Humboldt University entrance

Brazingly walking through doors like you know where you are going and belong there is a very good characteristic to have – especially in Berlin. You can find the most interesting  places hidden behind doors and through hinterhöfe, all you need is a bit of chutzpah. Strolling past the Humboldt University the other day, I took the chance and waltzed through their illustrious doors, only to find the oldest academic building in Berlin, the Anatomische Theater der Tierarzneischule (Tieranatomisches Theater).


*Warning – Tieranatomisches Theater Info*


In 1787, King Friedrich Wilhelm II ordered by decree that  a veterinary school be established in Berlin, because “the damage, that resulted from the lack of good horse and cattle doctors, was of the saddest consequences for the country and the cavalry”.

The early classical building for the newly established institution was built by Carl Gotthard Langhans (who amongst many other great works built the Brandenburg Gate) in 1789 and was based on Palladio’s Rotonda in Vicenza, Italy. The glass covered opening at the top of the dome provided sunlight for the interior. The painter Christian Bernhard Rode adorned the walls between the windows of the dome base with images of country people and animals in grisaille style (painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey). The dissection table, along with the carcasses could be transported to the top through a hole in the floor. The lectures in the  Tieranatomisches Theater officially began on the 1st of July, 1790.

Tieranatomisches Theater Humboldt University Berlin

old and new facade Tieranatomisches Theater

Tieranatomisches Theater old facade

The Veterinary School  was extended in 1839-1840 by its Director Johann Christoph Albers with a late-classical three-story building (which still stands today). In 1934, the Tierärztliche Hochschule (as it was later known as) was incorporated into the University of Berlin as the Veterinärmedizinische Fakultät and the building was used up until the late 1990s for lectures and other events. Over the years, necessary renovations had been postponed and put off – which resulted in the building falling into serious decay.

Tieranatomisches Theater door

skull cabinet

lecture hall entrance

Restorations of the historic facades with assistance of the Deutschen Stiftung Denkmalschutz – began in 2005, and after 7 years of work, the Tieranatomisches Theater reopened its doors on the 15th October, 2012. The building is to be used in the future as a lecture hall and venue (as a “theater of knowledge”).

It’s a slightly odd feeling strolling through the HU Campus – especially since the Security Guard gave me a few weird looks when I walked through the entry hall.  The Tieranatomisches Theater is hard to miss. When you reach the courtyard you’ll spot the small building with the small dome instantly. The entrance isnt clearly marked, and only when you arrive at the wrong door do you realize that you need to walk around the building again.

Tieranatomisches Theater entrance view

full view Tieranatomisches Theater

Tieranatomisches Theater full view back

The Tieranatomisches Theater is open to the public thanks to an exhibition on the ground floor about its renovation. There are a few interesting photos and historic pieces on display – along with some pickled animals and skulls.

As you walk in a circle through the exhibition (it is quite short) you end up at the bottom of a staircase which leads you to the entrance of the lecture hall. Despite having reopened in October, the place still smells strongly of paint, it’s not potent enough to be unpleasant, but it feels like they could air out the building a bit more.

Tieranatomisches Theater dome

Tieranatomisches Theater grisaille painting

double skull

It’s a curious thought, walking around the upper seats with the image in your head that a few rows down below they used to dissect horses and other animals – thankfully its just the smell of fresh paint going through your nose and not that of animal corpses.

Tieranatomisches Theater stairs

theater seats

Tieranatomisches Theater

The exhibition in the Tieranatomisches Theater is on until the 14th of April 2013 – and then the doors will close again for the public.

The Campus of the Humboldt University and the Tieranatomisches Theater are just a short walk away from the U-Bahn station Oranienburger Tor, and I can only recommend paying them both a visit. It’s not often that you get the chance to snoop around such a historic and beautifully restored building. The Humboldt University even has guided tours for €5 through the campus, which might be interesting for all those who want to see more of the historic University.


Tieranatomisches Theater – Humboldt Universität

Luisenstr. 56  10117 Berlin

Opening Times: Tuesday – Saturday, 14- 18pm

How to get there: U 6 Oranienburger Tor; Bus 147, 157




  1. Brilliant text and even better photos! I absolutely must go there.

  2. Thanks! Go visit it quick – as the exhibition ends on the 14th, and im note sure when its going to be open to the public again

  3. Sounds extremely cheesy, but your pics ‘transport’ me to a different place, to the place you are, time and time again. Credit where credit’s due.

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  5. I’m pretty sure that round “trap door” in the floor in some of your pictures would open and allow the cadavers to rise up, like Frankenstein’s monster on a table, into the middle of the theatre room. Maybe you cant access it now but you could a few years ago, unless I am dreaming.

    PS – You should date your articles, considering Berlin’s ephemeral nature.

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