Interior of St. Hedwig's Cathedral during an ecumenical service.
St. Hedwig's Cathedral or St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale (1773) on Bebelplatz was the second building of the Forum Fridericianum - Friedrich the Great's (1740-1786) visionary Athens on the Spree project for the area located near the former Royal palace and Bebelplatz - completed following the Staatsoper. Easily recognizable because of its impressive copper dome the church was Berlin's only Catholic house of worship until 1854 and the oldest Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese.
St. Hedwig's Cathedral: The first Catholic church in Berlin after the Reformation
It was named Hedwig after the patron Saint of Silesia an area in today’s Poland which Friedrich II had conquered in 1742. Friedrich indented this to be seen as a symbol of freedom of religious expression for the small Catholic community in Berlin in a territory which had been staunchly Protestant since the Reformation. The Cathedral's design by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff drew inspiration from Rome's Pantheon but it took years to complete from its foundation in 1747 to its consecration in 1773 because of Friedrich’s cash flow problems caused by the intermittent Seven Years War.
An important resistance centre during World War II
The Church became an important resistance centre during World War II – Father Bernard Lichtenberg who headed the movement, died while being deported to Dachau in 1943 and is today buried in the Crypt. Born in Silesia, he was assigned as pastor to St Hedwigs in Berlin. The "gutter priest from Berlin" as SS second-in-command Reinhard Heydrich had called him, referring to his work amongst the poor in 1920's Berlin, was considered a nuisance by Goebbels, for his public and outspoken denunciation of Nazi concentration camp conditions. Starting from 1935 Lichtenberg had openly addressed the treatment of his Jewish brothers and sisters in his sermons at St Hedwig's. Today he is remembered as one of the German heroes of the Holocaust.
St. Hedwig's Cathedral restoration
The Church's interior is a modern version as much of it was destroyed during the War. The restoration under Hans Schwieppert replaced the original dome with a new one reinforced with concrete. Other alterations from 1952 to 1963 included a stairway to the crypt a modern interior and eight new chapels. The reliefs in the frieze and between the portal columns were late 19th century additions.