One step after the next … I’m already getting a bit out of breath as I climb the steps of the church tower in St Matthew’s Church. Hopefully the vantage point on the church tower will be worth it and open up a view over the neighbouring Kulturforum in Berlin.
The “Geheimratsviertel” is created
In the first half of the 19th century, many middle-class flat blocks were built in Berlin’s southern Tiergarten district, mainly occupied by entrepreneurs, senior civil servants, academics and artists. As we Berliners are, this residential neighbourhood quickly acquired a nickname – the “Geheimratsviertel”.
However, there was no church in the immediate vicinity of the residential buildings. The faithful always had to go to the distant Holy Trinity Church, which quickly fuelled resentment and the desire for a church of their own. A church building association was founded. In 1843, a medical doctor donated a building site to the parish. In 1844, the association received planning permission from the Prussian king.
Friedrich August Stüler planned the church on behalf of the association. He created a three-aisled building with a slender square church tower. Members of the congregation included the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, the publisher Paul Parey and the doctor Rudolf Virchow. One of the most famous pastors of St Matthew’s Church was the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A memorial plaque next to the main portal of the church commemorates the theologian and resistance fighter who met his violent death on 9 April 1945 while opposing National Socialist tyranny.
A nickname was also quickly found for the church. As it was built in the middle of fields, gardens and parkland, Berliners called it “God’s favourite summer pleasure” or “Polka Church” – because of a nearby dance floor.
During the National Socialist era, the area near Berlin’s Tiergarten was planned to be remodelled as part of the Germania world capital plan. Many houses were demolished. The church was to be demolished and rebuilt in Spandau. During the air raids and the Battle of Berlin, the neighbourhood was bombed. Not much remained of the neighbourhood. St Matthew’s Church was badly damaged.
After the war, the exterior of the church was reconstructed, but the interior was given a completely new look and incorporated into the newly created Kulturforum.
Today, St Matthew’s Church is an open church where exhibitions, concerts and discussion groups take place alongside church services.
On the tower
When I finally reach the tower’s viewing platform, I am rewarded with a unique view. My gaze sweeps across the Tiergarten to Potsdamer Platz. The modern buildings erected here form a stark visual contrast to the listed church.
I can see the Berlin Reichstag and the high-rise building of the Berlin Charité hospital.
The Kulturforum with the Philharmonie, State Library, Neue Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Kunstgewerbemuseum and Kupferstichkabinett is in the opposite direction. As I try to categorise the buildings according to their use, I realise that I have never visited some of them.
I am particularly impressed by the view of the recently renovated Neue Nationalgalerie. The clearly visible roof construction is unique!
The viewpoint on the church tower is really something special. The view is marvellous and you are also standing on the only historically preserved building in the Kulturforum. If that isn’t worth a visit!
U2, stop “Potsdamer Platz” (approx. 5 min. walk)
S1, S2, S25, stop “Potsdamer Platz” (approx. 5 min. walk)
200 (bus stop “Philharmonie”, approx. 2 min walk),
M48 and M85 (bus stop “Varian-Fry-Str./Potsdamer Platz”, approx. 4 min. walk)
From 5 p.m., paid parking spaces are available in the underground car park of the Staatliche Museen Berlin (Tiergartenstraße entrance). Please state at the intercom that you wish to attend an event at St Matthew’s Church.
Other paid parking spaces are located around Matthäikirchplatz and in the multi-storey car parks at Potsdamer Platz.
Tuesday to Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm
Tuesday to Saturday at 12:30 pm
every Sunday at 18:00
Attention! The church may be temporarily closed due to exhibition changes, renovations or events.