A example of religion tolerance: St Hedwig’s Cathedral has a striking dome and a simple, modern interior.
St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in the middle of Berlin is a church that has often been a symbol of religious tolerance. It is the most important Catholic religious building in Berlin, the seat of the archbishop of Berlin, and its striking dome adorns Bebelplatz. Inside, the church is simply decorated, an impressive example of modern religious architecture.
The history of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral
The church was a gift from the Prussian king Friedrich II to Silesian Catholics who had settled in Berlin. This meant that the plans for the new square – the Forum Fridericianum – in the middle of protestant Berlin now not only included an opera house and a library, but also a Catholic church. The initial plans for the round building based on the Pantheon in Rome are said to have been sketched by Friedrich II himself. From 1747 to 1773, it was built by Jan Bouman according to plans by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. When the bishopric of Berlin was created in 1930 it became the seat of the bishop and its interior was redesigned in the expressionist style. The church burnt down in an air raid in the second world war. When it was rebuilt from 1952 onwards the interior was redesigned by the architect Hanns Schwippert.
The new, simple and sober interior of the cathedral is a masterpiece of 1950s religious architecture. You will be especially impressed by the unusual division of the church into upper and lower sections. The upper and lower parts of the church are open to each other and connected by the altar. A wide, split staircase leads down from the upper part. The altar with its crucifix and tabernacle is the liturgical centre of the church.
The church community is currently holding intensive discussions on modernising and redesigning the interior.
The former crypt was converted and furnished with eight small, circular chapels. The chapel of St. Hedwig is adorned by an 18th-century wooden carving of the saint. You must see the carved early 15-century pietà in the burial chapel containing the graves of the first bishops of Berlin. A collection of liturgical items can be seen in the treasury. The chapel of St. Mary commemorates Catholics persecuted by the Nazis, and another chapel contains the grave of the Bernhard Lichtenberg, the provost of the cathedral, who was involved in the resistance against Hitler.
Provost Bernhard Lichtenberg
Bernhard Lichtenberg became provost of the cathedral in 1938. He stood up against the Nazi terror, prayed publicly for the persecuted Jews and condemned the euthanasia programme. He was arrested and spent two years in prison before dying in transit to Dachau concentration camp. On his visit to Berlin in 1996, Pope John Paul II beatified Bernhard Lichtenberg. In 2004, the Yad Vashem memorial honoured him as as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations”.
Services at St. Hedwig’s Cathedral
10.00 High Mass*
Monday to Friday
18.00 Saturday Evening Mass
*) In Latin on the first Sunday of each month.
Friday: 17.00 - 17.45
Organ concerts and church music
Every Wednesday at 3 p.m. there is a half-hour concert of organ music – admission is free. Every first Sunday of the month at 7.30 p.m. there is an evening of organ music, and on Mondays to Fridays shortly before 12 a.m., the church invites you to its Midday Musical Meditation.
Other concerts and performances by the Choir of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral are listed on the website.
The church is open to visitors, but please note that sightseeing is not possible during services.
Information for groups
Guided tours are available for a fee and can be booked by calling 030 - 20 34 810.
Find further information here