Sunday, July 09, 2006
"On the 31st floor, your gold-plated door won't keep out the Lord's burning rain..."
"The construction of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is making such very good progress, the ignorant populace never cease to be amazed."
How charmingly-put by architect Franz Schwechten, writing in 1894 of the stately centrepiece of a vast church-building programme, lofted in unbashful tribute to the late Kaiser Wilhelm I on the orders of his grandson Wilhelm II.
And yet, after being battered by Allied bombs in 1943, the still-just-about-standing ruins have been transformed into a symbol, not of vainglory, but of humility - a ravaged reminder of the horrors of war, set in a self-sufficient square at the tip of the department store-dominated Kurfurstendamm.
The "broken tooth", as it's now nicknamed, is quite a sight - more raggedly beautiful now than in its once-epic glory, pictured in stills which suggest a neo-romanesque masterpiece suddenly plonked in lonely yet awesome isolation on a roundabout.
Inside stands a tiny, gleaming cross gifted by the similarly ill-fated, similarly defiant Coventry Cathedral - while the same cathedral has donated a cross made of nails to the now-next-door squat, decahedronal "replacement" church - where iris-dazzling cyan streams through tiny squares of stained-glass, and a grim-eyed, golden Christ tips awkwardly above the altar.
The brief must have been: build something as different as can be, from what once stood - now totters - alongside. The effect of both is unnerving - yet touching too.