the church was in East Berlin, and in the 1950s it was restored by the East German authorities.
Before World War II, the Marienkirche was in the middle of a densely populated part of the district of Mitte, and was in regular use as a parish church. After the war, this area was cleared of ruined buildings and today the church stands in the open spaces around the Alexanderplatz, and is overshadowed by the East Berlin television tower, the Fernsehturm.
There is a striking statue of Martin Luther outside the church. The Marienkirche also contains the tomb of Field Marshal Otto Christoph von Sparr. Carl Hildebrand Freiherr von Canstein, the founder of the oldest Bible society of the world, the Cansteinsche Bibelanstalt, was buried here in 1719.
The Erfurt Synagogue was built c. 1094. It is thought to be the oldest synagogue building still standing in Europe. Thanks to the extensive preservation of the original structure, it has a special place in the history of art and architecture and is among the most impressive and highly rated architectural monuments in Erfurt and Thuringia. The synagogue was constructed during the Middle Ages on the via regia, one of the major European trade routes, at the heart of the historical old quarter very close to the Merchants Bridge and the town hall. Many parts of the structure still remain today, including all four thick outer walls, the Romanesque gemel window, the Gothic rose window and the entrance to the synagogue room.
After extensive restoration, the building was reopened in 2009. On display in the exhibition rooms is an collection of medieval treasures discovered during archaeological excavations. This includes 3,140 silver coins, 14 silver ingots, approx. 6,000 works of goldsmithery from the 13th and 14th centuries and an intricately worked wedding ring of the period, of which only two others are known to exist anywhere in the world. A mikveh (Jewish bath) has been excavated close by (13th/14th century). The Old Synagogue, the Small Synagogue and two Jewish cemeteries together form a network of historical buildings and sites which vividly portray the role of Jewish life in the history of Erfurt.