Located in the Kurfurstendamm district of Berlin is the intriguing Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche. The church was built from 1890-95, but only part of its west tower was left intact after bombing in 1943. Today only 63 metres high, the tower once stood to 113 metres.
The ruins of the tower have been left standing as a memorial. At the base of the tower there is a memorial hall, with historical information and pictures of the old church. This hall has stunning mosaics on the ceiling.
Next to the remains of the tower is the new church which was built next from 1957-63. In the church there is a stunning altar area with a golden figure of Christ suspended in front of a mass of beautiful blue stained glass windows.
There is no charge to enter the memorial hall or new church. If you are in the area I really suggest you pop your head in.
No other sight symbolises Berlin’s traumatic 20th century so vividly as the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche. One of my most abiding memories from our 1985 visit, when photo 4 was taken, is of its jagged ruined spire, left just as the Allied bombers left it, as a constant reminder of the destruction of war.
Rather than demolish the ruin, in 1961 a new, octagonal church designed by Egon Eiermann was built alongside the old tower. This church is a stark contrast to the old one, being of reinforced concrete, but its interior glows with thousands of blue glass panes. A freestanding hexagonal bell tower was also constructed, on the site of the former main nave of the destroyed church.
This was high on my list of sights I wanted to revisit on this trip. We both remembered it so well, but when we emerged from the Zoologischer Garten station we were for a while disorientated – the tower was not where we expected it to be. Then we realised that it was hidden beneath a tall scaffolding structure. I was so disappointed not to be able to see and photograph it again, and also concerned that maybe a decision had been taken to after all fully restore the building. But no – instead they are simply strengthening the ruin so that it will remain for future generations as Berlin’s memorial to the futility of war.
And despite the scaffolding we were at least able to go into the vestibule area of the tower, where we could admire the ornate mosaic ceiling (photo 2) and see various bits of sculpture rescued from the bombed church. There is also a crucifix made from two crossed nails (photo 3), a gift from also-bombed Coventry Cathedral to this church as a symbol of reconciliation.
We also of course went into the modern church to see again the wonderful blue light and the giant statue of Jesus which seems to float in front of it (main photo).
The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche or Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is one of Berlin's most famous landmarks. This damaged tower is a symbol of Berlin's resolve to rebuild the city after the war and a constant reminder of the destruction of war.
There is a new, octagonal church built alongside the existing tower. A freestanding hexagonal bell tower was constructed on the site of the former main nave of the destroyed church.
To remember the german emperor and king of Prussia Wilhelm I this church has been constructed in the years 1891 - 1895, financed by the donations of the whole german folk. This church has been destroyed during the WWII in the night of the 23.11.1943 in an air attack. The (destroyed) tower of the old church shall be a momory of god´s judgement that befall our folk during the war (these are , sorry, bad translated, the words on a memorial tablet at the church).
Another sign says, that the formally entrance hall of the church has been re-opened 1987 as a memory hall. It is a place of reminder against war and destruction and a call for reconcilation in Jesus Christ
I didn't go in but the interior of the church originally built in 1895 contains the Cross of Nails from the people of Coventry, the beautiful mosaics and the Stalingrad Madonna. If only one had more time to visit all these places!!!
The old church was bombed during the Second World War and the outer walls have been allowed to remain standing and contains a small museum. The new churches were built in the 1960's
The people of Berlin love to give their famous buildings nick-names, and I remember our teacher telling us that the old and new churches were called "The Lipstick and the Powderpuff".
The church was built in 1891-95 to commemorate Wilhelm I - the first German king. During WW II it was destroyed but the plans to rebuild it didn't meet with common acceptance. They were followed by the decision to leave the ruin as the reminder of the horrors of war. In the years 1959-61 new buildings were added to create a complex: a bell tower and a flat-roofed octagonal hall.
This Memorial Hall is an incredibly spectacular place. It is located in the main portal of the old church and thus in the tower ruin, and has been opened in 1987. It left me speechless for a moment when I entered as I just did not expect such Russian orthodox splendour, gold everywhere, icons, an arched golden ceiling over and over painted with icons, reliefs and sandstone and marble mosaics, and a brilliant tiled marble floor.
As you can expect this hall is an anti-war memorial, and it holds some precious exhibits which put stress on the virtue of reconciliation. First of all the Nail Cross of the Cathedral of Coventry (see extra tip), then an Icon Cross of the Russian Orthodox Church. Both have been given to Gedächtniskirche by the Christians of both countries. Finally the hall holds the damaged figure of Christ from the altar of the demolished church.
Every Friday at 1pm they pray the reconciliation prayer of the Cathedral of Coventry in the Memorial Hall, instead of the noon prayer in the church.
Whereas the church opens at 9am, the Memorial Hall is only open from 11am.
The church was built between 1891 and 1895 in honour of Wllhelm I and was struck by bombs from air raids in 1943 and 1945 changing it from what was regarded as an ugly church into one of the most well known tourist sites in Berlin. Work started in 1959 on a new church next to the old one and was finished in 1963. There are 3 guided tours around the church each day except Sundays.
The Emperor Wilhelm-Church was constructed between 1891 and 1895 in the Neo-romanic-style. In 1943 it was bombed. After World War II the Berliners discussed long whether to pull the ruin down in order to build a new church, or not. As it soon became a war-memorial and a landmark of West-Berlin they decided to leave it as it was and added a modern church right next to the ruin (1951-1961).
Inside you find mosaics of the old church as well as a nail-cross from the cathedral of Coventry, that had been destroyed by German bombs during World War II.
The church was constructed in 1891 in memory of emperor Wilhelm I, who was the founder of empire. It was strongly destroyed during an air strike in 1943. Its belltower and is not still restored, as a reminder of those terrible years. The church became a symbol of the Western Berlin. Its ruins are included in a modern architectural ensemble which consists of a new church in the form of a 8-coal tower combined from blocks of blue glass, brought from Shartre.
The new church – a simple octagonal room - was inaugurated on 17 December 1961. It is famous for its blue glass walls which were design by Gabriel Loire from the French town of Chartres. The artist used more than 16,000 of 30,000 glass mosaics which were laid into concrete frames. Those again were put into honeycomb-like big frames, and those panels were finally transported to Berlin and mounted into the steel frames of the construction. Loire said he used mostly blue glass because blue is the colour of peace.
And really, those walls give this modern room a very peaceful feeling, and depending on the direction of the sunlight the reflections and lighting are subject to permanent changes.
The centre-piece of the hall is a huge golden-looking figure of Christ after the resurrection, floating above the altar.
It is made of a material called Tombak which is a kind of pewter with high copper content. It was created by the Munich artist Karl Hemmeter, is 4.60 metres tall and weighs about 300 kilos.
The church’s organ has 5000 pipes.
This church at the end of eastern end of Kurfürstendamm is the West’s most striking reminder of the war, and the tower ruin has been left in its pityful condition, so people will always remember how important peace is, and we do not forget, or deny what has happened in the past.
The church had been built from 1891 to 1895, and named after Germany’s first emperor, Wilhelm (William) I. His grandson Wilhelm II had requested the construction, and it soon became the symbol of the New West. The pointed tower, 113 metres high, was the highest building of the city.
After being hugely damaged in World War II (November 1943) it was planned to demolish the church completely but the tower – called Hollow Tooth – had already become the new symbol of the city, and so after the biggest cultural discussion Germany has ever seen the country’s so-called most beautiful ruin was conserved.
The architect Egon Eiermann who had won the competition agreed half-heartedly but not convinced to a compromise which made the 68 metre high torso of the tower the centre-piece of the new four-fold complex. The tower is now used as a memorial hall and exhibition room, the new church is placed in front of the former main portal, and the new clock tower is where the nave once was. To the sides are two low buildings which are used as a chapel and a foyer which is the administration centre of the community.
The new tower is 53.5 metres high, and is crowned by a 1.80 m high golden cross on a 5.3 m long pole. Below the cross sits a golden ball. The tower is built in the same style as the octagonal new church hall. It holds six bronze bells. The biggest one weights 5600 kilos.
At the moment the church asks for donations which are urgently needed for the renovation of the crumbling old tower. They have an info hotline for this: (030) 3109 - 4000
Open daily 9am – 7pm (church), Memorial Hall from 11am
Guided tours (church) Mon – Sat 1.15pm, 2pm and 3pm
The 19th century church was intended to recall the glory of the first German Kaiser, but it did not survive the 1943 air raids, like most of the buildings in Berlin. The efficiency of removing the rubble and rebuilding the new city after the WWII was so strong that locals protested asking that at least some of the pre-war buildings are saved. So it was decided to leave the remnants of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtnis-Kirche to show the war destruction. It was also decided to turn it into a monument of peace and reconciliation, and for this purpose a modern building made of glass bricks was added, making the contrast of the old and new even stronger.
I did not go inside the memorial chapel, but the sight of the destroyed church itself among the new buildings around it serves like a strong memorial itself.
From outside the buildings may seem unattractive but the blue glass window panes (there are 22 000 of them) make a lasting impression. The efect is even intensified at night when the buildings glitter with the bluish light.
I only visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church to get out of the rain. Inside I joined a guided tour and was surprised at how interesting it was. The tour was given by a mathematics student who was passionate enough about his subject to incite enthusiasm in his audience. The tour begins in the central part of what's now a trio of buildings, the main hall and tower of the original church. This is what you see in the photograph and it was built in honour of Kaiser Wilhelm 1 between 1891-1895.
This central part of the church now serves as a Memorial Hall ( details in the following tip ) and the actual place of worship is across the courtyard. When you walk along the Ku'damm the partly ruined church stands out like a sore thumb, but standing out even more is the squat, ugly, black bunker -type structure next to it. This is the new church and on the other side of the tower, in matching ugly matt-black, is the belfry. (Photo 2 )
These new buildings were constructed after public opinion decided that the remains of the church, practically the only building in the area to survive the bombing, should not be demolished. For Berliners it's a reminder of past and a comitment to present.
To see how it all works out, let's look at the interior.