Koenigsberg Cathedral

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Aerial photograph (2017)
West facade (2017)

The Königsberg Cathedral ( Russian Кёнигсбергский собор , scientific transliteration Kënigsbergskij sobor ) in today's Kaliningrad is a monument of the brick Gothic . The cathedral on the Kneiphof island was and is again the most important historical building in the city, which was destroyed in the Second World War and then leveled.


The cathedral is the former bishop's church of the Samland diocese , which did not belong to the Teutonic Order state . With the establishment of the Albertus University (1544) it became a university church, to whose congregation all students and professors of the Albertus University belonged.

Only when the old town , Kneiphof and Löbenicht were united in 1724, the cathedral formally belonged to "Königsberg". In the area of ​​the medieval cities, no other building from the time of the order or later epochs has survived; because during the Second World War, during the air raids on Königsberg in August 1944, the fire bombs of the Royal Air Force and the battle for Königsberg in April 1945 destroyed most of the buildings. Under Soviet rule, the ruins were removed and partly built over.

The secular center of power was the old town . Their main church was the castle church , which also crowning place of kings Frederick I and William I was.


Before the Second World War, the cathedral had the following dimensions:

  • Length: 88.5 m
  • Height of the south tower to the top: 50.75 m
  • Height of the main nave: 32.14 m


Concert for the 600th anniversary (1933)

The predecessor of the cathedral, a small cathedral, was built in the southeast of the old town of Königsberg between 1297 and 1302. The Samland bishop Johann Clare found the church too small and insisted on building a new cathedral.

Building site and preparations

In 1327, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Werner von Orseln, left a plot of land on the east end of the Pregelinsel Kneiphof for the construction of the cathedral. The ground on the island was swampy, so the cathedral builders had to drive hundreds of oak stakes into the ground before they could actually start building. The old cathedral in the old town was demolished; the building materials were used to build the new cathedral on the island. A new gate, the cathedral gate, and a bridge, the cathedral bridge, were built into the city wall of the old town especially for the transport of materials. This bridge was demolished after the end of the cathedral construction, but the gate remained in place for another six centuries.


Construction began on the new site around 1330 (the exact date is not known), initially as a fortified church with thick walls, battlements and other defensive structures. However, the Teutonic Order did not allow a fortress to be built very close to the Ordensburg and stopped construction. On September 13, 1333, the bishop signed a contract between the order and the church, with which the construction of the cathedral, now purely a cult building without military functions, could be continued. This date is considered to be the start of construction on the Königsberg Cathedral.

Simultaneously with the construction of the cathedral, a cathedral school was founded on the river island Kneiphof , which gained importance in the early years of construction.

After the relatively short period of 50 years, the cathedral was largely completed in 1380. Work on the interior frescoes lasted until the end of the 14th century.

First shape of the structure

The cathedral, consecrated to Saint Mary and Saint Adalbert , in the brick Gothic style, consisted of the elongated rectangular priest and knight choir and a three-aisled lay church separated by a glass wall with a flat wooden ceiling and tower porch.

Conversion to a hall church

The cathedral was rebuilt around 1440 and has been a hall under one roof ever since . The naves are completely vaulted, the central nave with a twelve-part star vault , the side aisles with three-capped vaults. Two pointed towers rose on the western front.

Reformation in Prussia

Albrecht von Brandenburg-Ansbach , Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, followed Luther's advice, resigned from office in 1522 and transformed the state into the secular Duchy of Prussia . On September 27, 1523, Johann Briesmann gave the first Lutheran sermon in Königsberg Cathedral.

Further changes until 1944


A fire in 1544 destroyed both towers. The southern tower was rebuilt with a pointed twelve-sided roof, and a simple gable roof was installed over the remains of the northern tower. In 1640 clocks were installed in the south tower. In 1695 the cathedral received an organ .

The cathedral was restored in 1833, and the organ was also renewed in 1888. During a further restoration between 1901 and 1907, the west facade - apart from the towers - was given its earlier appearance from the 14th century.

The glass painters Rudolf and Otto Linnemann from Frankfurt am Main created eleven windows for the cathedral between 1901 and 1906. Depicted were: the birth of Christ, resurrection, flight to Egypt, the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple, baptism of Jesus, sermon on the mount, Jesus and the Samaritans, the storm on the sea, Jari's little daughter, Christ on the Mount of Olives, crucifixion and eight windows with coats of arms. Sketches, cardboard boxes and old photos are in the Linnemann archive in Frankfurt am Main. The window of the baptistery was donated by the Königsberg Masonic lodges " Zum Todtenkopf und Phoenix ", "Zu den drei Kronen" and "Immanuel". In addition to depicting the baptism of Jesus, it also contains Masonic symbols.

Destruction in World War II

Ruin (1988)
1993 at the beginning of the reconstruction

In the air raid by the Royal Air Force on the night of August 29th to 30th, 1944, the Cathedral Island, the other inner city and adjacent areas were irretrievably destroyed. The first British air attack two nights earlier had struck northern boroughs and caused damage to a manageable extent. In the second attack, however, the historical core of Königsberg was destroyed.

The somewhat isolated cathedral was not a target for drops. But he did not withstand the firestorm in which the historic Königsberg sank. The roof construction went up in flames, part of the vaults collapsed, walls collapsed. In an interview with the daughter of the last cathedral organist Herbert Wilhelmi it was stated that the fire brigade was forbidden by an order from Gauleiter Erich Koch to attempt to extinguish the fire on the Kneiphof. The bridges of the cathedral island had become impassable early on, only a few residents managed to escape on boats or barges that were still intact. Those who could no longer escape in time were burned, suffocated or were killed by falling parts of the wall. Even jumping into the river did not save a few, most of the exhausted drowned in the Pregel.

In the ground floor tower room of the cathedral, in the southern part of the westwork, the former confirmation room, a group of Königsbergers survived the disaster night, while outside, also in the halls of the church, the great death began. In 1992 a mass grave was discovered in the same tower room during clean-up work in the course of the reconstruction. The human remains of hundreds of victims, mostly the bones of children, were found under rubble and rubble. Generally they were (and are) attributed to the dead on the night of the bombing. Investigations by a witness who survived the night of the catastrophe in the tower room permanently question this thesis. A stone cross on the outside of the south flank of the nave marks the place where the dead, discovered in 1992, found their second grave.

As a result of the air raid, the entire interior and the part (duplicates) of the Wallenrodt library that remained in the cathedral were burned . The burial place of Georg Wilhelm von Brandenburg was lost. Parts of the grave memorial for Duke Albrecht have been preserved on the east wall of the high choir. The remains of the tomb of Margravine Elisabeth and the epitaph of Duchess Dorothea (Prussia) were only destroyed in the course of earlier restoration work. On the south wall, however, there are still the epitaphs of Duchess Anna Maria von Braunschweig-Calenberg-Göttingen , Duke Albrecht's 2nd wife. In the entrance area is the grave slab of Grand Master Luther of Braunschweig , the builder of the cathedral. Fragments of the stone grave tablet with parts of the inscription in the cathedral are still preserved from his tomb with a carved sculpture of the deceased. In the museum rooms of the tower numerous original stones and found objects are exhibited.

Soviet era

After the war ended, the northern part of East Prussia became part of the Soviet Union . The government had neither funds nor interest in restoring the cathedral ruins and other historical buildings. Pre-war buildings, which were regarded as “symbols of Prussian militarism and fascism” and “shame of the new socialist city”, were demolished. The cathedral ruins were tolerated, however: Because of the Kant tomb outside on the northwest corner of the choir building, the new city government did not dare to blow up the ruins. In 1960 the cathedral was given the status of a cultural monument , but for a long time there were no efforts to stop the decline and to restore the church or the tomb of Kant. In 1976 and 1982 conservation attempts were made , but their usefulness is controversial.

Restoration 1992–1998

Restored church window of the baptistery
New Environment (2009)

Discussions about the future of Königsberg Cathedral were revived with perestroika .

Since 1992 Igor Alexandrowitsch Odintsow has been restoring the cathedral with his company Kafedralnyj Sobor (The Cathedral). The project management works closely with the Center for Crafts and Monument Preservation in Fulda , which has extensive experience in the restoration of European buildings.

The following organizations are involved in financing the work:

After examining the ruins and finding old building plans, photographs and drawings of the cathedral, conservation work began in 1993. In 1994 the restoration of the towers began: the north tower was reinforced with concrete slabs and belts; Helicopters from the Baltic Fleet helped attach the roof scaffolding to the south tower . In 1995, a radio-controlled clock and four bells were attached to the tower. The bells strike the opening motif of Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony every hour on the hour . In 1995 and 1996 the epitaph and the tomb of Immanuel Kant were restored. Work on the roof took place between 1996 and 1998. To save weight, sheet copper was used instead of roof tiles.

Critics often accuse the cathedral's restorers of improper work. In particular, pouring concrete into the brick walls is seen as harmful to the building in the long term. The considerably denser concrete will cause new settlements of the filled walls on the known yielding subsoil, which will result in cracks. Corresponding bad experiences have been made from restorations in Germany. The construction of the cathedral on the swampy ground was a work of art insofar as the walls had to be built up slowly and evenly in such a way that the nascent building could sit evenly without tearing up.

In 1998 two more bells were hung in the north tower. In October 1998 the cathedral was reopened.

Todays use

Concert in the cathedral (2019)

The cathedral was restored as a cultural and religious center. In the largely restored cathedral there is a Protestant and an Orthodox chapel , baptistery , cathedral museum, Kant museum, city museum and rooms of the Wallenrodt library. Church services are held regularly in the cathedral. On May 7, 1995, the first ecumenical service with the participation of the three denominations took place. In addition, the cathedral construction company "Kafedralny Sobor" wants to make the cathedral known as an (international) concert address: Since the reconstruction, numerous classical and religious music has been played. In addition, the MDR Symphony Orchestra was invited to be the first international orchestra to give a concert in the rebuilt cathedral on January 23, 2010. The appearance of the German musicians is considered to be another act of rapprochement between the Kaliningraders and their German roots .

In April 2009, Moscow Patriarch Kyrill I asked Prime Minister Putin for his support for the Königsberg Cathedral to be placed under the Russian Orthodox Church . Previously, the Orthodox Diocese of Königsberg had submitted an application to the local administration to take possession of the cathedral, including the property and ancillary buildings, “in order to use it for its intended purpose”.

Further restoration

The cathedral is almost restored after almost 20 years of work. The following measures were carried out:

  • The lengthy external renovation began in 1998 and has now been completed.
  • From the year 2000 the rib vault and the windows were successfully renewed.
  • In 2008 the reconstruction of the baptistery from 1596 was completed.
  • After three years of work, the grave tablet of Anna and Bogusław Radziwiłł on the north wall was restored in 2009. As the governor of the Great Elector , the Lithuanian Prince Radziwill contributed a great deal to the recognition of the Reformed Congregation in Königsberg ( Königsberger Express , March 2009).
  • Currently (2014) the marble plaque for Margrave Albrecht I of Brandenburg-Ansbach , who was buried in the crypt, is being restored. The restoration of the epitaphs of his two wives has already been completed. It is planned that the crypt will also be made accessible to the public.

Special rooms and equipment

Princely Crypt

Princely Crypt (destroyed 1944/1945)

Duke Albrecht with his relatives, as well as Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order, bishops and other nobles are buried under the cathedral in the princely crypt, including:


The cathedral had several altars. The high altar (triptych) with 4 paintings ("Fall of Man", "Baptism of St. John", "Last Supper" and "Crucifixion") by Anton Möller (called the "Painter of Danzig"), 1563–1611, was worth seeing at the time ; they were considered the most beautiful pictures in this house of God.


In the cathedral there were many such grave memorials, some of which were decorated with valuable paintings, so u. a. the epitaphs of: Duchess Dorothea ; Margravine Elisabeth , Duchess Anna Maria (second wife of Duke Albrecht ); Spouses Wilhelm and Katharina Plato (painting “Last Judgment” by Anton Möller, 1563–1611); Joachim Mörlin , Bishop of Samland, † May 23, 1571; Georg von Pudewels (painting “Last Judgment” and “Family P.” in the base, 1604, by Anton Möller); Baron A. v. Kittlitz (painting “Ascension of Christ” and “Family v. K.” with numerous family members, 1604, by Anton Möller); Wolff von Wernsdorff (painting "Allergory of the struggle of the Christian knight of virtue with deadly sins", 1606, by Anton Möller) and by Christoph Heilsberg (painting "Last Judgment", 1600, by Anton Möller).

Stair tower

Königsberg, Kneiphöfischer Dom, stair tower.

In the vestibule there was a stair tower open to the side, which has since been rebuilt with glass and today represents the entrance to the museum. The building was August Rudolf Gebser and Ernst August Hagen According to the time of the founder Duke Albrecht of Prussia .

Professors' vault

Soon the Collegium Albertinum was built near the cathedral , the university building on the northeast corner of the Kneiphof Island . An arcade-shaped roof overhang was built onto the outer walls of the nave on both sides . The professors were buried under this so-called professors' vault. Kant was buried in the northeast corner and reburied several times.

Wallenrodt Library

Johann Ernst von Wallenrodt housed the library donated by his father in 1650 in the south tower of the cathedral. In 1673 it was opened to the public. ETA Hoffmann visited her often.


Organ before 1944

The cathedral has two organs. On the west gallery is the main organ (IV + P / 90), which was rebuilt in 2007 behind the historic case. The choir organ (II + P / 32), which was built in 2006, is located on a side gallery.


Silver bell in Schloss Burg

The old silver bell weighing 1200 kg was known ( strike tone: es 1 ); named because of their silver-light sound. It was cast by Andreas Dorling in Königsberg in 1736 and was located in the south tower of the cathedral. Since 1951 it has been hanging (with two bells from Wroclaw) in front of the Memorial of the German East , which is housed in the battery tower of Burg Castle.

The old hour bell of the cathedral weighed 100 kg and was found by Professor Carl Stange in 1952 in a Hamburg bell cemetery. He brokered it to the church of the former Benedictine monastery Bursfelde on the Weser in the district of Göttingen , where it is now ringing. The bell bears the inscription D ET Joh An Do MCCCCLXX G da / Jochim GryTTE - it was cast in 1470 in Gdansk.

A third of the five bells of the Königsberg Cathedral has survived: a bell weighing 75 kg and cast in 1680, which is now in St. Georg in Westerwanna near Cuxhaven . What has been lost, however, is the large St. Mary's bell from the north tower, which was cast in 1492 , the largest at that time in East Prussia, as well as the small gold bell from the south tower, which started the services.

In November 1995 the new bells could be installed. Three of the former four bells in the south tower are originally in West Germany. However, it was possible to largely adapt the sound of the bell to the sound of the old bells recorded in music archives.

The bells 3 and 4 can be rung freely; the two large ones, however, are only struck by a hammer. The bells strike every quarter of an hour, at the top of the hour the first notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony sound first , then bell 1 strikes the number of hours. The third largest bell was cast in Germany. It bears the old Königsberg seal and the coat of arms of the Kneiphof in the cast relief, underneath the inscription: “Cast in Kaliningrad vorm. Königsberg AD 1995. ”followed by the names of the largest donors. The smallest bell is nameless and has no symbols.

No. Surname Casting year Weight (kg) Nominal
1 Alexander Nevsky 1995 1850 cis 1
2 1995 745 f sharp 1
3 1995 450 a 1
4th Children's bell 1995 255 c sharp 2

Pastor from the Reformation to 1945

From 1523 to 1944 the cathedral was the university church, to whose congregation all students and professors of the Albertus University belonged. Two parishes, each with a cathedral preacher, belonged to the cathedral. The last remaining pastor until the destruction in 1944 was Walter Strazim (1887–1969), cathedral pastor of the 2nd cathedral parish since 1934. His colleague, the cathedral preacher of the 1st cathedral parish, Ernst Bronisch-Holtze , was imprisoned by the Gestapo on July 20, 1944 under mysterious circumstances died after being arrested for "continuous and willful eavesdropping on enemy broadcasters ". Therefore only one preacher remained until the end of the cathedral.

See also


Web links

Commons : Königsberger Dom  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. August Rudolf Gebser, Ernst August Hagen: The cathedral to Königsberg in Prussia. A church and art history description. 1835, p. 94.
  2. ^ Lorenz Grimoni : Freemason in Königsberg (Pr). In: Königsberger Bürgerbrief. Issue no.69, Museum Stadt Königsberg, Duisburg 2007.
  3. ^ East Prussia in Inferno 44/45 . Polar film, 1999.
  4. ^ Hagen Schulz: The children from the Kneiphof. About a grave at Koenigsberg Cathedral . Self-published, Cologne and Saquarema 2017, p. 34 .
  5. ^ Kerstin Holm: Divine service in the Kant Museum. The Russian Orthodox Church claims the Königsberg Cathedral as a kind of late reparation. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. July 17, 2009.
  6. ^ Gunnar Strunz: Königsberg; Kaliningrad region . Trescher, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-89794-278-3 , p. 94 ff.
  7. cf. Christofer Herrmann: The beginnings of the Königsberg cathedral building. In: Bernhart Jähnig (Hrsg.): 750 years of Königsberg: Contributions to the history of a residence town for a time . Elwert, Marburg 2008, OCLC 281162800 , p. 334 .
  8. Ernst August Hagen, August Rudolf Gebser: The description of the cathedral church to Königsberg and the works of art contained in it. Königsberg 1833, p. 99. (online)
  9. Kant's grave (Werner Stark)
  10. Strazim (Kreisgemeinschaft Darkehmen) ( Memento from December 22, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  11. ^ Reports of the SD and the Gestapo on churches and church people in Germany 1934–1944. Matthias Grünewald Verlag, Mainz 1971, p. 890.

Coordinates: 54 ° 42 ′ 22.9 "  N , 20 ° 30 ′ 42.4"  E