The research in Berlin is carried out by Dr. Susanne Lanwerd (Ruhr-Universität Bochum). It focuses on a setting and two sites in the area of Berlin-Kreuzberg and Berlin-Mitte:

  • The setting around Engelbecken (Kreuzberg) with the church buildings of St Michael I and St Michael II, as well as the Alevi centre.
  • The site of the Buddhistisches Tor.
  • The future construction site of the ‘House of One’.

In Berlin-Kreuzberg, sacred buildings are focused around the Engelbecken (literally ‘angel’s pool’ or ‘basin of angel(s)’ in English). The Engelbecken is a unique urban and historical area: Built in the 19th century for water transport of the growing German capital, it was one of the very spots of the Berlin Wall from the 1960s onwards. In fact, the Cold War division of Berlin turned the basin itself into a no man’s land between East and West.

Due to the historical situation of the Cold War, the Roman-Catholic church parish of St Michael was separated into an Eastern and Western part. Both sub-parishes maintained buildings on each side of the wall. While the historical church building remained in East Berlin, a new parish building was built in the West Berlin part of Kreuzberg. The historical church building was constructed by the Prussian architect August Soller in 1851. The church is a successful blend of classical and medieval architecture and regarded as a good implementation of the style of his famous teacher Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Focusing Roman-Catholic buildings around the Engelbecken has a special meaning, since Roman-Catholic Christians have always been a minority in the Protestant dominated Prussian bild_5_kleincapital of Berlin ever since. Most of them migrated to Berlin as workers from Silesia in the 19th century.

But not only the Roman-Catholic minority is part of the religious setting around Engelbecken. Since the 1960s, Kreuzberg has become the main area for Turkish migrants. In close distance to the Berlin Wall around Engelbecken, a Cem house or Cemevi was founded by the Alevi community. The religious history of the Engelbecken area is interwoven with migration processes and new forms of material representation of religion of different eras.

St. Michael Kirchen – in front and behind the former Berlin Wall, Berlin Kreuzberg & Mitte (Lanwerd, July 2014)

Only minutes of walking distance away is the historical city centre of Medieval Berlin. Transformed since the 18th century, destroyed in the Second World War and rebuild in a Socialist style of architecture during the time of Cold War, today the centre has only a few buildings that date back before 1800. On the site where the old Lutheran Petrikirche (St. Peter’s church) was situated, a new religious building is about to emerge: the ‘House of One’. It is planned as a house of prayer for the three monotheistic religions and will bring a church, a mosque, and a synagogue together under one roof . The Iconic Religion Berlin team includes this site into the study, since it sheds light on contemporary ideas of religious space.

Both residents of the sites as well as religious leaders and passers-by have been interviewed, while the sites were photographed by Tania Reinicke, Nina Gschlößl, and Henriette Kriese (all from Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, Germany).


Sites of Berlin

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Engelbecken, installation of illuminated ballons for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, Berlin Kreuzberg (Lanwerd, November 2014)


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Werkstatt der Kulturen, exhibition FOKUS RELIGION, Berlin Neukölln (Lanwerd, November 2014)


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Shoe shop, displayed advertisement poster ‘I am atheist’, Berlin Mitte (Plessentin, October 2014)



Tempörary Café “Where is Jesus?”, Berlin Kreuzberg (Plessentin, October 2014)



Satyam Restaurant with temple, Berlin Kreuzberg (Lanwerd, July 2014)



Kulturhaus Dussmann, window display, Friedrichstrasse, Berlin Mitte (Lanwerd, June 2014)



The Studio: Part of the “‘I‘m not afraid of anything’! Portraits of young Europeans”, Museum Europäischer Kulturen, Berlin (Lanwerd, April 2014)


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Views on the Fatih Islamic centre and the tower of the Roman-Catholic St. Marien church, Berlin Kreuzberg (Lanwerd, March 2014)