Although the word “Dom” means cathedral in German, the Französischer Dom is not actually a church, but a tower. Together with the Deutscher Dom it graces Berlin’s most beautiful public square, Gendarmenmarkt.
Together with its twin building the Konzerthaus it graces Gendarmenmarkt. The Französischer Dom and the Deutscher Dom with their striking domed towers are the reason why Gendarmenmarkt is considered Berlin’s most beautiful square – and it’s something you mustn’t miss. At the same time, the buildings are evidence in stone of successful integration and religious tolerance.
Although the word “Dom” means cathedral in German, the Französischer Dom is not a church. Because actually it is two buildings. The Französischer Dom is only the splendid domed tower of the building, housing the Huguenot Museum and the viewing platform. The lower part of the building is the actual church, the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche.
History of the Französischer Dom
The Französischer Dom gets its name from the French word for “dome” and the history of its construction. In 1701 work began on building a church for the French Protestant community, which was completed in 1705. Many French Protestants, known as Huguenots, had fled to Prussia after Elector Friedrich Wilhelm offered them safe refuge with the Edict of Potsdam.
In 1785, Friedrich II commissioned Karl von Gontard and then later Christian Ungers to add magnificent towers to the two churches. They were simply embellishment without any particular function. During the Second World War, bombing raids destroyed the buildings at Gendarmenmarkt. They remained ruins for a long time, until reconstruction finally began in 1981. The first service was held in the restored church at Easter 1983. The tower with its viewing balustrade and carillon opened in 1987 for Berlin’s 750th anniversary celebrations.
In keeping with the traditions of the reformed church, the interior is kept plain and simple. There are no pictures and no altar. Even so, its curved ceiling arches lend it a simple elegance. The only opulent decoration is the sumptuous organ with its golden spiked corona.
The Französische Friedrichstadtkirche is one of Berlin’s most important venues for church music. Concerts of the highest quality are regularly held here. As well as the weekly organ concerts, the church is also an atmospheric backdrop to concerts put on by other organisers.
The carillon consists of 60 brass bells, and is the second largest carillon in the city after the one in the Tiergarten.
Services are held every Sunday at 9.30 and 11 o’clock. At 11 o’clock there is also a service in French in the Georges Casalis Room.
The Huguenot Museum
The Huguenot museum opened in 1935, and provides a fascinating insight into the story of the Huguenots in France and Berlin. The highlight of the exhibition is the Edict of Potsdam, which guaranteed them freedom to practise their reformed faith.
If you climb up the 284 steps, you get to the viewing balustrade of the dome, and the glorious view of Gendarmenmarkt and the surroundings more than makes up for the effort.