Berlin Cathedral – The Berliner Dom
This post is about the ways to visit the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral).
Right next to the “Lustgarten”, the open space on Museum Island you see this enormous church building with its green cupola, crowned by a gilded cross.
This is the Berlin Cathedral or “Berliner Dom”. It is the largest church building in Berlin and one of the largest Protestant churches in Germany.
Visit the Berliner Dom
The Dome is open to the public every day from 9 am through 8 pm.
There is an admission fee of EUR 7.00, there are guided tours and you can rent an audio-guide.
The Dome has a regular parish and services (in German) are free of charge.
The Berlin Dome is also a venue for concerts and has its own choir and brass ensemble and, of course, the Sauer-Organ.
Visit their website for more information on visiting the Berlin Cathedral.
You might also find our self-guided Berlin Mitte tour interesting.
An Example of Prussian Architecture
The Berlin Dome was constructed between 1894 and 1905, the high time of Historicism.
This architectural style is also known as “Beaux-Arts” in the United States. The buzzword here is “neo”.
Architects of that time designed Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance, or Neo-Baroque buildings.
In the case of the Berlin Dome, the architect Julius Raschdorff used the style of the Italian High Renaissance with some baroque elements.
The huge cupola with its height of 75 meters (225 feet) and a diameter of 33 meters (100 feet) makes you think of the Dome in Florence or even St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Enter the main space, the so-called “Sermon Church” (Predigtkirche) and you will be overwhelmed. Remember, it’s a Protestant church, but there is no such thing as iconoclasm.
Corinthian columns and pilasters, marble, gilded ornaments, and statues await the humble visitor. Raise your eyes to the cupola and you’ll see the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove with the sunlight shining through.
The colorful mosaics in the cupola show Christ’s beatification of the Sermon of the Mount.
The church has the form of an octagon and on the eight columns, you’ll find eight statues, not of saints, but of the four most important reformers of the Protestant faith:
- and of four Prussian monarchs.
The Organ is a so-called “Sauer-Organ”, created by the Sauer Company in Frankfurt/Oder.
In Germany’s churches, you’ll always find the organs categorized by the names of the company or the artist that created them.
The organ in the Dome has 7,269 pipes and 113 registers on four manuals – again, one of the largest organs in the country.
At the time of its dedication, the Sauer-Organ in the Dome was technically and artistically the most modern organ to be found.
The Sarcophagi and the Crypt
The Berlin Dome is also the burial place of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The house of the Hohenzollern ruled Prussia since the Middle Ages and the German Empire from 1871 through 1918.
The most important kings and emperors though are not buried here but near their favorite castles in Berlin, Potsdam, or in the Dutch exile (William II).
The burial place is older than the Dome itself: Already in 1848, King Frederick William IV of Prussia had the so-called “Campo Santo” (Italian for “Holy Field, an old word for cemetery) built next to the church that stood on the site of the contemporary Dome.
The Predecessor Dom
The Dom we know today is actually the 2nd dom on this site. The predecessor building was baroque, commissioned by King Frederick II (“The Great”) of Prussia in the 1740s.
Karl Friedrich Schinkel, one of the most important architects of Berlin, redesigned the building between 1816 and 1821 in the then fashionable neoclassical style.
After the founding of the German Empire, the Dome seemed too small for the new country, but it took over 20 years, and Emperor William II to tear down the old Dome and build the new one.
But why did all these kings and emperors decide about the church, its size and architects?
Why not the parish or the higher bodies of the Protestant church?
Because the highest body of the Protestant church in Prussia was the monarch himself.
As the reformer Martin Luther would not have survived the persecution by the Catholic Church back in the 16th century without the Elector (=monarch) of Saxony hiding him in the Wartburg, the castle of Eisenach, there has been close relationship between the Protestant Church in Germany and the respective head of state.
So, the Prussian monarch has always been the head of the Protestant Church in Prussia. William II, the 3rd German emperor saw himself as the head of the German Protestant Church.
That didn’t make much sense, as the Protestant church is not as centralized as the Roman Catholic Church, but why would the emperor care?
More so, his wife Auguste Viktoria was the head of an association to promote the construction of Protestant churches in Germany.
Official Use Today
Neither the German Chancellor nor the German President claims to be the head of the Protestant Church in Germany today.
But the Berlin Dome is used for official services, similar to the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, or Westminster Abbey in London.
Check out our self-guided Berlin Mitte East tour.
On our Berlin-in a day-Walking Tour we’ll stop by the Berlin Dome.