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Gethsemanekirche in Berlin
Gethsemanekirche ©, Foto: GBlakeley


The church that changed everything

“The wall must go!” could be heard from the Gethsemanekirche on 5 November 1989. Just one moment in its turbulent history.

On 5 November 1989, the state orchestra was playing Beethoven’s 3rd symphony (Eroica) when the senior musical director of the Komische Oper, Rolf Reuter, demanded “The wall must go!” to rousing applause. This led to a spontaneous demonstration march along Schönhauser Allee. It wasn’t the first time that year that opponents of the East German regime had met and demonstrated in the Gethsemanekirche.

History of the Gethsemanekirche: Berlin 1989

The Protestant Gethsemanekirche is most famous for its role in the peaceful revolution of 1989. On 2 October 1989, members of peace, environmental and church groups called for a vigil in the church in East Berlin. Their reason for this was the arrest of demonstrators in Leipzig in September. More and more people joined the protest and attended the church services every evening. Thousands of candles were lit outside the church and became a symbol of peaceful protest.

When the East German leadership stood down in March 1990, the first and only free elections in the GDR were held, and the newly elected parliament met at the Gethsemanekirche for a commemorative service. The church is still a meeting point for civil movements.

Events: services, concerts and Christmas at the Gethsemanekirche

After the peaceful revolution, the church community in Prenzlauer Berg remained politically active. During the second Gulf war in 1991, for example, prayers for peace were held in the Gethsemanekirche. The congregation still puts on a service every Sunday. Particularly at Christmas, the concerts and the nativity scene attract lots of visitors to the church. The Gethsemanekirche is also a very popular place for christenings and marriages, not only because of its history, but also its architecture.

Architecture and art at the Gethsemanekirche

The church was build from 1891 to 1893 in the area of Prenzlauer Berg now known as the Helmholtz-Kiez, and was designed by August Orth. It is a hall church with a Neo-Gothic brickwork exterior, a spacious interior and a wide, rib-vaulted ceiling. In keeping with 19th century industrial architecture, steel reinforcements support the building. The centre of the building is a large octagon with a stellar vault. The walls are plain white, in attractive contrast to the terracotta pillars.

Important works of art at the Gethsemanekirche include the wooden sculpture Praying Christ, the Benedictive Christ rescued from the Versöhnungskirche on the non-man’s land by the Berlin wall before it was exploded in 1985, and the bronze statue The Spiritual Fighter.