775 Years of Berlin » City in the Middle Ages

Traces of the Middle Ages

25 August to 28 October 2012

On this page you can find the review of the exhibition "Traces of the Middle Ages", which took place from August 25th until October 28th.

At the bottom of this page are detailed informations on the eight exhibition sites with further facts on the medieval Berlin.

If you are interested in the Middle Ages you should have a look at the medieval places of Berlin and the founding of Berlin-Cölln. 

Marking of the historic city centre

On the occasion of the city’s 775th birthday medieval Berlin will be brought into the present in a very unusual way. The structure of the medieval city can still be discerned in the modern metropolis, even after its widespread destruction in war and complete reconstruction.
Striking markings along the city’s old four kilometre-long boundaries, at the former city gates and the few preserved architectural monuments from the period of its foundation will reveal Berlin’s 13th century form with surprising clarity. These markings will trace a path through the original double city of Berlin-Cölln with its marketplaces, churches, cloisters, bridges, Jewish quarter and city wall, so that it can be for the first time perceived as a complete whole. Visitors will find out why the Marienkirche, now a tourist magnet, stands at an oblique angle to the adjoining Karl-Liebknecht Strasse and almost two metres below today’s ground level and why the true cradle of Berlin is at the Mühlendammbrücke (‘Mill Dam Bridge’). At the same time, sites that often go unnoticed on the margins of big, busy major roads will be brought to life; sites such as Petriplatz, where the foundations of a Romanesque church and a Latin school were discovered last year.

In recent years there have been countless spectacular excavations in Berlin’s historic centre, such as those accompanying the construction of the U-Bahn (underground railway) in front of the Rotes Rathaus (town hall). Foundations, cellars and wells, remains of the first settlers’ houses and everyday objects, and even their graves have been found. The bottommost level of the early city is being uncovered here, existing often only in the form of the blackened traces of decaying wood. Thanks to modern research methods though, these can provide information about the inhabitants‘ lives, the city’s size, the time of settlement and much more. Some of these sites will be briefly visible this autumn, before disappearing again under new streets, squares and buildings.

The open-air exhibition and marking of the city assemble pieces of a puzzle made up of excavation findings, historic sources and preserved documents to form the most complete and animated picture possible of the double city in the Middle Ages. A comprehensive programme of tours and events focuses on Romanesque and Gothic architectural monuments and familiarises visitors with medieval craftsmanship, art and music, making it clear just how strange and yet how close the Middle Ages are to us. Today Berlin is again a city of founders who are supported in varied ways, and once again there are new plans for how the city centre should look in future.

The Exhibition sites

Remains of the middle-aged city wall

Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site City Wall

Before Berlin and Cölln were circled by a stone wall, the dual city was surrounded by earthworks with palisades and trenches. Work began on a stone city wall in the second half of the 13th century. more »

Breite Straße 1885

Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site: Breite Straße

Settlement of Cölln, Berlin’s sister city, began in this area on an island in the River Spree. more »

Ruine Franziskanerkloster Fassade

Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site: Franciscan monastery

There was a monastic complex housing Franciscan monks in Berlin as early as 1250. The order built its first stone church on Berlin’s north-eastern edge, directly adjoining the city walls. more »

Jüdenhof 1933

Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site: Grosser Jüdenhof

The Grosse Jüdenhof was once here, in the centre of medieval Berlin, which is now covered by the eight-lane Grunerstrasse. more »


Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site: Molkenmarkt

Even before the towns of Berlin and Cölln were granted city rights in 1230, the first trading centre was developed here on the Spree island to the north. more »

Der Mühlendamm

Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site: Mühlendamm

Mühlendamm was the first crossing of the river Spree. Here the settlers of Berlin and Cölln first built a corduroy road with some bridged parts. more »


Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site: Nikolaiviertel

Berlin’s oldest quarter was built as a trading settlement at the end of the 12th century. The settlers chose a place on a sand hill close to the Spree ford. more »

Ausgrabung am Petriplatz in Berlin-Mitte

Traces of the Middle Ages - exhibition site: Petriplatz

The settlement of Cölln began here in the late 13th century. Petriplatz, with its market, church, Rathaus (town hall) and Latin school, was the centre of Berlin’s medieval ‘sister city’. more »

(Bilder: Foto: Claudia Maria Melisch / 775 Jahre Berlin; Foto: Georg von Wilcken / 775 Jahre Berlin; Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin / 775 Jahre Berlin; Foto: Wolfgang Bittner / 775 Jahre Berlin; Landesarchiv Berlin / 775 Jahre Berlin; Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin © bpk; Wikimedia Commons / 775 Jahre Berlin)

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