Timings : 9 AM - 7 PM (All days)
Time Required : 1-2 hours
Entry Fee : No Entry Fee
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Originally built in 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (commonly known as Gedächtniskirche in German) is one of the major landmarks residing on the Kurfürstendamm (Berlin’s extremely famous avenue). This protestant church is associated with the United Protestant Church body of the three states in Germany, namely, Berlin, Brandenburg, and a part of Saxony.
Severely damaged during the bomb raidings in Germany in 1943, the damaged Old Church was retained, and its ground floor was transformed into a memorial hall to commemorate the determination of Berliners to rebuild the city after the war. Additionally, a new building was constructed between 1959 and 1963, with an attached foyer, and a segregated belfry with a chapel adjoined to it.
The Church also gained a new name- Hollow Tooth, among the Berliners due to the impact of the war on the spire of the building, that creates an impression of an empty husk. While the beautiful stained glass architecture of the modern Church suffices to attract visitors, many people also show a keen interest in visiting the memorial that gives them an insight into the history of Berlin.
Every year during Christmas, one of the biggest Christmas markets (den Weihnachtsmarkt in German) takes place around the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It hosts more than a hundred Christmas booths and stalls that are adorned beautifully with the festive decoration. People can buy Christmas decorations, different flavours of Mulled wine bottles, homemade treats and a variety of Austrian and German delicacies here. Furthermore, with the huge Christmas tree, Church, and the Santa Claus that is seen passing presents to kids and a few adults alike, visitors have a lot of fun during their visit to these markets.
The history of this significant landmark in Berlin can be traced back when Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, and King of Prussia, initiated the construction of this Church as a part of Protestant Church-building program along with his consort Augusta Victoria. The aim behind this program was to bring back traditional religious values to contend with the German socialist and labour movements taking place at that time.
The Church was named by Wilhelm II to honour his grandfather Wilhelm I; in fact, the foundation stone of the Church was laid down on the birthday of the former emperor. The construction cost of this Church counted up to 6.8 million Goldmark (currency used in Germany between 1873 and 1914) at that time. Though on the night of 23 November 1943, this Church was extensively damaged due to an air raid, much of its parts still survived intact. Later, due to public outcry to preserve the tower as it is the ‘heart of Berlin’, it was decided that the Old Church would not be torn down for reconstruction and instead an additional modern Church building would be built.
The original Church was designed by Franz Heinrich Schwechten, an extremely famous German architect and a member of Bauakademie (a well-known higher education school of art that aimed to train master builders) of Wilhelmine era. Built in the classic Neo-Romanesque style, this Church consisted of a 2,740 square meters wall mosaic, a nave with the capacity of seating 2,000 people, and 113 meters high-spire. The unique architecture of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church later served to inspire many architectural projects such as Romanisches Café, that was also designed by Schwechten.
The new Church consists of four buildings ensembled around the ruins that had remained after the war and was designed by one of the most prominent German architects of the 20th century, Egon Eiermann. The construction of the Church was done with concrete and steel and was embellished with over 21,000 stained glass inlays. With predominant colour being blue, and small parts stained in emerald green, yellow, and ruby red, this modern Church emanates an absolute majestical look.
A crucifix figure made from tombak (a brass alloy that has a higher copper content) is suspended aloft the altar and is situated to the opposite of the entrance of the Church. With the height of 53.5 meters and a diameter of 12 meters, the Church atop with a pole carries a gilded sphere and a gilded cross above it. This further contains a belfry consisting of six bronze bells that were passed from the French canons and treasure from the Franco- Prussian War (1870-71). Each of these bells is rung at different times depending on the occasion, for instance, bell 4,5, and 6 are rung for marriages, devotions, family worship, and baptisms.
After the extensive damage from air raidings, the Old Church was transformed into a memorial hall that hosts some extremely impressive exhibits and mosaics. Entry to the ground floor of the damaged spire was granted to visitors in 1987. The floor of this hall is adorned with the mosaic of Archangel Michael engaged in combat with a dragon. Some other mosaics of the Church feature some of the most influential monarchs of medieval Germany, reformation princes, and thinkers.
There are about 16 display panels in the north apse that helps the visitors learn the story of the Old Church and the destruction caused to it by the war. To the opposite side of the hall are three historically significant items of the Church - the statue of Christ (that originally stood at the altar of the Old Church and was damaged during the war), the Cross of Nails (created from the roof timbers fn the Coventry Cathedral that was wrecked by German air raid) and an iron cross (accorded by Russsian Orthodox Church in 1988). There are also Bas-relief sculptures (image projected on an overall shallow surface; like that on a coin) depicting the life of Kaiser Wilhelm I, parts of biblical stories, and emblems of war and peace.
The METRO - The U-Bahn or Subway lines U1 and U2 stop at U Kurfürstendamm and U Zoologischer stations Garten respectively. While the former station is 319 meters away that will take a 5 min walk to reach the Church, the latter is merely 283 meters away, requiring again a walk of approximately 5 min.
The TRAIN - The train lines RE2 and RE7 can also be used to reach S+U Zoologischer Garten Bhf. S- Bahn line S-75.
The BUS - bus lines 200, M29, and M-45, stop at stations situated at walking distances from the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
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