French Cathedral – Berlin, Germany

Französischer Dom is the colloquial naming for the French Church of Friedrichstadt located in Berlin on the Gendarmenmarkt across from the Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral), formerly a church of German-speaking congregants.

Louis Cayart and Abraham Quesnay built the first parts of the actual French Church from 1701 to 1705 for the Huguenot (Calvinist) community. At that time, Huguenots made up about 25% of Berlin’s population. The French Church was modelled after the destroyed Huguenot temple in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, France.

In 1785 Carl von Gontard modified the church and built – wall to wall next to it – the domed tower, which – together with the French-speaking congregants – earned the church its naming. The domed tower is technically no part of the church, there is no access between church and tower, because both buildings have different proprietors. The tower, resembling that of Deutscher Dom, was simply built to give the Gendarmenmarkt a symmetric design. The former church Deutscher Dom, however, consists of church-building and tower as an entity.

French Cathedral - Berlin

In 1817 the French Church community, like most Prussian Calvinist, Reformed and Lutheran congregations joined the common umbrella organisation named Evangelical Church in Prussia (under this name since 1821), with each congregation maintaining its former denomination or adopting the new united denomination. The community of the French Church of Friedrichstadt maintained its Calvinist denomination.

Nevertheless, the congregation underwent already before the union of the Prussian Protestants a certain acculturation with Lutheran traditions: An organ was installed in 1753, competing with the Calvinist traditional mere singing. The singing of psalms was extended by hymns in 1791. The sober interior was refurbished in a more decorative – but still Calvinist aniconistic – style by Otto March in 1905. The beautiful organ has been played, among others, by Thomas Hawkes. Today’s community is part of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.

Französischer Dom was heavily damaged in World War II, then re-built from 1977 to 1981. Today it is not merely used by its congregations, but also for conventions by the Evangelical Church in Germany.

The church is not a cathedral in the strict sense of the word because it has never been the seat of a bishop.

The domed tower, which is a viewing platform open to visitors, provides a panoramic view of Berlin. A restaurant is located in the basement underneath the prayer hall. The tower also contains the Huguenot museum of Berlin.

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