You've come to expect to hear classical music in the church. But you might be surprised to see a former church used to show films, hold exhibitions, and even the occasional rave. But that's all just an ordinary occurrence at the Zwingli Church in Friedrichshain.
In the heart of Friedrichshain, not far from the Warschauer Straße S-Bahn station, an an unusual venue for cultural events has opened in recent years: the Zwingli Church. After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, it was no longer used as a church and was left abandoned for more than four decades. In 2007, area residents joined forces to reclaim the space to house cultural events.
The moving story of the Zwingli Church
The Zwingli Church, used as a military hospital during the war and then to store books and spare organ parts during the Communist era, has been undergoing restoration since the 1990s. Verein KulturRaum Zwingli-Kirche e.V. now offers an extensive and varied cultural programme in the former church space.
At the end of the 19th century, the population of Berlin was growing rapidly. A new neighbourhood sprung up to the south of the rail lines along Warschauer Straße and Rudolfplatz. The little wooden chapel originally erected here soon became too small and the congregation decided in 1903 to build itself a new home.
The cornerstone was laid in 1906 and the church was dedicated in 1908. The wood chapel was then dismantled and later used as a cemetery chapel. In 1928, the congregation built a parish hall in the late Expressionist style next door on Rudolfstraße.
Perfect for cultural and other events
Impressive acoustics in a grand edifice: what an ideal place for music. The Zwingli Church is now a venue for all sorts of music, from classical to electronic.
But it is used for other cultural events, too, such as films and exhibitions and events for children and families. Exhibitions of contemporary art have been taking place in the Zwingli Church recently. Starting with the 2015 Markus Lüpertz exhibition, followed by the Positions of Berlin Media Artists show in the summer of 2016. The Zwingli Church can also be rented as event space.
The church building
The church offers seating for more than 1,000 people and is crowned with a slender tower that rises almost 80 metres into the Berlin skyline. The massive coloured glass windows take the sunlight and transform it into every colour of the rainbow.
The church survived the Second World War virtually unscathed and much of it is still in its original state. There are many small details to check out: the angel-shaped baptismal font in front of the altar as well as the reliefs and fresco painting in the Art Nouveau style.