Cathedrals and churches in Germany tell stories. They tell the stories of the people that visited them; the hopes, dreams and prayers of those who attended, the gifts the rich devotes could gift; the scars from war, the special things that were saved in times of crisis; the miracle that some have been unscathed. They tell the story of Roman and Gothic architecture, of how people dealt with death and loss, of our amazing history of mythology and imagery and iconography and art.
What a great way to spend time with your child! And affordable to boot. We always look for local churches to check out in the neighborhoods we stay in while we are in Europe. We have interrupted mass in Galway, Ireland, discussed Game of Thrones with a Monk (also in Ireland), talked art with a nun in Scotland, listened to prayers from the devout in Germany… all without every being given a stinky eye or sharp word. In general, you will find that European churches enjoy young, well behaved, curious children. Well behaved is key – a church is a place of serious, devout worship and should always be treated with deep respect.
In Berlin, we went to the Parochialkirche in Mitte, the oldest (1695) protestant church in Berlin. It just so happened there was an exhibit on the Sistine Chapel, where large (huge!) reproductions of Michelangelo’s art was blown up so that every inch could be dissected into intent and backstory and meaning. Little had to be dragged out of this church exhibit; he couldn’t learn enough.
We visited Mariankirche by Alexandreplatz (1270) which was not destroyed in WW2 so holds much of the local church artwork from the churches that were destroyed. There is a wonderful medieval fresco called “Dance with Death” that was painted in the entrance, wrapping around the walls showing how all members of society dancing with death, a white-cloaked specter.
Nikolai Kirche is an 800 year old double-spired landmark and who’s who of Berlin families, judging by the tombs. In 1939 it was turned into a public office and is now a city museum and concert hall. It’s the center of the Nikolai Viertel, which is an adorable
neighborhood with cute shopping and a ton of authentic German restaurants.
Berlin Dom – this is Berlin’s Cathedral and can not be missed. It does have a small entry fee of 5 Euro but it so worth it. The inside is spectacular and the crypt should not be missed. Little was fascinated by the tombs and caskets which are on display in the crypt and 500 years of Prussian burial history – so many little princes and princesses buried there in ornate boxes with crowns on top.
It’s a little uncomfortable jumping into the conversations to be had about God and death and ritual and history – and you can’t avoid those conversations when you spend time visiting churches in Europe. But be prepared for how you want to handle these conversations and the experience will be well worth it.