The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

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One of my favourite films is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin). In the opening shot, the angel,Damiel, played by Bruno Ganz, is seen peering down on passers by from the top of a tower with a damaged spire.

 

This is the iconic Berlin building, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche) located on on the Kurfürstendamm, very close to the Berlin Zoo railway station.

Like Coventry Cathedral, which I visited recently, it’s a modern church built within the ruins of an older structure that was damaged by bombing during the war.

The original church on the site was built in the 1890s. Damaged on December 23rd, 1943 and completely destroyed in  air-raids in April 1945.

After the war it was decided to build a new church on the site, dedicated to reconcilitation as is Coventry Cathedral. The new building was designed by Egon Eiermann with an octagonal church building and hexagonal bell tower clustered around the remaining ruins of the old church. It was originally intended to demolish the damaged tower from the old church but after a public outcry it was preserved. The foundation-stone of the new church was laid on May 9th, 1959 and the building was completed in 1963.

The ruins of the old building have been undergoing restoration for a number of years and during our visit were partially obscured by hoarding erected to protect the workers from the elements. The work should have been completed last year but is still ongoing. The following picture from Wikipedia shows what the tower looks like.

 

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Underneath the tower, the former vestibule of the old church is now the Memorial Hall. On the ceiling there a series of mosaics showing a procession of Hohenzollern princes.

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The new church is constructed from hexagonal concrete elements containing stained glass, held in a steel frame. The glass, was designed by Gabriel Loire, The predominant colour is blue, with small areas of ruby red, emerald green and yellow. The walls are double skinned with 2.15 m cavity in which lamps are installed, creating a wall of blue and flooding blue light into the interior.

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The double skin helps to keep noise out of the church as it is situated on a busy traffic island. The hexagonal bell tower is constructed of the same elements, but is only single skinned.

The golden statue of Christ on the cross was created by the Munich artist Karl Hemmeter, and is made from tombac, a special kind of brass with a high copper content.

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The church is dedicated to reconciliation and there are a number of objects to celebrate this. Inside the main church, on the back wall, there is the drawing of The Stalingrad Madonna, created in 1942 by Kurt Reuber, a German soldier, of which there is a copy in Coventry Cathedral. 

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In the Memorial Hall there is the crucifix from the altar of the old church and a  from Coventry and the icon cross of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Due to its distinctive appearance the new church is often referred to as the  "Lippenstift und Puderdose” (the lipstick and the powder box).

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