The Gendarmenmarkt was one of the first places I visited after arriving in Berlin. The square is named after the Gens d'Armes regiment whose stables were situated here.
There are 4 major sights of interest in this beautiful square:
Main photo: The statue of Friedrich Schiller, the esteemed German poet and philosopher. It stands in pride of place in the centre of the square and is a work on German sculptor Reinhard Begas.
Photo 2: The Konzerthaus. This building is home to the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and was built in 1818-1821 to the design of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It received heavy damage during World War Two and was rebuilt in 1977 sympathetically to Schinkel's original plans.
There are also two very similar looking churches; The Deutscher Dom (Photo 5) and The Französischer Dom (Photos 3 and 4). They stand on opposite sides of the square. The French church (not a cathedral) is the more interesting. It was originally built in 1701-1705 for the French-speaking Huguenot community of Berlin. The domed tower was built in 1785 to give a symmetrical aspect to the Gendarmenmarkt. Sadly, the church was also heavily damaged during wartime and was rebuilt between 1977-1981. The church currently houses the Huguenot museum; somewhere I plan on visiting if I make it back to Berlin someday.
I was lucky to stay at a hotel that overlooked the Gendarmenmarkt and was able to wander around the square a number of times. So what is there? Around the perimeter are upmarket hotels, restaurants and shops. The square has 2 cathedrals, a theatre that is now a concert hall, a statue of Friedrich Schiller in the middle of the square, a part time outside café, a tree lined area to sit in the shade and an Octagonal Café. The area was badly damaged during WW2 but has now been restored to its former glory. During my first visit a charity walk was taking place and the square was part of the route with a drumming band encouraging the walkers on. The Square is also known for its famous annual Christmas Market that is regarded as one of the best. The market runs this year from 26/11 to 31/12.
The Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) is the newest building on the Gendarmenmarkt. It was built between 1818 and 1821 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who around the same time also designed the reconstruction of the Berliner Dom. The Konzerthaus was built on the ruins of the National Theatre, which was destroyed by fire in 1817. Schinkel reused the columns and some of the old buildings outside walls. The Konzerthaus was badly damaged during WW2. The reconstruction work was finished in 1984 and the former theatre was turned into a concert hall with four halls. It is now the home of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin that gives more than 100 concerts each season. There are guided tours of the Concert Hall that normally take place on Saturdays at 1pm and cost 3 euros.
We arrived at the Concert Hall early Saturday evening on the night of a performance. This meant we were not able to enter the building, however it was similar to watching the red carpet entry on Oscars' Night.
On the steps to the Concert Hall musicans played as the patrons arrived in formal dress, the ladies looking superb.
Around the square were stalls selling souvenirs, snack foods etc etc. There were also buskers and other entertainers. Very entertaining.
The Concert Hall was destroyed during World War II and since rebuilt.
Our visit to the Gendarmenmarkt was at sunset, our intention being to view the beautiful Doms , Theatre and other buildings and activities within the square, before having dinner at the nearby German Beer Hall.
We arrived a little late to take good photos of these beautiful Doms, however it was an ideal time to view the many activities within the square. We sat and enjoyed the activities, particularly the people arriving for the evening performance at the Schauspielhaus (Theatre).
The Gendarmenmarkt was established during the 17th century.
There excist interesting story regarding name of the square, its current name is derived from theRegiment Gens d'Armeswho had their stables here from 1736 to 1773. Starting from 1777 the square was redeveloped under the plans by Georg Christian Unger.
Nowadays the square is quiet place surrounded by three landmark buildings; Franzosisher Dom, Deutcher Dom and the Konzerthaus. In the central part of the square is a statue of Friedrich Schiller, a most famous German poet.
The Neu Kirche, colloquially referred to the Deutcher Dom is not the cathedral but parish church for the district of Friedrichstadt. It was Lutheran church (in Germany usually called Reformed Church) but later on become a congregation for Calvinists too.
The church was built from 1701 to 1708 and had pentagonal ground plan with semicircular apses. It was modified in 1780 to 1785 by Georg Christian Unger, who added domed tower. By such Palladian modifications to the both churches located on Gendarmenmarkt the idea was to resemble this square to the Piazza del Popolo in Rome.
Christian Bernhard Rode, famous German sculptor, created the statues representing characters from the Old and New Convenant, which are added to the tower. During GDR-era, the church was profaned and reopened as the Museum of German Parliamentary History.
The French Cathedral (also known as French Church of Friedrichstadt) is smaller one of two at the Gendarmenmarkt, situated on the left of the Concert Hall. It was built from 1701 to 1705 for the Huguenot community in Berlin, which at that time made up among 25% of entire Berlin's population. The cathedral was modeled after the destroyed Huguenot church in Charenton, France. The tower and the porticos were added in 1785.
Huguenot is a French name for Calvinist. In the beginning of the 19th century they joined the comon umbrella organisation named Evangelical Church in Prussia. The tower of the church contains the Huguenot Museum of Berlin.
Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) is situated in the central position of Gendaemenmarkt and houses Konzerthausorchester of Berlin. It was built for a theatre from 1818 to 1821 under the name of Schauspielhaus but it usage changed to a concert hall after WW I. The new Konigliches Schauspielhaus was inaugurated in 1821 with the acclaimed premiere of opera Der Freischutz by Carl Maria von Weber.
After WW I the Schauspielhaus reopened under the name Preussiches Staatstheater in 1919 and soon became one of the leading theatres of the Weimar Republic.
It was sevearely damaged by allied bombing in a battle for Berlin, rebuilt from 1977 onwards and reopened as the Concert Hall in 1984. The exterior is faithful reconstruction of Schinkel's designes. Acoustically the hall is considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world for music or opera.
The central part of the square, right in front of the Konzerthaus is crowned ba a statue of poet Friedrich Schiller, by Reinhold Begas. The statue was victim of the Nazis purges and was returned to East Berlin in 1988 after a long exile in the other half of the city.
This is one of the most attractive squares in Berlin and we really enjoyed spending a relaxing hour here, strolling around, taking photos and lingering over Kaffe und Küchen in one of the several cafés that ring it. The square gets its name from the regiment Gens d'Armes (of French Huguenots) who had their stables here from 1736 to 1773. It is a harmonious space, with matching buildings (the Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom) on its north and south sides, the striking Konzerthaus on the west, and the smart shops and cafés of Markgrafenstraße on the east.
Starting on the north side, the Französischer Dom holds a museum dedicated to the French Huguenot immigrants who once worshipped here. We didn’t get round to checking this out but I noted that people had climbed to the top of its dome which would have tempted us had it not been near the end of a very long and hot day of exploring! The church was built between 1701 -1705 and is slightly older than its counterpart opposite. Facing it across the length of the square is the almost matching Deutscher Dom, built in 1708, with an exhibition on German democracy which our guidebook describes as “hopelessly academic”, so we gave that a miss too. This church was totally destroyed by fire in 1945 so the one standing today is an early 1990s rebuilding of it.
If we ignore the fact that the Deutscher Dom was rebuilt only 20 years ago, the Konzerthaus (photos 3 & 4) is the most recent of the three grand buildings that grace the square. It was originally a theatre, built to replace the National Theatre which was destroyed by fire in 1817. Like the Deutscher Dom it was again destroyed during the Second World War, and on its restoration in 1984 was turned into a concert hall. It is now home to the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
In the middle of the square is a statue of Friedrich Schiller, the famous German poet (see photo 5).
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