The Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church must easily be the most photogenic church in Berlin with it’s fabulous blue glass walls and colourful mosaics. It’s a chance for a quiet retreat from the in-your-face retail overload on busy Kurfürstendamm with the street-performers and fast-food stalls outside.
The church was built in the 1890s and in the war was all but destroyed in Allied bombing raids leaving only the ‘hollow tooth’ of the spire and entrance standing. Out of the ruins a new church and bell-tower were completed in 1963 using blue glass panels. In the octagonal hall of worship the giant golden figure of Jesus created by Karl Hemmester floats enigmatically above the altar.
What is not obvious from the photos, but can be appreciated when seated in the church is that each of the blue glass squares is a little stained glass picture in itself. Different shades of blue, green and gold are incorporated in the design making subtle patches of glowing colour in the midnight blue which you start to appreciate as your eyes get used to the dark interior.
Opposite the main church, the surviving vestibule is covered with beautiful mosaics depicting monarchs of the past from German history including Emperor Wilhelm 1 after whom the church was named. The vestibule is now a visitor’s centre where you can find out more about the history of the church, buy postcards and also see the famous Coventry Crucifix. This metal cross, which I nearly missed because it is only about a foot tall, is made from nails taken from the rubble of Coventry Cathedral which was also destroyed by bombing in the second world war. It’s a powerful symbol of reconciliation, and like the church itself shows that hope and beauty can spring from terrible destruction. But better not to have the war in the first place, I think.
For the price of a single bus ticket you can take a tour of the major Berlin sites on the public No 100 double decker bus, starting at Alexanderplatz, along the historic boulevard of Unter den Linden, past the Brandenburg gate and the Reichstag, through the Tiergarten park, past the Berlin Zoo and stopping right outside the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche.