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Home Towns - Potsdam, Germany

Garrison Church and Carillon

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Crypt of King Frederick William I Garrison Church in 1827 Church Ruin after the 1945 bombing

In 1732, Prussian King Frederick William I, also known as "The Soldier King" ordered his architect Philipp Gerlach to built massive church in Potsdam to be used by his elite soldiers, the Potsdam Giants. The church, successor of a smaller church, that was built at the same place in 1722, was as representative as the King's soldiers - the 290 ft. tall steeple dominated the town's skyline. For 150 years, the Garrison Church was one of Potsdam's most popular buildings and the final resting place of Prussian Kings Frederick William I and Frederick II. The great Johann Sebastian Bach performed here and the evenly great Napoléon Bonaparte paid his respect to Frederick the Great, visiting his Crypt after he conquered Potsdam in 1806.

In 1933, the Church experienced one of its darkest hours; an event that must be directly linked to the demolition of the church 35 years later. Shortly after Hitler became German Chancellor, the German military industrial complex and the Nazi party choose the cradle of Prussian military as the "perfect" background to demonstrate power and unity.

On March 21, 1933, Hitler was sworn into office at the Garrison Church. The event was later called the Day of Potsdam.

Twelve years later on April 14/15 1945, the events that started at that unholy day eventually resulted in the Night of Potsdam, when a British air raid destroyed most of Potsdam's inner city. The church was not hit by the bombing, but caught fire when a neighboring building, used as an ammunitions depot blew up.

Votive Medal, commemorating the "Day of Potsdam" Illegally taped video of the church's demolition in 1968.
The church remained a ruin until 1968. It could have been rebuilt, but the East German party leadership made it their personal goal destroy German militarism root and branch. The demolition of the church in 1968 was used to underline the sincerity of their efforts.


In 1736, a Carillon consisting of 40 bells was installed in the church's bell tower. In 1796, Queen Louise requested her two favorite hymns to be played from the bell tower and for the next 149 years, the Carillon played "Bless the Lord" at the top and "Always be Faithful and True" at the bottom of every hour.

XXXXX Click the bells to listen to the hymns. XXXXX

The Carillon became world famous and "Always be Faithful and True" became Prussia's unofficial national anthem. But in the bombing night of April 14/15, 1945, the steeple caught fire. For about half an hour it kep burning, while the Carillon kept playing Prussia's favorite song until it fell to the ground with all its bells ringing for a very last time.

The disappeared in in 1968, but the memory of the Carillon never died. In 1987, West-German soldiers of the Iserlohn Paratroopers Garrison raised the funds to rebuild the Carillon. After German reunification, the soldiers presented the rebuilt Carillon to the town of Potsdam. It now stands at the in a park not too far from the original location of the church, again playing Prussia's favorite tunes.

XXXXXXXThe Memorial

For a long time, there was only a granite plaque on the sidewalk, reading, "This was the location of the Tower Chapel of the Garrison Church."

A replica of the church's gate, placed at its original location was one of the other few reminders of what was lost here (right).

Then, the cornerstone for a new church was laid on April 14, 2005, at the 60th anniversary of the British air raid that set the church on fire in 1945. The arch of the Chapel of the Holy Cross was rebuilt at its original location on what is for now just a sidewalk (left).

There is still a lot of controversy regarding the reconstruction, but if all goes as planned, the new church will be completed at the 500 anniversary of the reformation in 2017.

The plaque at the arch reads:

Built in 1732 to praise God and as a place to pray to soldiers and civilians alike. - A place of unity between Lutheran Church and Reformed Church in 1817. - Misused by Nazi propaganda in 1933. - Burned out by the fires of war in 1945. - Revived with renewed spirit in 1950. - Destroyed by ideological blindness in 1968. - It will be rebuilt by public spirit as a place for seekers and believers alike, as a center of peace of reconciliation and as the crowning of Potsdam's skyline.

The church was located in one of Potsdam's main streets, Breite Straße (Wide Street). Although much got lost in the war, the street still has some of the most beautiful baroque buildings in town.

If you came here from our "wide Street" site, or if you just want to check out the best the Baroque had to offer, click here or click the picture.

This site is part of our Potsdam, Germany site. Click the left turn sign to get back to the Potsdam Start Site.

If you came here from our Vacation 2010 sites, click the green traffic light to return.

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