In memory of martyrs: a 1960s architectural gem

Maria Regina Martyrum, Berlin: a golden sculpture on the marble facade of this modernist memorial church

Built to commemorate a harrowing history, there's an unsurprising austerity to the Maria Regina Martyrum, a Catholic church located beyond Berlin's beaten track on the edge of Charlottenburg.

Yet this little-known place of worship is also one of the city's great architectural highlights: an epic Gesamtkunstwerk in which sculpture, art and architecture are united to stunning effect.

Maria Regina Martyrum: one of Berlin's great architectural achievements from the 1960s

The ensemble was constructed in 1963 in memory of those who died actively resisting the Nazis - many of whom perished at nearby Plötzensee prison.

Construction of the Maria Regina Martyrum complex in the early 1960s, Berlin

A tribute to courage, as well as a mournful recollection of atrocity, the muted, angular forms of the complex are relieved by striking artworks: a single golden sculpture on the main marble facade and a jagged, jarring Stations of the Cross running the length of a courtyard wall.

The stations of the Cross occupy a wall alongside the Maria Regina Martyrum church, Berlin

Inside, the crypt contains memorials to Catholics executed for acts of opposition, while the dramatically lit upper chapel is decorated with a monumental fresco and impressively sculptural organ.

Interior of the upper church, Maria Regina Martyrum, Berlin, showing the monumental mural.
A sculptural organ design at the Maria Regina Martyrum, Berlin

The site harbours an additional surprise: an adjoining Carmelite convent includes what must be Berlin's only store staffed entirely by nuns.

You may need to pop in to request access to the main building, and it's worth knowing, too, that the Sisters provide tours of the church (details below).

While the history behind Maria Regina Martyrum is undeniably sombre, it's a powerful, inspiring memorial to those who died opposing the Third Reich.


Further facts

Just yards away at Heckerdamm 226, the Evangelische Gemeindezentrum houses its own tribute to those who died at Plötzensee: a chapel featuring an impressive, multi-panelled painting by artist Alfred Hrdlicka known as the 'Plötzensee Dance of Death'.

And of course, the infamous prison itself is also nearby, its former execution chamber now a memorial and information centre.

See also:

A church built by the Nazis
A white cube church
Divine shopping at Ave Maria

An extraordinary trio of churches

Memorial church Maria Regina Martyrum: Heckerdamm 232, 13627 Berlin.

For church tours contact or tel: 030/364 117-0

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