Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Did you know that on July 15, 1525 – exactly 492 years ago – Brandenburg´s Elector Joachim I Nestor managed to make a complete fool of himself as well as to antagonise the whole population of Berlin-Cölln because of his obsession with astrology?

Elector Joachim was a fervent Catholic who despised Martin Luther and his teachings almost as strongly as he detested the culture and religion of the Jews who lived in his province, the Markgraviate of Brandenburg. His deep religious devotion did not prevent him, however, from becoming fascinated with horoscopes, celestial bodies and predicting the future.

Joachim I Nestor painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1529.

In 1510 Joachim was responsible for what came to be known as Berliner Hostienschänderprozess, Berlin Host Desecrators Trial: as a result, 39 Jews were burnt on the stake and two beheaded (after prior conversion to Christianity) while all remaining Israelites were banned from Brandenburg and had to leave the Markgraviate. Today, a simple memorial installed in Mollstraße 11 reminds the passers-by about the historical event.

Considering all that, one could say that the events of July 15, 1525 feel like a well-deserved chastisement – if only a small one when measured against the fault.

Forewarned by his court astrologer about the impending flood and/or the Apocalypse which would befall Berlin/Cölln (at the time Berlin was still a union of two sister-cities with the Stadtschloß, the Elector´s castle, standing in what used to be Cölln), Joachim fled to the highest elevation he could reach at the time – to the Tempelhofer Berg (aka Runder Berg or Weinberg) or the Kreuzberg Hill (Viktoriapark) as it is known today.

Panorama of the Tempelhofer Berger with the Runder Berg/Weinberg/Kreuzberg on the left, painted in 1780 by Friedrich Wilhelm Schaub.

The location was suggested by Johann Carion, his court astrologer, who predicted the said flood after years of studying the movements of celestial bodies and studying the writings of other experts in the field. Carion, whose real name was Näglin – “carnation” (caryophyllus in Latin) – convinced the Elector that today´s Kreuzberg Hill would be the right place to wait out the storm, however, since room on top of the hill was rather on the short side, it seemed to be advisable not to inform too many people about the fact. And so the Elector failed to tell his subjects about the impending possibility of their finding death in the deluge.

Portrait of Johann Carion, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

The party which set off for the Tempelhofer Berge that morning – the Kreuzberg is the highest in a range of gentle hills left behind by a glacier – was confined to the Elector, his family, some faithful courtiers and servants necessary to transport the group and their goods. Some chroniclers mention the Elector´s order to have the roads to the hill blocked by the military to avoid the “great unwashed” trying to seek refuge on the Weinberg as well.

After waiting for quite a while, watching the sky over Berlin indeed open and produce a heavy outpour, once the sun began to shine again the group decided to return to the castle. Their journey, however, was no pleasure cruise: they travelled among crowds of furious locals laughing and jeering at the Elector for his cowardly ways.

But the best came, as always, for last: by the time Joachim and his posse reached Schloßplatz, the plaza outside the (future royal) castle, the sky over Berlin turned black again and another storm began. The moment the Elector´s coach approached the gate to seek sanctuary inside the court, a lightning hit the carriage killing the coachman and four servants. The shell-shocked Joachim clambered out of the coach hardly able to contain his terror.

Petrus Hafftitius, who reported the incident – many consider him to have been the equivalent today´s “The Sun”, a British scandal-loving tabloid, and as such doubt his value as a source – claimed that the storm of 492 years ago caused no other damage otherwise. The only victims were the Elector´s image and five innocent people who got caught up in the craze.


The story of the Elector and the storm over the Kreuzberg is part of the next book by the author of this blog, “Kreuzberged – Berlin Companion”, which will be published as an e-book in August 2017. Also from July/August 2017 our first book, “Notmsparker´s Berlin Companion”, will be available in a digital edition – for all fans of traditional paper books, there are still a couple of printed copies left (visit


  1. berlioz1935
    July 15, 2017

    Yes, I learnt about it in school.


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