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Berliner Dom (Berlin, Germany)

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Sightseeing Type: Churches / Temples / Address: Cathedral / Am Lustgarten (Mitte), central Berlin.

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      02.04.2008 17:33
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      A fascinating relic of the Prussian Empire

      Last year I had a very unique opportunity to work in another country. I normally work at St Paul's Cathedral and got the chance to work in the Berlinerr Dom (Berlin Cathedral) for a week as an English tour guide. I was living right on top of my work place, as I was staying in a guest apartment in the cathedral's bell tower. I fell in love with Berlin and its cathedral so thought I would give you a virtual tour of this amazing building. Take a pew and sit back and enjoy.

      The Berlinerr Dom is very easy to get to as it is located in the central district of Mitte just by the Museum Island (where all the major museums are in Berlin). It is also just off one of Berlin's min streets Unter Den Linden, which runs from the Brandenburg Gate to the Berliner Dom and beyond. It is easy to get to the Berlinerr Dom. A number of buses go past it and stop at ether the opera house or the Lustgartwens (the pleasure gardens). It is located conveniently in between Frreidrich Strasse and Hackeschermarkt S Bahn stations. You can also get the tram to Hackeschermarkt if you are coming from the former east Berlin.

      Once you arrive at the steps of the Berliner Dom you can not fail to be impressed by the wonderful building and the lovely surroundings of the Lustgartens, with their fountains and the neo-classical facade of the Altesmuseum. Have a look at the cathedral. It is a wonderful almost golden neo reminiscence structure, with its large central dome and four smaller domed towers. It may look old but it is only just over 100 years old. It was built by the architect Julius Raschdorff for Kaiser Wilhelm 11 and was competed in 1905. It took the place of the original 18th century cathedral which was developed by Schinkel in the 19th century. Germany at that time was a new nation and the Kaiser wanted a royal, imperial cathedral to be proud of. He wanted it to rival the great cathedrals in Europe especially St Peter's in Rome and of course St Paul's in London, as that was his grandmother Queen Victoria's cathedral. He even went as far as to make the cathedral slightly higher than St Paul's. Originally it was 115 meters high St Paul's is only 111 metres high. The cathedral was to be three churches in one, with the main sermon church at the heart of the cathedral off to one side is the weddings and baptism church and the memorial church where monuments to important member of the Hohenzollern dynasty (the family that ruled Brndenburg, Prussia and eventfully Germany from 1415 to 1918) were displayed.

      Climb up the steps and buy a ticket. The Berliner Dom like Saint Paul's Cathedral in London does haver a compulsory charge for sight seeing. Like Saint Paul's they have found the donations are not enough to run the cathedral. It costs 5 euros (about £3.50) for adults, 3 euros for concessions and it is free for under 14s. It is a reasonable price to see a fascinating building and is better value for money than the £10 charge for St Paul's s Cathedral. You go through a small lobby where you are greeted by the cathedral staff. They have varying degrees of English but I found most of them to be very friendly and have fond memories of one gentleman (I never found out his name) who was very good at sending English speaking visitors my way for their free short talk!.

      Guided tours and short talks are free of charge at the Berliner e Dom. They do them in a number of languages including French, English, Spanish and Portuguese as well as German. It's easy to ind the guides they are standing at the back of the cathedral next to a flag depicting the relevant language. I was very impressed with my introductory tour but perhaps mine was more in depth than others as I was about to be a guide myself and I was a guest of the cathedral.

      Once inside I suggest you take a pew near the centre of the cathedral and just take in the ornate surrounding with the swathes of gilding, angels and cherubs festooning the walls. Look further up to the statues of key figures in the Reformation such as Calvin and Luther. Look up to the ceiling and marvel at the mosaics of the dome. It was through this dome a bomb was dropped in 1944 destroying the sermon church and leaving a a large hole in the ceiling. The building was left o go to wrack and ruin, with only a flimsy covering over the dome during the communist period, as the building was seen a a reminder of Imperial German rule. Ironically it was the the enemy in the form of the West German Protestant church in 1975 that helped to reconstruct the Berliner Dome back to its former glory. The Weddings and Baptisms chapel was the fist part to be reopened in 1980 and the Cathedral was rededicated in 1993. Unfortunately the Memorial chapel was completely disposed of and the sarcophagi were relocated.

      Look straight ahead of you to the east end where the altar, pulpit and font are located. You cannot fail to be impressed with the beautiful stained glass windows by Anton Von Werner depicting the life and death of Jesus. These gorgeous windows were also casualties of the 1944 bomb and were reconstructed at the cost of 50,000 euros each. Have a look closely at the first one depicting the nativity. At the bottom of the window you will see a German Shepherd dog, apparently this is the only truly German symbol in a building built to show the greatness of the German nation. Look lower down to the altar and its beautiful rail with sculptures of the 12 apostles. The biblical theme is
      continued in the lovely marble font which is held u[p by the four Evangelists. The altar is unusual as it is two fold with elements of the Calvinism and reformed church with a fancy altar and a plainer table on top of it.

      Now slowly turn your attention to the organ loft. The vast organ with its 7269 pipes is one of the biggest in Germany. It was not destroyed in World war II but a lot of work had to be done on it to restore it, as it was badly damaged by th elements during the communist era. I loved the mellow sound o the organ and actually prefer it to the Saint Paul's one. I remember on my last night in Berlin coming back to a the cathedral when the organist was practicing. It was amazing sitting alone in the darkened cathedral just listening to the organ play. I would recommend coming to even song (especiall on a Thursday when it is in both German and English) at 6PM to hear the organ.

      Swing round to the west end of the church and look u to a gallery above you. This is the Imperial Gallery where the Kaiser and the res of his family woulds sit when they attended the cathedral. Looking at this gallery always reminds me of a story I was told by my guide. The Kaiser's mother was disabled and thus the Kaiser being a modern forward thinking monarch commissioned a lift to take her up from ground level to the gallery. This would be the first lift in a Germ,an church and there was an uproar in Germany that such a new fangled thing should be installed. No German company wanted to build this lift so it was built by an American company instead. The Kaiser also had electric lighting in his 18h century candelabra so the cathedral would be well lit. The most prominent feature of the Imperial Gallery is a raised platform with a curious frame. This was where the Kaiser sat and stood. He was a small man, with a deformed arm but wanted to look important and powerful so stood in this frame to get the desired effect. When climbing up to the gallery outside make sure you get to explore the Imperial Gallery within. Look out for the little devils face facing towards the Imperil family. It faced that way because the Kaiser thought he was the only one powerful enough to look at the devil in the face.

      Once you have taken in the brilliance of the Dom take a walk around the cathedral. Underneath the organ are three sarcophagi of important members of the Hohenzollern dynasty. On the left the ornately decorated sarcophagus of the seventeenth century Great elector Wilhelm Friedrich who liberated the Prussians from Swedish rule, as illustrated by he men in chains at the foot of the coffin. Next to him is his wife Dorethea. Looking to the right you can see the oldest and newest funeral monuments in the cathedral. The first is the very plain wooden sarcophagus of Johann Cicero dating from the late 15th century. Next to it is the coffin of Friedrich II the second last ruler of the Hohenzollern dynasty who only reigned for 99 day before he died and Kaiser Wilhelm II took over. Wilhelm II is buried in the Netherlands where he was exiled after World War 1. he wanted to be buried alongside his ancestors in the Berliner Dom only if Germany became a monarchy again. Thus he will never be reunited with his family.

      Cross the cathedral floor to the fabulous ornate tombs of King Friedrich I (the first king in Prussia but not of Prussia since there was no crown) and his cultured beautiful wife Sophie Charlotte who also founded the wonderful Schloss Charlottenburg which is also well worth a visit. I found the figure of death writing in a book to be particularly striking on Sophie Charlotte's tomb.


      Head out of the cathedral to the upper floors and do not forget to take in the smaller Baptism and Weddings church and the impressive imperial staircase. Head upstairs to a small museum with models and artifact from the cathedral. Unfortunately all the interpretation is in German but it is interesting to look at. Climb higher to get a view from the dome of the cathedral at the Dom's version of the Stone Gallery. It is a fantastic view but the best view in town is from the nearby TV tower.


      Once downstairs you will pass through the crypt of the cathedral where the rest of the dynasty lie. I found it fascinating to see how the coffins changed over time from the late 16th to early 20yj century. I would look out for the sarcophagus which was damaged by bombs during the war. If you look at it from a certain angle you can see the damage and the coffin inside. More poignantly are the tiny coffins of the children, some of them new born. There are two tiny coffins side by side of children that must of died agonisng deaths due to the heavy crown placed n their heads. One died of a fractured skull whilst the other ones neck broke due to the weight of the crown. Truly truly sad.

      Past the crypt is a small cafe that I never used. Next to this is a well stocked shop with a wide range of souvenirs from pencils to lovely candle holders at reasonable prices. There are toilets in the crypt however there was a small charge for using them so keep some small change just in case.

      The Berliner Dom was my home for a weekend I can thoroughly recommend it as a monument to the now disappeared imperial Berlin.


      Opening Hours
      Mon-Sat 9am-7pm; Sun & public holidays 12pm-7pm

      Berliner Dom
      1 Lustgarten
      10178 Berlin
      Germany

      http://www.berliner-dom.de/
      (only in German)

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