St Hedwig's Cathedral
St Hedwig's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Cathedral, which lies on the Bebelplatz in Berlin. It is one of the most important Roman Catholic religious buildings known in the city. The cathedral was named in honour of Brandenburg
and Silesia's patron saint, Saint Hedwig of Andechs, and it was supposed to commemorate the arrival of Roman Catholic Silesian immigrants in Brandenburg and Berlin.
The cathedral was commissioned and completed in the 18th Century by Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia and funded by donations from various European Catholic countries. The donations were collected by a Carmelite monk called Mecenati. St Hedwig’s was the first Roman Catholic Church to be built in the city since the Reformation. Architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff designed the building in a Baroque style inspired by the Pantheon
and today, St Hedwig's cathedral is often referred to as the Berlin Pantheon. The King's close friend, Igancy Krasicki, also the Bishop of Warmia, officially consecrated the cathedral in 1773. The famous domed roof was at first built from wood and took two years to be completed.
After the notorious Jewish persecution known as the Kristallnacht
in November 1938, Bernhard Lichtenberg - the bishop of the cathedral, prayed publicly for all the Jews. The Nazis kept him in prison and eventually sent to the concentration camp at Dachau, but Lichtenberg died before he got there. In 1965, Lichtenberg's remains were transferred to the famous tomb inside the cathedral. The cathedral was devastated by bombing raids during the World War II and was reduced to burning embers in 1943. It was reconstructed by popular demand to the designs of a leading architect, Hans Schwippert in the years 1952 - 1963. At that time, the permanent structure for the domed roof was added. During the reconstruction, the plain interior was enlarged and modernised giving it its light and airy feeling.
The interior walls are painted white and pale green so the inside of the church seems spacious nad bright at all times of day. The organ is the first thing that catches your attention, the pipes from the organ reach 15 feet high. The pews face east as Hans Schwippert believed that you should be facing the way the sun rises, “as the day belongs and starts with God.” The domed roof is magnificent to look at from both inside and outside; inside the dome is adorned with classic designs whilst outside the appearance is just as glamourous. The stone building has appointed columns, with sculptures of angels, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. At night, the cathedral is lit up and is a wondrous sight. The most famous statue in the cathedral, the statue of St Hedwig is situated prominently at the front of the church. The small but very impressive statue depicts the saint holding a small church, made of ebony.
Tours are available throughout the day, and are most definitely an interesting attraction. They start after daily mass around noon. The visitors hear stories about the fine roof design, the statue of St Hedwig and the tombs of the bishops that belonged to the cathedral including the tomb of Bishop Bernhard Lichtenburg. On the first Saturday of the month, there is an evening organ recital.