Garrison Church (Potsdam)
The Garrison Church (German: Garnisonkirche) was a Baroque church in Potsdam, eastern Germany. It was built under the second Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I. between 1730 and 1735. During World War II, the church burned down on 14 April 1945. The ruin was demolished on 23 June 1968 by the SED leadership under Walter Ulbricht. A reconstruction society aims to rebuild the Garrison Church by 2017, financed with donations.
From 1720 to 1722, the first Potsdam Garrison Church was built as a square half-timbered building on the plantation between the roads Dortustrasse and Yorckstrasse. After the completion the military community and the German Reformed Church moved in. Regular church services were held.
The swampy land in Potsdam and the inadequate foundation of the building required demolition plans a few years later as the building began to sag. The king Friedrich Wilhelm I commissioned the architect Philipp Gerlach to build a new church. Fascinated by the high church towers he had seen on a visit to Holland, he decided, that the garrison church should also receive a high tower. Constructions began in 1731 and were completed in 1735. In 1740, Frederick Wilhelm I, who built the church, was interred there, as was his son Frederick the Great in 1786. Their coffins were removed prior to the church's destruction.
On September 27, 1817, King Frederick William III announced that on the 300th anniversary of the Reformation Potsdam's Reformed court and garrison congregation, led by Court Preacher Rulemann Friedrich Eylert, and the Lutheran garrison congregation, then both using the Calvinist Garrison Church would unite into one Evangelical Christian congregation on Reformation Day, October 31. Frederick William expressed his desire to see the Protestant congregations around Prussia follow this example, and become Union congregations.
Both, Calvinist and Lutheran church, were then subject to state supervision, carried out by the newly created Prussian Ministry of Religious, Educational and Medical Affairs (German: Preußisches Ministerium der geistlichen, Unterrichts- und Medizinalangelegenheiten, est. in 1817). Karl vom Stein zum Altenstein was appointed as minister. In the years that followed, many Lutheran and Reformed congregations did follow the example of Potsdam, and became single merged congregations, while others maintained their former Lutheran or Reformed denomination.
On 21 March 1933, which became known as the 'Day of Potsdam', after a sermon held by Otto Dibelius, the competent pastor, the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler and Reich President Paul von Hindenburg ceremonially opened the first Reichstag of the Third Reich. This event served as a propaganda pitch to the old aristocratic and conservative class, to demonstrate that the new regime appreciated the sacredness of old Prussia. This venue was chosen for both its historical significance with connections to Frederick the Great and beyond, and the fact that the Reichstag in Berlin had been burned in an alleged Communist plot to seize the government. In a bomb attack on 14 April 1945 the Church seemed to remain intact. Then, however, the adjacent "Long Barn" began to burn and the fire reached the church.
Walter Ulbricht, first secretary of the SED Central Committee, visited the city in 1967 and decided that the garrison church, as well as the other ruins of war, must be demolished. This was done in 1968.
The tower and steeple are planned to be reconstructed as a first step, followed by the whole building. The groundbreaking ceremony, at which numerous celebrities such as Richard von Weizsäcker and Manfred Stolpe participated, was held on 14 April 2005.
There has been some opposition to the reconstruction of the Garrison Church, both from members of the Lutheran church and also from left wing political groups, due to fears of it being seen as a glorification of Prussian militarism and a rallying point for Neo-Nazis. The church was even labelled the "Yasukuni Shrine of Germany". A citizen's group opposing the reconstruction was formally founded in May 2011.
The tower of the garrison church, with a total height of 88.43 metres, extended into the street and thus formed their appearance. The spire was an oak engineered floor on which a weather vane was installed. The side walls of the tower were broken on either side with narrow longitudinal windows with decorative figures at the corners. Above the main portal was an inscription in golden letters, which read: "Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia built this tower along with the garrison church for the glory of God in 1735." Some of the letters still exist.
A carillon of 35 bells was installed in a small tower on the roof of the first Garrison Church of Potsdam in 1722. It was cast in 1721 by the Dutch bell-founder Jan Albert de Grave from Amsterdam. In 1721, de Grave was the only bell founder in the north of the Netherlands who could cast and tune bells. He was married to the widow of Claude Fremy. Claude Fremy was a pupil of the famous Hemony brothers in the city bell-foundry in Amsterdam. In 1733, the carillon was enlarged with 5 bass bells cast and installed by Paul Meurer. During its first years, the carillon only played automatically although, as can be seen on the picture, there also was a baton keyboard, probably installed with the bells in 1733. The hammers on the outside of the bells were used by the automatic mechanism of the carillon with a large playing drum. The drum was set with new melodies twelve times a year. The instrument was non transposing carillon of 40 bells tuned in meantone temperament with a bourdon of C of approximately 1900 kg. Ellerhorst states that the complete carillon weight was 10,180 kg.
Daily, the carillon daily played "Üb' immer Treu und Redlichkeit" from the opening lines of the poem "Der alte Landmann an seinen Sohn" ("The Old Farmer to His Son") by Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty (1748–1776). The text read as follows: "Üb' immer Treu und Redlichkeit / Bis an dein kühles Grab; / Und weiche keinen Fingerbreit / Von Gottes Wegen ab." Translation: "Use always fidelity and honesty / Up to your cold grave; / And stray not one inch / From the ways of the Lord." To many, these lines are the very embodiment of all Prussian virtues.
The carillon was destroyed by fire resulting from the bombings sustained at the end of the war in 1945.
In 1987, a group from the Iserlohner Fallschirmjäger (Iserlohn Paratroopers) formed the Traditionsgemeinschaft Potsdamer Glockenspiel e.V. (TPG) to support the reconstruction of the church's bells. They commissioned a new carillon to be hung in the new tower of the Garrison church. For 470,000 Deutsche Mark they ordered 40 new bells which have the names of the sponsors (private and militarily regiments). Some of the new bells have names of lost parts of Germany, such as: East Prussia, Königsberg, Silesia, Breslau (Wrocław), Pomerania (Pommern), Stettin (Szczecin) and West Prussia. On 14 April 1991, the new bells were given to the city of Potsdam and mounted temporarily in a steel framework. In the future, the TPG, in the words of its chairman Max Klaar, hopes to rebuild the Garrison Church tower as a symbol of peace and the formal reunification of the two Germanys.
- Shirer, William (1960). New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 197. Missing or empty
- Zur Geschichte der Abrissbemühungen siehe Hans Berg: Die verlorene Potsdamer Mitte, Eigenverlag Hans Berg, Berlin 1999, pp. 14–19.
- "Bürgerinitiative gegen die Garnisonkirche", by Guido Berg, Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, 23 March 2011 (German)
- It is possible that he had ordered them from another bell founder, probably in the Netherlands
- "Moral ohne Anstand" (German)
- "Der alte Landmann an seinen Sohn", zeno.org
- Reinhard Appel, Andreas Kitschke: Der Wiederaufbau der Potsdamer Garnisonkirche. Lingen Verlag, Köln 2006, ISBN 3-937490-70-1.
- Ludwig Bamberg: Die Potsdamer Garnisonkirche. Baugeschichte - Ausstattung - Bedeutung. Lukas Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-936872-86-4.
- Laura J. Meilink-Hoedemaker Article about The Amsterdam bell-foundry under Jan Albert de Grave 1699-1729, in 'Klok en Klepel' the Dutch bulletin of the 'Nederlandse Klokkenspel Vereniging.' nr 115 Dec 2011
- Luc Rombouts: Zingend Brons, uitgeverij Davidsfonds Leuven, 2010, ISBN 978-90-5826-720-7 (in Dutch; the English version will come soon)
- Winfred Ellerhorst: Das Glockenspiel Deutschland 1939 (small booklet)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Garnisonkirche Potsdam.|
- Official reconstruction society (german)
- YouTube: Garnisonkirche Glockenspiel vor dem Krieg. This is the only known recording of the original carillon. It is playing Mozart's melody for „Üb' immer Treu und Redlichkeit” by Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty.
- YouTube: Model of the Garnisonkirche (Garrison Church) Potsdam.
- YouTube: Video of the chuch's demolition.