Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin
The Protestant Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche) is located in the west of Berlin in the Charlottenburg district. Kaiser Wilhelm II had it built between 1891 and 1895 and dedicated it to the memory of his grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I. It was built in the neo-Romanesque style. The architect, who came from the Rhineland, based his design on Rhenish churches such as Bonn Minster or St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche) in Gelnhausen. Even tuff stone from the Eiffel, which is common for church construction in the Rhineland, was used.
The Memorial Church had five towers. The main tower, which is still preserved today, was originally 113 metres high, and the tallest tower in Charlottenburg at the time. The architectural style left its mark on the entire surrounding area: several buildings in the vicinity were also erected or rebuilt in the neo-Romanesque style and formed the so-called “Romanesque Forum”. The interior of the church was richly decorated. Glass mosaics with a total area of 2,740 m² were placed on the walls and ceiling. The mosaics in the vestibule have been preserved to this day. They mainly depicted the life of Wilhelm I, as well as scenes from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. Some mosaics on the triumphal arch in front of the choir were found after the destruction and can now be seen in various museums.
In November 1943, there was a heavy air raid on Berlin in which the church building caught fire. As a result, the roof truss of the nave collapsed and the top of the main tower buckled. The victorious powers did not permit reconstruction after the Second World War. The ruins remained standing for the time being and were exposed to decay. Demolition of the nave began in 1956. In 1959-1961, a new church building was erected according to the plans of the architect Eugen Eiermann.
The ruins of the tower remained standing after the Second World War as a memorial to peace. Due to its poor condition, it was nicknamed “Hollow Tooth” by Berliners. A memorial hall was set up inside the ruin. In addition to the mosaics of the former vestibule, a Stalingrad Madonna and a Coventry Cross can be seen. The Stalingrad Madonna was made in 1942 by a pastor and hospital doctor in Stalingrad, it was brought to Germany and became an iconic figure. Copies of this figure are also in Coventry Cathedral in England and in the church of Volgograd in Russia. The Coventry Cross is made of nails from Coventry Cathedral, which was also destroyed. It was given by the congregation in Coventry as a sign of reconciliation.