Berlin

Berlin

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The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church or Gedachtniskirche located on the Breitscheidplatz, is what has been preserved after the church was all but destroyed during an allied bombing raid in World War II. Now given the nickname, “The Hollow Tooth”, due to its appearence, has been preserved to represent the futility of war, and has become the symbolic centre of what was West Berlin. Next to the ruin has been built a new church to a contempory design, which incorporates concrete and glass to form a structure in stark contrast to the original.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church 1The original church was commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II from a design by Franz Schwechten. Completed in 1895, it was presented to the German people and named in honor of Kaiser Wilhelm I. During World War II the church received some damage as a result of a bombing raid in 1943 plus even more severe damage in 1945 which resulted in what remained of the church being the only structure left standing in the area. After the war a number of options were discussed on what to do with the site. Eventually the decision was made to preserve the west tower as a part ruin, and to construct a new church incorporating it, but work on the site did not commence until 1956.

Within the preserved west tower is a Memorial Hall or Gedenkhalle. On display within the hall are some of the original items, photos of the church prior to its destruction, and some reliefs and mosaics that also managed to survive the bomb damage.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church 2

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church 3The new church, from a design by Egon Eiermann, has a large worship room which is hexagonal in shape, and with seating capacity when the area is maximised for around 1000 people. This and the bell tower were constructed using a steel structure on which pre-fabricated concrete panels are mounted. The honeycomb effect is enhanced through the use of stained glass panels designed by the French artist Gabriel Loire. The new tower is 53 metres high designed not to detract from the old tower which is now stands 68 metres high plus the height of the cross mounted on the top which is 2.5 metres high. Prior to the damage, the old tower stood at 113 metres.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church 4

The new church was consecrated in December 1961 with the completion of the Foyer and Chapel two years later. The new tower houses six bronze bells. The font is made of aluminium and the organ has over 5000 pipes. A brass sculpture of Christ created by Karl Hemmeter is suspended above the alter and is in the form of a cross.

Kaiser Wilhelm Church