111 Places in Berlin – Nr. 112: St.Konstantin und Helena Kirche in Berlin

Russian Orthodox Cross and Moon ontop of the St. Konstantin und Helena Church in Berlin

Russian Orthodox Cross and Moon ontop of the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche in Berlin

No, that 112 is not a mistake. While I love the 111 Places in Berlin Book, I think it misses out on some true hidden gems, so I decided to add on to the list and share some wonderful hidden spots in (and around Berlin) which I think are worth exploring. After my (and several subsequent) visit(s) to the Tadschikische Teestube,  I decided to continue on my quest to visit all the 111 Places in Berlin**. I used to live up north in Reinickendorf – an area which at best most people would have only know of or seen through the window of the TXL bus on the way to the airport – when by accident I cam across this little gem of Berlin History – the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche.

Nestled in between an Industrial estate and a busy autobahn you find the Russian Orthodox Cemetery church of St. Konstantin und Helena.

Most people wouldn’t have heard of it. And even if they had, they sure wouldn’t venture out to an Industrial Estate In Tegel to see it.

St. Konstantin und Helena Church in Berlin hidden behind the trees

St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche in Berlin hidden behind the trees

Have a look at the rest of the Pictures in the Flickr Album St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche

Quite a few would be surprised to find out that the Russians in Berlin have a long history that goes back far beyond their  (and the allied) occupation of Germany . The 2mcemetery of the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche was founded in 1893 by the Brotherhood of the Holy Prince (Fürst) Wladimir Bratstwo to offer the the many exile Russians in Berlin a suitable Church and cemetery to be buried (as they had been previously been laid to rest in the protestant cemeteries). Tsar Alexander III shipped over 4000 tons of Russian soil  so that according to orthodox tradition, the dead may laid to rest in home soil.

The founding stone of  the Church (which was designed by the German architect Albert Bohm) was laid on the 3rd of June, 1893 and the construction of the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche was completed a year later.

 

Front View of the St. Konstantin und Helena Church

Though this is the front view, the entrance to the Chruch is located in the back

After the October Revolution (the one in 1917 in Russia which brought the Communist Party to power) , Berlin saw a large influx of Russian immigrants which consisted mostly out of Nobility, High Ranking Military Officials, Artists and Intellectuals , and while strolling past the graves of the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche you ll see such (un)familiar names as KropotkinGolizyn, Eisenstein and Daschkow. While strolling past the graves one should take note of the memorial dedicated to  Michail Glinka, the famous composer who had lived and died in Berlin, but is actually buried in St. Petersburg now.

 

The Michail Glinka Memorial at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Berlin, Germany

The memorial of the great russian composer M.Glinka in the Cemetery of the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche. Constructed by the military commandant of Soviet sector in Berlin in 1947

Its also worth taking a closer look at the entrance gate of the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche, which houses 9 bells (the oldest dating back to 1898) which were stolen by the Wehrmacht from the Soviet Union. At the end of the war the Russians secured them, and now they hang atop of the gate as a silent memorial.

 

The 9 Bells of the St. Konstantin und Helena Russian Orthodox Church Gate in Berlin ,Germany

The 9 Bells of the St. Konstantin und Helena Church Gate

Sadly I must say, despite it having the status of a protected cultural heritage, (Denkmalschutz) the cemetery of the St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche is in quite a  state of disrepair. Many of the original graves lay crumbling, overgrown by weeds – and even newer ones dating back only a few years seem to by eyeing the same fate.

 

A resting headstone at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Berlin, Germany

A resting headstone at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Berlin, Germany

Broken chain of a memorial at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Berlin

Broken chain of a memorial at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Berlin

The St. Konstantin und Helena Kirche itself is very small. There is about enough space to house 20 or so people inside and the smell of the traditional Beeswax candles is slightly overpowering. There are 2 portraits of the Virgin Mary inside which are worth noting, and a rather large samovar (traditional tea/water kettle) in the corner. Ive visited the Church twice – the first time I had left my Camera at home, and the second time the Church was closed (and I only had a small point and shoot camera with me. Seems like I’m destined to venture out there again for a third time and get some photos from the inside of the church (and possibly taking up A Year in Berlin‘s offer on that slice of cake).

 

German Plaque of the St. Konstantin und Helena Church in Berlin

German Plaque of the St. Konstantin und Helena Church in Berlin

Russian Plaque of the St. Konstantin und Helena Church in Berlin

Russian Plaque of the St. Konstantin und Helena Church in Berlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The St.Konstantin und Helena Kirche, thanks to some wealthy donors, was renovated in 2005 – making the 40 minute ubahn ride well worth the trip.

Heres a Link to the current flickr album with some more picturesof the St.Konstantin und Helena Kirche

St.Konstantin und Helena Kirche

Russisch-Orthodoxer Friedhof Tegel

Wittestraße 37
13509  Berlin

U6 –  Holzhauser Str 

(The Church should be open everyday between 8 and 16? – with an active service held on Sundays)

**A few weeks ago I bought the wonderful book “111 Orte in Berlin Die Man Gesehen Haben Muss” (*Achtung Deutsch!) by Lucia Jay von Seldeneck, Carolin Huder, and Verena Eidel in the hopes that it would offer me some new curious places to visit in Berlin. The Tittle of this post (and subsequent post) stems from the tittle of the aforementioned book. Over time I will hopefully visit all 111 (and more) of these places in Berlin.