Fowler, Angus – Lost churches in Berlin

Fowler, Angus – Lost churches in Berlin

Lost and vanished churches and synagogues in the historic centre of Berlin – talk, documentation, better presentation for remembrance by future generations

As a result of damage and destruction in the 2nd World War and subsequent demolition, over 20 churches and synagogues have been lost in the old historic centre of Berlin. After 1945 this area belonged mostly to the Soviet Sector which became in 1949 the capital of the German Democratic Republic, as an atheist state not interested in the preservation of  churches, particularly ruined ones.  Many of these buildings dated from the late 17th , 18th  and 19th centuries. Some churches also disappeared in West Berlin. A few of the damaged churches have been preserved as ruins and subsequently reconstructed and restored, some now with extended uses. Although several books have been published on these buildings, the memory of them has already disappeared or is rapidly vanishing in the centre of Berlin where whole areas were cleared of their ruined historic buildings.

Two NGOs, the Institute for State-Church Research/ Berlin and the citizens’ association Bürgerverein Luisenstadt e.V., organized a talk and discussion on Berlin’s lost churches on Friday, 28th February 2014 at the Protestant Church Centre next to the war-damaged, but preserved and now externally restored, but still practically empty Parochialkirche in the Klosterstrasse on the eastern edge of the old historic centre. This fine oval-shaped, centrally aligned church was built around 1700 for the (Calvinist) Reformed congregation, consisting mostly of state offcials and members of the court of the Electors of Brandenburg/Kings of Prussia after 1701. The Parochialkirche was particularly noted for the fine Glockenspiel/carillon of bells in its tower, completely destroyed in the War but now to be reconstructed with support from the advertizing firm, Wall.  Main speaker at the event was the well known Berlin topographical historian Dr. Benedikt Goebel, who has with his various organizations (Bürgerforum Historische Mitte Berlins and for research on Berlin) been much concerned to document the historic city centre. Gobel portrayed several of these now almost completely forgotten lost churches: the Dorotheenstädtische Kirche, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche, the Bethlehems- and Böhmische Kirche, the Luisenstädtische Kirche and Jerusalemer Kirche in the new districts added to the west of the medieval city in the 17th/18th centuries, the Garrison Church and the French Reformed (Huguenot) Church on the Klosterstrasse in the old medieval city centre, also showing their interiors, furnishings, funeral monuments etc. The outline of the Bethlehems- and Böhmische -Kirche is at present portrayed on its site by a three-dimensional temporary, hopefully permanent, metal construction by a Spanish artist (see pictures). The outline plan of the nearby Jerusalemer Kirche is marked on the pavement immediately south of the large modern block of the Axel-Springer publishing firm directly on the former sectoral border, from 1961 the Berlin Wall. The Bürgerverein Luisenstadt is working together with a landscape architect to reveal the still existing foundation and cellar of the former Luisenstädtischer Kirche.

There was a vigorous discussion, questions and answers given. The Mayor of the central district of Berlin, Dr. Christian Hanke, himself a church historian/theologian, was present and remained for the whole event and participated in the discussion.The two organizing NGOs are carrying out a documentation of the buildings and their history for a projected publication and – with tourists and visitors to Berlin in mind – for further and better presentations on the spot to ensure the memory of lost churches and synagogues in Berlin’s centre by future generations.

Angus Fowler, Förderkreis Alte Kirchen e.V., Marburg/Lahn, Weidenhauser Strasse 53 Marburg/Lahn, 35037 Germany

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