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From March 1, 2020, Berlin Cathedral will close the doors to the Hohenzollern Crypt for two extensive construction and renovation projects that are expected to last until spring 2024. The costs amount to a total of around 18 million euros, of which the cathedral community will bear 10%. The projects are being funded by the state of Berlin through the joint task "Improvement of Regional Infrastructure" and the Commissioner for Culture and Media.
With both projects for the further development and for the tourist infrastructure in the Hohenzollern Crypt, the Berlin Cathedral and the private as well as public sponsors take responsibility for the condition of the historical burial place. The aim of both projects is to transform the Hohenzollern Crypt into a dignified place of rest for the dead and an important place of remembrance of German history.
90 people from the House of Hohenzollern, including famous ones such as King Frederick I, Queen Sophie-Charlotte, Queen Elisabeth Christine and the Great Elector are buried in the Hohenzollern Crypt. "With our projects," explains cathedral architect and project manager Sonja Tubbesing, "we are placing the Hohenzollern Crypt as Germany's most important dynastic burial place also visibly and tangibly in a row with the most important crypts in Europe, such as the Capuchin Crypt in Vienna."
With its art-historically valuable coffins from five centuries, the crypt is also a unique document of dynastic sepulchral culture in Germany. On November 20, 1999, the Hohenzollern Crypt was opened to the general public for the first time. In 2019, around 765,000 visitors from Germany and abroad will visit the church and tomb.
Project 1 – Restoration of the hohenzollern crypt
The original entrance to the Hohenzollern Crypt was in the monument church before World War 2. As part of the conversion project, the entrance will be moved back to the vicinity of this historic staircase. In the future, visitors will then enter the Hohenzollern Crypt directly from the Preaching Church via the northeastern staircase. This is not only for historical reasons, but also for liturgical ones, explains the managing cathedral preacher Michael Kösling: "As a church, we have a treasure here that touches on the existential dimension of human beings. At the moment when our visitors descend from the bright, magnificent sermon church into the dark sepulcher, they will pause for a moment. Such moments of peace, when we humans are thrown back on ourselves - even if only for seconds - are particularly precious for everyone."
In the Hohenzollern Crypt, visitors will first enter a new information area in the future. Valuable grave goods, short animated films and an interactive crypt model invite visitors to linger. In the new room, visitors will learn interesting facts about the history of the tomb, the Hohenzollern family and stories about the people buried in the tomb.
To protect the historically valuable sarcophagi, the Hohenzollern Crypt will be equipped with air conditioning for the first time. In the past, humidity and temperature fluctuations had regularly caused mold and cracks to form on the coffins and layers of paint to flake off. The technology will also improve the indoor air for visitors.
In addition, a new lighting concept is being developed in close consultation with the State Monuments Office. The aim is to emphasize the room's atmosphere as a burial chamber through the careful use of lighting elements, while at the same time allowing the niches, cross vaults and the entire room architecture to become visible. Visitors' attention is also to be carefully drawn to coffin details that are special in terms of art history or history, such as fabric coverings, colors, gilding, reliefs and ornaments.
With the reconstruction, the Hohenzollern Crypt will regain its construction-period coffin arrangement of a burial field. The cloister in the center of the crypt will be omitted, and in the future the coffins will again stand side by side - similar to the situation before World War II. A new addition is an altar and devotional area in the east of the crypt, directly under the altar of the preaching church. This altar is clearly recognizable in Raschdorff's historical construction drawings from the imperial period and is now being implemented for the first time.
Financed by the Commissioner for Culture and Media, the Berlin Cathedral Parish and the Cornelsen Cultural Foundation.
Project 2 – Infrastructure and accessibility
A fundamental shortcoming of the Hohenzollern Crypt, as well as of the entire Berlin Cathedral, is the limited accessibility. At the moment, visitors with limited mobility can only enter the cathedral and the crypt with the help of security personnel. To do so, visitors must ring the bell at the building yard with the porter, who then directs them into the building via the freight elevator. The cathedral's own museum is not accessible at all for people with limited mobility or walking difficulties.
With the help of our project, we are putting an end to this untenable situation and creating barrier-free access for the cathedral and Hohenzollern crypt from 2024.
In the future, a freely operable elevator on the north side of the cathedral will bring people with limited mobility into the cathedral arcades. "We are particularly looking forward to the fact that the cathedral steps will no longer be an obstacle for anyone after the conversion," says project manager and cathedral architect Sonja Tubbesing. From the cathedral arcades, everyone will enter the cathedral equally via the large portals. In the building itself, an elevator will be installed parallel to the visitor staircase in the south tower, extending from the crypt floor to the museum floor.
In addition, we are enlarging the sanitary facilities in the basement of the Berlin Cathedral and making them barrier-free, as well as the Cathedral Shop and Cathedral Café. Both areas are to be given more space in the future, be more visitor-friendly and invite visitors to linger after a tour of the cathedral. They are also accessible from the outside for visitors to the Humboldt Forum and the adjacent Museum Island and complement the tourist attractions at the Lustgarten.
Funding by the federal state of Berlin via the joint task "Improvement of the regional infrastructure" (GRW) and the Berlin Cathedral Parish.