The Chapel of Reconciliation

Kapelle der Versöhnung

© Stiftung Berliner Mauer

The Chapel of Reconciliation was built on the former border strip right where the Reconciliation Church had stood until its demolition in 1985. The parish members of the Protestant Reconciliation Church lived to the north and south of Bernauer Strasse. Ninety percent of the congregation lived in the West Berlin district of Wedding. The remaining members lived in Mitte on the east side of Berlin. When the first measures were taken to close the border on August 13, 1961, they put an end to the cross-border congregation. Pastor Hildebrandt was able to hold services on two more Sundays. After that the church, located within the border strip, remained inaccessible to its West Berlin members.

As the border underwent expansion, the East German government gave the order to have the church blown up in 1985. The cross from the church’s tower lies on the ground to the right of the chapel, bearing testimony to this event. During the demolition it flew from the top of the church through the air and was bent out of shape when it hit the ground. If you head towards the monument and Documentation Center, you’ll pass an exhibit station that shows pictures of the demolition.

Versöhnungskirche im Grenzstreifen

© ELAB, Archiv der Versöhnungsgemeinde

After reunification the church property was returned to the Reconciliation parish on the condition that it be used for religious purposes. The chapel design was based on plans by the Berlin architects Peter Sassenroth and Rudolf Reitermann. It was erected over the foundations of the Reconciliation Church sanctuary. The structure consists of an oval-shaped rammed-earth construction which is encircled by a colonnade. Wooden slabs frame this outer area, allowing light to penetrate within. The bells of the older church were removed before demolition and now hang within wooden scaffolding in front of the chapel. They are rung by hand. Inside the chapel the church’s cellar staircase was excavated along with remains of a cellar doorway that was walled up in 1961. The church’s original altar piece now hangs in a niche created by a light well projecting over the roof. The core of the chapel, a massive rammed-earth structure that is oriented to the East, connects here.

The Chapel of Reconciliation was officially dedicated in 2000. The chapel is both a place of worship for the Protestant Reconciliation Parish and a part of the Berlin Wall Memorial. It serves both parish members and visitors as a place of memory and prayer. A single victim of the Berlin Wall is commemorated during prayer services which are held regularly at noon from Tuesday to Friday. 

Historisches Foto der Versöhnungskirche

Church consecration festival on September 3, 1961 in the Reconciliation Church, Pastor Helmut Hildebrandt (Live recording: Jörg Hildebrandt)

And now, today, on September 3rd of the year 1961, we celebrate our church consecration festival. Our church consecration festival now of course under completely different circumstances and it is once again the case that I have been, in a certain way at least, brutally robbed of my position as pastor of the Reconciliation parish, since as you know, the 97 percent of our congregation over there, the 7,000 West Berliners, will have to see how they manage without their pastor, and they will indeed manage, God willing. We have heard that the forces of the laity there have already joined together to keep things running and gradually the church leadership will also see to it that a decent pastor takes over the position and administrates the parish over there.