A well-rounded church

Just behind Bebelplatz and looking on to it is a small church which I’d never entered before. The foundation stone of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral was laid in 1737 on land donated by Frederick the great. It has the distinction of being the first Catholic church built in Prussia after the reformation. We hesitated a bit: did we want to walk on, or go in here? The cold nudged us to make up our mind: in was better than out.

Every round and domed building in Europe reminds me of the Pantheon. The pediment certainly speaks of a neo-classical design. When I stepped back, a guess based on the unaided eye indicated that the imaginary sphere made by continuing the dome downwards would touch the floor. This is the proportion of the Pantheon. The story is that Frederick the great made a sketch of the church, and von Knobelsdorf designed it following this, immediately after he’d designed the Opera next to it.

I took a closer look at the relief work in the pediment on my way in (photo above). If that is not baroque then I will eat the grapes the cherubs are playing with. I don’t know the legend of the Silesian saint Hedwig well enough to tell whether the relief involves her life. Inside the church one can read a little bit about the history of the structure. I was not surprised to learn that the church had been destroyed by bombing in 1943. The story of its restoration in 1963, when it stood in the former East Germany, by a collaboration between architects and artists from East and West Germany was a complete surprise. As much as when I’d first heard that the bishop of Berlin, whose seat this was, denounced the murders and vandalism of Kristallnacht. Predictably, he was hauled off to Dachau.

We sat inside for a while and listened to part of an organ concert. The church has great acoustics. The organ, built by Klais of Bonn, was installed in 1978. This was a replacement of the organ which was destroyed in the bombing. Apparently there are almost 5000 organ pipes, made of wood, copper and tin. The sonorous notes followed us as we went back out into the cold.

The Brandenburger Door

If Berlin is the heart of Germany, then the Brandenburger Door is the heart of the city. The Family and I have walked through it every time we were in Berlin. We like the idea that we add to the throng of tourists who stand round to gawk at the late 18th century relic of the Prussian state: ordered by Frederik the Great, and designed by Karl Langhans.

I love the history of the chariot atop the gate, which was sculpted by Johann Schadow. It was supposed to depict Irene, the Greek goddess of peace. Napoleon captured Berlin and took the sculpture to Paris. It was supposed to have been placed atop the Arc de Triomphe, but Napoleon was defeated before the arch could be completed. The sculpture was recovered in 1814 by the Prussian general Bluecher, and put back in its place in Berlin. It was blown to bits during the second world war, and only the head of a horse survived. The most recent quadriga was completed in 1990 after the reunification of Germany.

I liked the gray sky and the warm lights in the featured photo. I wonder what that unmarked white van is doing there: it looks like something out of a cold war spy story.