About Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
History of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
The original church on the site was built in the 1890s as part of a Protestant church-building programme initiated by Kaiser Wilhelm II as part of a movement to counter the German labour and socialist movements, and encourage a return to more traditional religious values.
Native Rhinelander Franz Schwechten won a competition held for the church’s design. The church was to be built in a Neo-Romanesque style and modelled on the Bonn Minster with a Tuff stone façade. It included 29,000 square ft of wall mosaic, a 113-ft-high spire, and a nave which seated over 2,000 people.
It was considered to be a relatively unknown style in the Brandenburg region, and inspired several architectural projects in the surrounding area. The foundation stone was laid on Kaiser Wilhelm’s birthday, 22 March 1891.
During the Second World War, the church was severely damaged in an air raid. However, much of the entrance hall and a remnant of the spire remained intact, as did the altar and the baptistry.
From 1947, plans were drawn up to restore the church, which involved rebuilding the church from scratch except for the spire, which was incorporated into the new design due to public outcry at the proposal that it be demolished.
The new design consists of four buildings made of concrete, steel, and glass grouped around the remaining ruins of the old church. The church is octagonal while a new tower is hexagonal.
The foundation stone of the new church was laid in 1959, with the foyer and chapel being completed in 1963. Because of its unique design, it is often referred to as ‘Lippenstift und Puderdose’ (the lipstick and the powder box) by Berliners.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Today
In its current incarnation, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, with its attached belfry, chapel and foyer is a popular tourist destination, with visitors coming from around the world to view its stunning frescoes and its poignant memorial hall.
Free guided tours are available every day except Sunday at 1:15pm, 2:30pm and 3pm.
Getting to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
From the centre of Berlin, the church is an hour’s walk via Unter den Linden. Berlin’s efficient public transport system takes around 15 minutes from Berlin Central Station and U Leopoldplatz. By car, it takes around 15-20 minutes via Str. des 17. Juni and Tiergartenstraße.