“ Sightseeing Type: Churches / Temples / Address: Breitscheidplatz (Charlottenburg). Tel: +49 (0)30 218 5023. Open daily: 9am-7pm. Symbol of West Berlin. „
In a lot of ways this city centre cathedral is reminiscent of England's Coventry Cathedral. Both original cathedrals were virtually destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, and both have very modern new cathedrals built close to the original site. The original Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche was built at the end of the nineteenth century, and virtually destroyed by bombing in 1943. Following the Second World War, most of the ruins of the cathedral were removed, leaving just the front tower, which now serves as a memorial to the futility of war, and is one of the best-known symbols of Berlin. In 1963, a new octagonal church and a separate bell tower were erected on either side of the tower. The cathedral is located within a few hundred yards of Zoologischer Garten S-bahn station, and is located in the middle of a square in the centre of the former West Berlin's commercial district. The front tower of the original cathedral is very impressive, from its ruined spire to the cracked and damaged mosaics in the hall at the base of the tower. The memorial hall of the front tower of the cathedral also houses the original altarpiece of the cathedral, which amazingly survived the bombing, as well as an Orthodox cross donated by Russian Orthodox bishops in memory of the victims of Nazism, and a Coventry cross, fashioned from nails from the original Coventry Cathedral. Comparing this wreck of a building with the neighbouring new cathedral and bell tower, and the thriving commercial district surrounding the cathedral, really brings home both the extent of the rebuilding work that has occurred in the city, and the effect that the bombing had. The new cathedral is also certainly interesting, and well worth a look, with its walls composed of hundreds of small squares of blue glass, and containing a very modern crucifix designed by Karl Hemmeter. There is something intrinsically sad about the lone tower of the ori
ginal cathedral, and its proximity to the most affluent commercial district of the city makes it a poignant reminder of the city's history. The new cathedral and the modern bell tower, however, provide a more encouraging message of hope for the future, producing a fascinating contrast with the damaged original tower.