Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Should you have been looking for His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II and his lovely spouse, Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria on October 27th 1888, then the surest way to find them would have been to go to Kreuzberg.
The royal couple were attending a consecration ceremony of the new church built on the corner of Blücher- and Zossener Strasse or at the old Johannistisch (you can read about the history of Johannistisch in the following post).
Kaiser Wilhelm II did not limit his involvement to an ornamental role only – after having laid the corner stone for the temple in April 1885, he and Auguste Viktoria sponsored the church altar as well. By the way, twenty years later, in December 1905 the German emperor couple will be spotted in Kreuzberg again – this time in SO 36 where Taborkirche welcomed them as guests of honour for its consecration (more about that event here).
Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz vor dem Halleschen Thore or The Holy Cross Church at the Gate to Halle – as it was originally named was designed by Johannes Otzen, the man who seemed to have single-handedly produced more churches in Prussia and beyond than the whole of the Middle Ages altogether. In Berlin Otzen´s works included the church at Johannistisch, Georgenkirche in Mitte (before its destruction in WW air-raids, the second tallest sacral building in Berlin after the 114-metre high Berlin Dome) and Lutherkirche in Schöneberg (today American Church in Dennewitzplatz). For the city of Hamburg he designed Friedenskirche in St. Pauli, another Friedenskirche in Hamburg-Eilbek (together with Johannes Vollmer) and Christuskirche in Eimsbütter. To see all of his works, you would have to do some extensive travelling and “InterRail” yourself throughout Germany and Europe: through Dessau, Leipzig, Wiesbaden, Wuppertal, Ludwigshafen, Kiel or Flensburg you´d have to make it even further to Polish Torun (former Thorn). Professor Otzen was a busy man.
His Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz, true to its name, was built on the plan of a cross. Because the size of the plot of land on which it was erected was not particularly impressive and in order to make the building well visible in the listless, beauty-less, endless sea of houses that the quarter vor dem Halleschen Thore happened to be at the time (something that the Centralblatt der Bauverwaltung, the most important German publication for architecture and construction industry between 1881 and 1931, emphasized in its article about Otzen´s new church), Otzen equipped the main building with a massive cupola topped with a spike. At 81 metres Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz became quite impossible to overlook.
Soon the dome with its large pointy bit was given a typically Berlinisch monicker – the street christened it Pickelhaube. WW2 air-raids “removed” the spike from the church roof (along with almost the whole rest of the church) but the 1950´s saw the resurrection of the temple: between 1951 and 1959 Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz was re-constructed albeit in a much simpler form. The spike, however, was gone forever. The additional construction works carried out in 1987 and 1995 added a modern dimension to the building instead.
Today Heiliger-Kreuz-Kirche is famous for its social angle. It is a place of worship but also of worldly use – it is used for meetings, workshops, concerts and the staging of theatre plays. Up to 550 people at once can enjoy the events inside the church.
The parish itself is extremely devoted to humanitarian causes: it offers help to children, young teenagers, families, to the elderly, the homeless, the poor and, last but not least, to the refugees.
So it is no wonder that only a couple of days before the church’s 125th birthday the parish decided to offer sanctuary to the refugees who had been camping and running a hunger strike in front of the Brandenburg Gate in an attempt to change their legal situation in Germany. They were offered food and accommodation at the help centre in Gitschiner Strasse 15.
A good deed, a good cause and a church that does not limit itself to just looking good.
Happy birthday, Pickelhaube!