The Garrison Church Potsdam is known beyond the city limits of Potsdam and was one of the most important buildings in Potsdam. With the planned reconstruction, the church is again in the public eye. The contribution will give you some information about the history of the church, the architecture and other interesting facts.
Table of contents
History of the Garrison Church Potsdam
The Potsdam Garrison Church was built by the architect Philipp Gerlach between 1730 and 1735. It replaced the half-timbered church from 1722, which was previously on site. The building was ordered by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I and was intended to serve in his residence for members of the court and the garrison.
In the Potsdam Garrison Church on July 4, 1816, the military and the population celebrated the liberation from the French in the presence of Friedrich Wilhelm III. Conquered flags, standards and plaques with the names of the fallen were placed on the walls. In memory of the alliance between Prussia, Russia and Austria, the king had a marble-clad niche built in which the coats of arms of the “three black eagles” hung. Both Protestant denominations, the Reformed and the Lutheran, had held separate services since the garrison church was founded. On Reformation Day in 1817, the king took part in the service to unite the two denominations to form the Uniate Church. A crucifix and two candlesticks stood on the altar table, which was previously only adorned by the open Bible according to Reformed custom. The interior of the church was in poor condition at the end of the 19th century. A renovation was necessary in view of the many foreigners who came to visit the tombs of the most important kings of Prussia.
In historical consciousness, the appropriation of the garrison church by the National Socialists occupies the largest area. Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg opened the Reichstag together on March 21, 1933 at this symbolically charged place. With this act, Hitler tried to place the Hohenzollern and thus the “Third Reich” in the succession of Prussia. The concept of the “spirit of Potsdam” emerged, which is still equated today with Prussian militarism and the urge to expand. The heavy bombing raid on Potsdam in April 1945 should not only hit the city, but also a symbol of Prussia. The historic center and the eastern bank of the Havel were particularly badly damaged. The tower caught fire from flying sparks, although the church itself was not hit. As a result, the famous carillon fell into the depths.
The garrison church in Potsdam is blown up
After the war, the people of Potsdam could still see the ruins of the burnt-out garrison church, in whose tower a temporary Holy Cross chapel was set up. In June 1967, however, Walter Ulbricht declared from the highest authority: “That thing has to go”. The Prussian past had to go. The parish fought in vain against the demolition.
On May 14, 1968 the first demolition took place on the royal crypt, then on the nave. Today there is a high traffic street here. At this point the old townscape, characterized by the church towers, can no longer be recognized.
Architecture and construction
The garrison church was built of bricks, with decorative elements made of sandstone. The sides of the transverse hall building were divided by five high arched windows. In order to integrate this into the church, there were stairwells on both sides of the tower. A weather vane, which showed an eagle flying towards the sun, formed the top. With the monogram of Friedrich Wilhelm I, she not only referred to the king’s motto: “Nec soli cedit” – it also does not give way to the sun. The eagle and the sun also stood for the believer striving to Christ. At the same time, this was a swipe at the “Sun King” Louis XIV.
Carillon of the garrison church
The carillon of the first garrison church was hung up again in the tower. Since 1797 a spiritual melody rang out every full hour and a secular melody every half hour: “Praise the Lord” and “Always practice faithfulness and honesty”. You can hear these melodies at the same times today on the reconstructed carillon.
Six entrances led into the church. The particularly richly decorated tower portal with an inscription was not used. The interior was divided by two aisles and a central nave and wooden galleries formed two upper floors. On the first gallery opposite the pulpit and organ sat the king and his entourage. The queen and her ladies-in-waiting took their places on the ground floor below; in winter you could also heat here. The ground floor was otherwise reserved for the civil parish and the wives of officers and soldiers, while the spacious galleries were used by the military. There was a total of 2800 people in the church. Presumably the king wanted to prevent his soldiers from falling asleep, since the stalls originally had no backrests. In 1738 a flat ramp was installed to bring the gout-ridden king to his seat in a wheelchair. The demand of the King’s Calvinist conviction to keep the church furnishings simple complemented itself perfectly with his thriftiness. The simple altar stood in the center of the church. In contrast to the sparse furnishings, the king invested large sums in the construction of a monumental pulpit tomb, which was to form a unit with the tomb. The royal crypt itself was covered with polished, dark marble. The king had black marble sarcophagi embarked from the Netherlands for himself and his wife Sophie Dorothea.
In 1740 Friedrich Wilhelm I was buried in the church. Instead of next to him, his wife found her final resting place in Berlin. Friedrich II. (1740-1786) was buried next to his father against his will in his will. This involuntary closeness lasted until 1944. Both Prussian rulers only found separate resting places in 1991 after relocation to the ancestral castle of the Hohenzollern: Friedrich Wilhelm I in the mausoleum at the Friedenskirche, Friedrich II. Near Sanssouci. With the burial of the soldier king, the garrison church became a stage for royal staging, a Prussian “place of pilgrimage”. In 1805, Tsar Alexander I and Friedrich Wilhelm III fraternized in a dramatic scene at the grave of Friedrich II. (1797-1840) against Napoleon. The victorious French emperor visited the church himself a year later, where he is said to have stayed in the crypt for a long time. The defeat of Prussia was underlined even more clearly by his admiration for Friedrich II. The garrison church thus became a projection screen for political self-expression. The parish did not have its own governing bodies and was dependent on the state. It was therefore never able to defend itself against this type of externally determined use.