I live in greater Berlin since 1995. It is a special city, with it’s parted past, that still is visible in architecture and manifests itself in many doubles: opera houses, cathedrals, theaters, concert halls, radio towers, main shopping drags – twice as many as in every other city. The cut off west erected their own of everything important to city life.
In addition, in much of the East, the Soviet influence is still visible, with Karl-Marx-Allee (formerly called Stalin Alley) being a prominent and beautiful sample of “Arbeiterpaläste” (workers palaces), erect to symbolise the strenght of the new DDR. Whereas much of the hinterland of the city’s eastern part is covered in rows and rows of Plattenbau, concrete slab housing, ugly as sin. Pretty much the same happened in the seventies in the west part of town, too – ugly concrete buildings, modern and cheap housing. Hell, even the opera house west on Richard-Wagner-Platz is ugly.
And, of course, the city has been host to the worst regime on earth. So many buildings are left, that reflect the architecture, a certain Hitler favoured and Albert Speer, first architect of Nazi Germany, designed. The ministries of Finances and Foreign Affairs are now using such buildings, but the most publicly known are the huge structure of former airport Tempelhof (where now many refugees are housed) and the Olympia Stadion, still in use as the main sports arena in town. I have to say, I find the form of those buildings quite beautiful, despite their origins. Speer was sentenced to prison for 20 years at the Nürnberg trials, as he not only built but als organised weaponry and munition for the Nazis as their Minister for Armaments and War Production . He died in 1981 in London.
With all these influences, I never much considered the Hohenzollern. Their Prussian branch ruling the north of Germany for centuries. Prussia came to existance 1525 as its own dukedom, ruled by a Hohenzollern, Albrecht of Prussia, after the counties were ruled by his family for over a hundred years already under different names for the region. A few generations of Hohenzollern down the line, Prussia became a kingdom, with Friedrich I. crowning himself King of Prussia in 1701, uniting many smaller dukedoms and areas to one bigger structure. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm, called “The Soldier’s King” built a big army, enabling his son, Friedrich the Great, after further enlarging the Prussian Kingdom waging wars between 1740 and 1763, to finally challenge the other, huge ruling dynasty in Europe, the Habsburgs. While in Germany, the Hohenzollern were made into German Kings and later Emperors, World War I ended both the Habsburg and Hohenzollern reign for good.
I was truly made aware of all these times, visiting the crypt of the Hohenzollern in the Berlin Dome last week. I have noticed on former visits in the church the huge ceremonial coffins of King Friedrich I and his wife Sophie Charlotte, all covered in gold.
And the most impressive, old, black “Tischgrab” of Johann Cicero, dating back to 1530 (in the foreground below).
But I have never been to the crypt downstairs, where 94 of Hohenzollerns are buried in their coffins made of iron or lead, some with their crowns on top, spanning four hundred years of dynasty. What made me take it all in as what it is, was the many tiny coffins, their children were layed to rest in, next to their mothers, who followed later to forever side their little ones. I really liked the chaste ornate of the site, especially the black angel watching over those deceased.
After all, they were not only a ruling power, but humans, too. The scribe depicted to the feet of Sophie Carlottes’s coffin making this fact blatantly clear.