History

The Tower

The Tower (Dome)

It was only 80 years after the construction of the French and the German church on Friedrichstädtischer Markt, now known as the Gendarmenmarkt, that the two towers were erected which would have an unmistakable impact on the square next to the Konzerthaus. Between 1780 and 1789, King Friedrich II had two towers of identical design built alongside the German and the French Churches. The Piazza del Popolo in Rome, with the twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli und Santa Maria in Monte Santo, served as a model for transforming the Gendarmenmarkt. From the very start, however, the twin towers on Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt were designed exclusively as splendid representational buildings: neither church services nor other religious functions were held there. The construction of the two towers meant that the two churches stood equally in their shadows, optically shifting them to the side of the square. The towers had two master builders: first Karl von Gontard and later Christian Ungers.

The Französischer Dom

In order to build the Französischer Dom, the parishioners had to sacrifice their cemetery. In return, they gained a site in Chausseestrasse, to the north of Friedrichstrasse, where the old Huguenot Cemetery still lies today. [more] In compensation for the loss of the cemetery, Frederick II also granted the parish the right to use the rooms in the tower free of charge. Since 1935, the French-reformed parish has maintained a Huguenot Museum, a library, the parish archive and its offices there. A staircase on the east side – from Markgrafenstrasse – currently leads up into the Huguenot Museum.

Visitors taking the entrance on the south side, which opens out onto the square, will find a staircase leading to the 40 meter high viewing balustrade, as well as a glockenspiel with 60 bells.

From 1944 to 1983, when the church was destroyed and subsequently reconstructed, the Huguenot parish celebrated its church services in the Consistorium’s conference room in the tower. The tower was reconstructed between 1983 and 1987, after the church had been restored. The outer shell was renovated with EU funds in 2004-2006.

Figures and reliefs in the towers

In the two towers, we see things that we might find lacking in the church itself: Biblical images, scenes and decoration.

Die großen Reliefs in den drei Giebelfeldern des Turms illustrieren neutestamentliche Szenen.
The large reliefs in the tower’s three tympana illustrate scenes from the New Testament.

The members of the reformed Huguenot community, whose religious views led them to reject images, were asked to depict biblical scenes. The consistory appointed a commission lead by the preacher Jean Pierre Erman (*1735, †1814). Daniel Chodowieki (*1726, †1801), an artist and parish member, was ultimately responsible for creating the tower reliefs, as well as for most of the figures and statues.

The nine figures on the gable summits and attics in the tower substructure symbolize the virtues that the Huguenots found particularly desirable. These are, on the north side: Patience (with a yoke on her shoulder), Pity (sharing out money from a purse and bread from a pot), and Goodness (with a pelican that is feeding its young with its blood); on the east side, we see the three Christian virtues: Belief (with the chalice of the Last Supper), Hope (supported by an anchor) and Love (caressing two children); on the south side; Gratitude (with resting hands), Charity (with her hands in a gesture of giving) and Moderation (her hands holding a scourge).

The large reliefs in the tower’s three tympana illustrate scenes from the New Testament portraying Jesus as a teacher: the Sermon on the Mount (Mathew 5-7), Jesus and the Samaritan (John 4), and the journey to Emmaus (Luke 24).

The Deutscher Dom

Following its destruction during the Second World War, the Deutsche Kirche on the opposite side of the square was abandoned by the resident parishioners. The Deutsche Kirche was built from 1701 to 1708 as the filial church of the Jerusalemkirche (in what is now Lindenstrasse, Kreuzberg). In 1880, the church was given a dome, which replaced the former pointed roof, and the façade was stylistically adapted to the tower. In the former German Democratic Republic, work started on converting the church into a museum. In the process, the tower and the former church were merged to create a single architectural unit.

The entrance to the Deutscher Dom is on the east side. The part of the building that once accommodated the church has completely lost its churchly character. Nor has its name “Deutsche Kirche” been retained. Nowadays, people refer to it simply as the “Deutscher Dom”

Ever since its reopening in 1996, the entire Deutscher Dom has been used for an exhibition – entitled “Wege – Irrwege – Umwege” (tracks, wrong tracks, detours) – dealing with German history since the wars of independence. The building belongs to the Federal Government.

Over the years, the Gendarmenmarkt – in contrast to royal Berlin along Unter den Linden – increasingly became the centre of Berlin’s middle classes. This was apparent for the first time in 1848. The lamented dead of the days of the March Revolution in Berlin were laid out on the steps of the Deutscher Dom. Friedrich Schiller’s bourgeois dramas were performed at the Schauspielhaus. His statue, created by Reinhold Begas, stands in front of the building. Originally bordered by green spaces, the square was paved for the 1936 Olympic Games and has been awaiting its restoration and re-greening ever since.