The harmonious Gendarmenmarkt is known as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It was created at the end of the seventeenth century as a market place, the Linden Markt.
The current name is derived from the Gens d’Armes, an elite Prussian mounted regiment that was quartered here from 1736 to 1773. In 1777, the square was redeveloped after plans by Georg Christian Unger.
Gendarmenmarkt is now a quiet place with three landmark buildings: the Französischer Dom (French cathedral), Deutscher Dom (German cathedral) and the Konzerthaus (concert hall). In the middle of the square is a statue of Friedrich Schiller, a famous German poet.
The Konzerthaus or Concert Hall is the most recent building on Gendarmenmarkt. It was built in 1821 as the Schauspielhaus by Berlin’s famous architect, Karl-Friedrich Schinkel, who around the same time also remodeled the Berlin Cathedral. The Konzerthaus was built on the ruins of the National Theater, which was destroyed by fire in 1817. Schinkel reused the columns and some outside walls from this 1802 building.
Like the other buildings on Gendarmenmarkt, the Konzerthaus was badly damaged during the Second World War. The reconstruction, which was finished in 1984, turned the theater into a concert hall. It is now home to the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
Französischer Dom (French Cathedral)
The Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom are two seemingly identical churches, situated opposite each other on either side of the Konzerthaus.
The oldest of the two is the Französischer Dom (French Cathedral). It was built between 1701 and 1705 by the Huguenots, a religious community. Persecuted in France, they sought refuge in Protestant Berlin.
The rather modest church was modeled after the Huguenot church in Charenton, destroyed in 1688. In 1785 the tower and porticoes, designed by Carl von Gontard, were added next to the existing building. This made the church look like a twin sister of the Deutscher Dom across the square.
The Französischer Dom now contains a Huguenot museum, a restaurant on the top floor and a viewing platform.
Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral)
The Deutscher Dom or German Cathedral, on the south side of Gendarmenmarkt, is a pentagonal structure that was designed by Martin Grünberg. It was built in 1708 by Giovanni Simonetti and modified in 1785 after a design by Carl von Gontard, who added the domed tower.
The Deutscher Dom was completely destroyed by fire in 1945. It wasn’t rebuilt until 1993 and reopened in 1996 as a museum with exhibits on German history.
The monument in front of the Konzerthaus shows a statue of Friedrich Schiller, one of Germany’s most famous poets. He is above all known for providing the lyrics to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the European anthem.
The marble monument was originally created in 1871 by Reinhold Begas as the Schillerbrunnen (Schiller Fountain). It shows the figure of Schiller holding a scroll in his left hand. Below him sit four allegorical female figures who represent Poetry, Drama, History and Philosophy. In 1936 the Gendarmenmarkt was transformed into a parade ground so the fountain was disassembled.
After the Second World War Gendarmenmarkt ended up in East Berlin. The allegorical statues were also in East Berlin but the statue of Schiller was located in West Berlin, in the Lietzenseepark. In 1986 the statue was returned to East Berlin and two years later the monument was reinstalled at its original place on Gendarmenmarkt. The fountain however was never reactivated.