Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Getraudenkirche on a 1860 photo by Georg Bartels.

In 1860 a brilliant Berlin photographer, Georg Bartels, took this photo of a long-forgotten and long-vanished church which stood on what is today nothing more but a busy traffic junction: Spittelmarkt.

Berlin in 1826 with Spittelmarkt and Getraudenkirche.

The sixteenth-century Getraudenkirche – or Spittelkirche as it was know due to its proximity to an old hospital of St. Gertraud – was redesigned in the 1730s and then, despite initially presented plans as well as protests from the local residents – demolished before the nineteenth century came to an end.

Spittelmarkt with the church on a market day in 1868 (image by F.A. Schwartz from the collection of Stadtmuseum Berlin @stadtmuseumBLN)

The reason it had to go was pretty simple: the city grew and so did the volume of traffic it had to let pass through its streets each day. The small, dilapidated church (one of the contemporaries described it as a place where “not one thing wasn’t damaged or broken”) disappeared gradually, starting with the belfry around 1868. The remains were removed in the 1880s.

An entirely different Spittelmarkt captured in the late 1890s by Waldemar Titzenthaler.

Afterwards Spittelmarkt became one of the busiest and liveliest plazas (in fact, junctions really – just as Potsdamer Platz was) in the Prussian capital. The Second World War left it in ruins and the ensuing redevelopment of the area around Leipziger Straße effectively wiped it out from the map. Today nothing remains of the old Spittelmarkt apart from the Spindlerbrunnen, a fountain sponsored by a big Berlin laundry and dying company, Spindler (of Spindlerfeld in Berlin-Köpenick). The fountain, however, was moved to a new location: you will find it standing proud but a little lost among the high-rises on the northern side of Leipziger Straße, on a small green between Kleine Kurstraße and Niederwallstraße.

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  1. moopenheimer
    Feb 24, 2020

    I knew the story of Gertraudenbrücke, but I didn’t know about the church. Thanks for this!

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