St. Mary's Church

Berlin, Germany

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.

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Eketorp Fort

Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.

The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.

In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.

Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.

Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.