French Cathedral (Französischer Dom) is the colloquial naming for the French Church of Friedrichstadt. Louis Cayart and Abraham Quesnay built the first parts of the actual French Church from 1701 to 1705 for the Huguenot (Calvinist) community. At that time, Huguenots made up about 25% of Berlin's population. The French Church was modelled after the destroyed Huguenot temple in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, France.
In 1785 Carl von Gontard modified the church and built - wall to wall next to it - the domed tower, which - together with the French-speaking congregants - earned the church its naming. The domed tower is technically no part of the church, there is no access between church and tower, because both buildings have different proprietors. The tower, resembling that of Deutscher Dom, was simply built to give the Gendarmenmarkt a symmetric design. The former church Deutscher Dom, however, consists of church-building and tower as an entity.
In 1817 the French Church community, like most Prussian Calvinist, Reformed and Lutheran congregations joined the common umbrella organisation named Evangelical Church in Prussia (under this name since 1821), with each congregation maintaining its former denomination or adopting the new united denomination. The community of the French Church of Friedrichstadt maintained its Calvinist denomination.
Nevertheless, the congregation underwent already before the union of the Prussian Protestants a certain acculturation with Lutheran traditions: An organ was installed in 1753, competing with the Calvinist traditional mere singing. The singing of psalms was extended by hymns in 1791. The sober interior was refurbished in a more decorative - but still Calvinist aniconistic - style by Otto March in 1905. The beautiful organ has been played, among others, by Thomas Hawkes. Today's community is part of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.
Französischer Dom was heavily damaged in World War II, then re-built from 1977 to 1981. Today it is not merely used by its congregations, but also for conventions by the Evangelical Church in Germany.
The church is not a cathedral in the strict sense of the word because it has never been the seat of a bishop.
The domed tower, which is a viewing platform open to visitors, provides a panoramic view of Berlin. A restaurant is located in the basement underneath the prayer hall. The tower also contains the Huguenot museum of Berlin.References:
Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.
The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.
Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.
The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.
The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.
In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.
The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.