I was traveling in Berlin – actually with a completely different goal – and suddenly stood in front of the Berlin Monastery Ruins. My actual goal had to wait, my urge to discover was awakened – I wanted to see more and especially to know more.
Franciscan monastery church
At the end of the 13th century, the monks of the Franciscan Order built a monastery church on the exact spot where the ruins of the Berlin Monastery are located today. The land had previously been donated to them by the Brandenburg market count. In addition, the order had received a brickyard in Tempelhof and so nothing stood in the way of building the church.
Until 1539, the monks lived quite well on the site. In the course of the Reformation, the Berlin/Cölln area became Protestant. The Berlin Fanziscan convent was dissolved, but the monks were allowed to continue using the monastery until the end of their lives.
In 1571, after the last monk had died, the alchemist and electoral personal physician Leonhard Thurneysser moved into the monastery. For the residents in the surrounding area, his move in must have been somewhat “uncanny”. He is said to have kept unknown exotic animals in the monastery courtyard and to have set up Brandenburg’s first natural science laboratory there. The establishment of a print shop will have been somewhat more “normal”, even if it was the first print shop in Berlin.
The monastery becomes a school
Leonhard Thurneysser did not remain the sole user of the site for a long time. In 1574, the first grammar school in Berlin moved into part of the buildings. The Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster used the church, the refectory, the confession house, part of the garden with the cloister and the churchyard. Although the population of Berlin was not yet so large, 600 students soon went to school here. Among them were children who later became famous personalities, for example Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Otto von Bismarck.
Over time, despite intensive use, the building complex became more and more dilapidated. Schinkel, by now a well-known architect and master builder, submitted plans to save his old school from destruction. None of it helped. In 1902 the church was closed and only in 1936 it could be used again, even if only for a short time.
In April 1945, the monastery complex was heavily destroyed during a bombing raid. Only a few walls of the church remained standing. Some of the other buildings of the monastery were also completely destroyed.
When subway construction work was carried out in the area of Klosterstraße in 1951, parts of the ruins were demolished and for the 750th anniversary of Berlin, the rest of the ruins were renovated to such an extent that they could be used for cultural events in the future.
Impressions in the ruins of the monastery Berlin
I did not know until my accidental visit that this ruin exists in Berlin. I was all the more pleased to go on a discovery tour here in Klosterstraße.
During my visit there was just no current open artistic action on site. Almost alone I could look at the ruin. On one wall there are some historical grave plates. Some of the wall openings are closed with wooden plates. I find it impressive to stand in the middle of a church, even if there are only remains of the building, and to be able to look into the sky.
However, I find it much more exciting that you can see the Berlin TV tower through the unglazed window openings. What an interplay of old and new architecture!
An impressive place to visit if you are in the Alexanderplatz area.
U8, U5, S5, S7, S75 Alexanderplatz
Bus 248 Littenstraße
April to October:
Monday to Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
During the winter months from November to April the monastery ruins are closed.