Schinkel’s imposing church is always worth a look, even if it is closed at the moment.
When talking about the city’s most famous architect, Berliners used to say there was a Schinkel building on every corner. An in Mitte at least, it’s still true today, even if many of his religious buildings, like the Friedrichswerdersche Kirche, are no longer used as churches. The Friedrichswerdersche Kirche was a museum until the end of 2012, since when it has been closed due to structural damage. After extensive renovation work, the time has come in spring 2020: The Friedrichswerder Church will open its doors anew and present itself as an exhibition space for sculptures from the Schinkel period.
The history of the church
The Friedrichswerdersche Kirche is situated at Werderscher Markt – not far from the Humboldtforum, the Rotes Rathaus and the Foreign Ministry. Karl Friedrich Schinkel had left his romantic nationalist “Sturm und Drang” period with all its Gothic cathedral designs long behind him by 1821, when he planned the reconstruction of the dilapidated Franco-German church. Schinkel’s design was based on the Gothic style of English chapels and incorporated Classical elements. The interior of the church, with its groups of pillars rising to a very high ceiling with reticulated vaults, followed Gothic principles.
The church was built between 1824 and 1831 and was Berlin’s first Neo-Gothic church. As early as 1843, Schinkel’s successor Friedrich August Stüler was commissioned to make the church even more Gothic, and embellished the two towers with pinnacles and cast zinc crocketed spires.
For more than a hundred years, the church was used by the Lutheran community. It was badly damaged in the Second World War, and stood as a ruin for four decades, with its stained-glass windows put in storage and forgotten. The crates containing the long-lost windows were lost until 1982, when the water was pumped out of the cellar vaults of the Berliner Dom.
The sculpture exhibition
For Berlin’s 750th anniversary, the Friedrichswerdersche Kirche was turned into a museum. Until 2012, as an affiliate department of the Alte Nationalgalerie, its nave was an atmospheric backdrop to an exhibition of sculpture from Schinkel’s time, including the original model for Johann Gottfried Schadow’s most famous work, the Prinzessinnengruppe, Christian Daniel Rauch’s marble sarcophagus for Queen Luise of Prussia, several sculptures from the Berliner Schloss, as well as busts of Immanuel Kant, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Humboldt brothers and many other sculptures. The sculptures are currently in storage.
In September 2012, the church was closed until further notice because of structural damage caused by foundation work on the surrounding new buildings.
ThThe exhibition "Ideal and Form" traces the developmental lines of the long 19th century into modernity with sculptures and sculptures from the Schinkel era to the German Empire and invites visitors to rediscover the Berlin School of Sculpture, which was already internationally oriented at the time.