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Berliner Dom and Spree River

Berliner Dom and Spree River
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The Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral, while the largest church in the city, isn’t technically a cathedral at all, as it’s not the home base of a bishop. The official name of the church (or rather its English equivalent) is "Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church". The church is not Catholic (Berlin’s Catholic cathedral is the nearby St. Hedwig’s), and the local Evangelical bishop’s base is split between two other churches (one in East Berlin and one in West Berlin). A church has served the Berliner Dom’s community, at or near the location of the present building, since 1451. The present building was inaugurated in 1905.

To get to the Berliner Dom from the Neues Museum, we took a somewhat indirect route. Instead of going south around the eastern end of the Altes Museum, we headed west, crossing a bridge across the Kupfergraben (the name given to the short western branch of the Spree River that makes the Museumsinsel an island), after which we followed the Kupfergraben south to the next bridge, which we used to cross back to the island.


Nella and Connie with Kupfergraben
Nella and Connie with Kupfergraben
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Berliner Dom and Fernsehturm
Berliner Dom and Fernsehturm
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At this point we found ourselves slightly south of the Berliner Dom, and on the opposite side of a large grassy area with a fountain in the middle of it.

Berliner Dom
Berliner Dom
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Altes Museum and Lustgarten
Altes Museum and Lustgarten
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The grassy area has a history of its own. It’s called the Lustgarten, or pleasure garden, reflecting its principal use since its establishment in the 16th Century. It was first set aside as an area for a kitchen garden for a palace to the south that was known as the Stadtschloss, or city palace (first built in the 15th Century, much damaged during World War II and eventually demolished by the East Germans in 1950). In the 17th Century it became a landscaped public park, but for most of the 18th Century it was turned into a training ground for an increasingly militaristic Prussia. At the end of the 18th Century it again became a park, and over the next century became a home for sculptures and a technically-advanced fountain. A museum (the present-day Altes Museum) was completed on its northern boundary in 1830. A Protestant church occupied the eastern boundary for most of the 19th Century, but it was demolished and replaced with the present Berliner Dom between 1894 and 1905. After World War I, political rallies of various persuasions were held here. After the Nazis came into power, the garden and sculptures were removed and paved over, and the area became a parade ground where gigantic, frenzied crowds could listen to orations by Adolf Hitler or his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. By the end of the war the parade ground had become a cratered wasteland. The East Germans repaired the bomb damage and planted some trees around the perimeter of the paved area, and renamed the area "Marx-Engels-Platz". Following reunification, landscaping was reintroduced (to a point – it seems to consist of seven nicely mown and edged patches of lawn, divided by concrete pathways), a modern fountain was placed in the middle, and the area regained its former name, Lustgarten.

Connie, Fountain and Berliner Dom
Connie, Fountain and Berliner Dom
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Nella and Connie with Fountain, Altes Museum and Church
Nella and Connie with Fountain, Altes Museum and Church MP4-Sml   MP4-Med   WMV-HD
We lingered by the fountain for a little bit, catching our breath after our exploration of the Neues Museum, and then headed for the entrance to the Berliner Dom.

Church Façade

Church Façade
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Most of the inside of the church appears to be in very good condition. This is because much of it is new. In 1944 an Allied firebomb hit the lantern on top of the main dome, which burned and eventually collapsed through the dome onto the floor, causing extensive damage to the church and to the crypt beneath the floor, which held tombs of the Prussian/German Hohenzollern dynasty. From 1949-53 a temporary roof was built to plug up the big hole. In the 1960’s a serious effort was begun to prepare for reconstruction of the church. This was not discouraged by the East German authorities, as they needed the money. Work began in 1975, first on the outside of the church (with ornamentation somewhat scaled back from what had been there previously) and then on the inside, and the church was reopened in 1993, an event televised throughout Germany. Work continued on the stained glass and the dome mosaics, which were fully restored by 2002. Restoration of the crypt is still ongoing, though most of it is open to visitors. We didn’t visit the crypt.

The main church had plenty to look at, though. The dome and the altar were impressive. The stained glass windows behind the altar were different from those usually seen in churches – instead of being mosaics of colored pieces of glass, they had the appearance of glass panes with paintings on them. To the left of the altar is a large pipe organ, a survivor from 1905. Statues of Martin Luther and John Calvin are reminders that this is a Protestant church.


Apse
Apse
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Stained Glass
Stained Glass
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Main Altar
Main Altar
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Pulpit, Organ and Main Dome
Pulpit, Organ and Main Dome
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Pulpit
Pulpit
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Organ
Organ
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Main Dome
Main Dome
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Window and Arch
Window and Arch
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Statue of Martin Luther
Statue of Martin Luther
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Imperial Balcony
Imperial Balcony
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Across from the organ, to the right of the altar, are the tombs of the first Prussian king, Frederick I (1657-1713), and his wife Sophie Charlotte (1668-1705).

Tomb of Sophie Charlotte
Tomb of Sophie Charlotte
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Detail, Tomb of Sophie Charlotte
Detail, Tomb of Sophie Charlotte
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Detail, Tomb of Frederick I

Detail, Tomb of Frederick I
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While Nella rested on a pew, Connie and I went upstairs to see a small museum, passing the church’s Imperial Staircase on the way.

Connie and Nella Amongst the Pews

Connie and Nella Amongst the Pews
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Imperial Staircase, Ground Level
Imperial Staircase, Ground Level
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Bob at Top of Imperial Staircase
Bob at Top of Imperial Staircase
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The museum had a number of artifacts, including 19th Century models of concepts for the new church that was being considered at the time. Some of the models even had detailed interiors.

Pictures Prior to Reconstruction
Pictures Prior to Reconstruction (1975)
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Model of a Capital for Exterior Columns
Model of a Capital for Exterior Columns
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Model of a Basilica Design

Model of a Basilica Design (1843)
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Model of Domed Cathedral
Model of Domed Cathedral
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Domed Model Interior
Domed Model Interior, Mirror View
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From the museum, Connie and I continued upstairs to a walkway that circled the outside of the dome. This walkway afforded us a terrific view of East Berlin, in all directions. The points of interest we could see included:
  • The Fernsehturm, or television tower, built in the 60’s by the East Germans, and still the tallest structure in Germany at 1207 feet
  • The Rotes Rathaus, or red city hall, built in the 1860’s (and rebuilt in the 1950’s following war damage), still serving as Berlin’s town hall
  • The Altes Stadthaus, or old city hall, opened in 1911 and rebuilt in the 1950’s and 1990’s, currently in use by the German Senate
  • The St. Nikolai-Kirche (St. Nicholas’ Church), a reconstruction of Berlin’s oldest church (the original was built between 1220 and 1230 and was largely destroyed during the war)
  • St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in Berlin, first opened in 1773, and also reconstructed following the war
  • The Reichstag, the home of the German Parliament, visible in the distance and discussed in more detail in a future page of this website
  • The Die Welt (The World) balloon, a balloon named for a Berlin newspaper and available for brief tethered ascents above Potsdamer Platz
  • Unter den Linden ("under the lindens"), at one time the most famous and grandest boulevard in Berlin (see the next web page)
Fernsehturm, Rotes Rathaus and Spree
Fernsehturm, Rotes Rathaus and Spree
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Walkway, Fernsehturm and Rotes Rathaus
Walkway, Fernsehturm and Rotes Rathaus
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Statues on Church

Statues on Church
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Rotes Rathaus
Rotes Rathaus
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Altes Stadthaus and Nikolaikirche
Altes Stadthaus and Nikolaikirche
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St. Hedwig's Cathedral, Die Welt Balloon, Unter den Linden
St. Hedwig's Cathedral, Die Welt Balloon, Unter den Linden
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Church Detail
Church Detail
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Also visible, naturally, were the museums of the Museumsinsel and the Lustgarten in front of the church.

Spree River and Alte Nationalgalerie
Spree River and Alte Nationalgalerie
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Spree River, Alte Nationalgalerie and Trains
Spree River, Alte Nationalgalerie and Trains
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Alte Nationalgalerie
Alte Nationalgalerie
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Neues Museum
Neues Museum
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Altes Museum

Altes Museum
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Cross, Lustgarten, Altes Museum and Reichstag
Cross, Lustgarten, Altes Museum and Reichstag
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Cross and Lustgarten Fountain
Cross and Lustgarten Fountain
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On the way back down to collect Nella we briefly stopped in a balcony for a bird’s-eye view of the interior.

Apse
Apse
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Inside the Berliner Dom
Inside the Berliner Dom
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We departed the church and headed west, crossing the bridge over the Kupfergraben, and started an exploration of Unter den Linden.

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