St. Nicholas' Church Museum

Building history

Today's city of Berlin originally traces its origins back to two towns that sprang up around 1200 on either side of the Spree River: Cölln and Berlin. Cölln was first mentioned in a document in 1237, Berlin seven years later. The founders of the city are considered to be the Brandenburg margraves Johann (the) I and Otto (the) III, who ruled together from 1225. The St. Nicholas Church, with its massive substructure of fieldstone, is the only architectural monument that dates back to the early days of Berlin. Only the remains of a cemetery, which were discovered below the church foundations, are even older.

Late Romanesque basilica

At the beginning of the 13th century, there was already a small trading settlement on the site of today's St. Nicholas Church. It certainly included a church, probably made of wood. After the granting of the town charter, the Berlin community had a more splendid basilica built from fieldstones in the late Romanesque style. Only a few decades later, the nave was rebuilt into an early Gothic hall, while the choir remained unchanged.


Already in 1876, before the start of extensive construction work, the congregation of the St. Nicholas Church handed over some inventory pieces to the Märkisches Museum, including this weather vane. It had been made by a local blacksmith in 1519 and thus belongs to the oldest weathervanes in the Mark (Brandenburg). Its motif is interesting, which distinguishes it from other medieval weathervanes: a Madonna with a halo cut out as a silhouette, which was originally gilded.

Baroque high altar

On this copperplate engraving by Georg Busch from 1715 you can see a depiction of the Baroque high altar of the St. Nicholas Church, from which the figures placed in the choir room originate. Their creator was the sculptor Johann Christoph Döbel. The overall structure of the altar, as seen in the engraving, is the work of Samuel Theodor Gericke, as is the first main painting.

Altar sculptures

In Baroque fine art, it was common to depict the Christian virtues as female figures. They were a model of virtuous living for the faithful. The sculptures you see here, which belonged to the Baroque altar of St. Nicholas Church, represent the virtues of faith, love and hope, as well as faithfulness, humility and patience.

Triumph cross group

The mighty triumphal cross hanging at the transition from the nave to the choir room comes from the Marienkirche in Berlin. It was made in 1485, according to two manuscripts found in the head of the crucified. The body of the crucified was carved from lime wood and then painted. Christ stands out for its naturalistic figure.


The pulpit is the place from which the Word of God is proclaimed and interpreted. Since the Reformation, pulpits were placed in the center of the nave, because the word and its interpretation, i.e. the sermon, became the most important part of the liturgy. Well audible and visible, the pastor could speak to the congregation from here.

Kötteritz Epitaph

The memorial painting for the privy councillor Johann von Kötteritz and his wife Caritas was created in 1616. It shows the couple on their knees praying between Moses and John the Baptist. The depiction of Moses represents the 10 commandments of the Old Testament. However, on the tablets of the law shown here is the commandment to love your neighbor: "Love your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself." John the Baptist refers to Christ in the redemptive figure of the Lamb.

Zehdenick altar cloth

The altar cloth from the monastery of the Cistercian nuns in Zehdenick is one of the most important treasures of textile art in northeast Germany. It was created around 1300 and was probably made for the altar table of the monastery. The biblical depictions with embroidered stars made of linen are connected by a net-like fabric - called fillet. It gives this unique cloth a light and elegant effect.

Liturgical devices

There are numerous liturgical devices for worship, each with its own functions. They were usually artistically designed from noble materials. They often bore the inscription of their donors. Chalices and paten are the oldest and most important liturgical utensils of Christianity. During the celebration of the Lord's Supper, the chalice is filled with water and wine, and the host - the communion bread - is offered on the plate-like paten.

Burial place St. Nicholas

Since Christianization, the cemetery and the church belonged together and most of the faithful were buried in the consecrated churchyard in simple earth graves. Inside the church, only a few deceased found their final resting place. There one was especially close to the venerated relics of the saints and the masses for souls and intercessions, and redemption from purgatory seemed more quickly possible. Especially clergymen and noblemen, later also council families were buried in the Nikolai church. A grave in the church was worth a lot of money to them. Probably there were more than 500 earth graves here. The number of tombs is estimated at 50 to 100.

Schlüter portal

This richly decorated portal once led to the tomb of Daniel Mannlich and his wife Anna Catharina. Daniel Mannlich was the court goldsmith of the Great Elector for more than 20 years. The double portrait of him and his wife can be seen on the relief medallion above the portal. Both the medallion and the plaque with the inscription are replicas.

Child tin coffin

A grandchild of Chancellor Christian Distelmeyer was buried in this tin coffin. On the coffin lid is depicted the risen Christ. Several coats of arms decorate the coffin: at the head end the coat of arms of the Counts of Lynar and at the foot end the coat of arms of the von Lüderitz family. On the right you can see the coat of arms of the Distelmeyer family, on the left the coat of arms of the von Montot family.

Epitaph Matthias

The epitaph for the electoral court councilor Thomas Matthias and his wife Margaretha is one of the most unusual funerary monuments in St. Nicholas Church. It was created in the middle of the 16th century.

Nicholas Church songs: Nun ruhen alle Wälder

Baptismal font

The baptismal font of St. Nicholas Church dates back to 1563 and is made of tin plate laid over a wooden corpus. A lid made of tin, which could be pulled up on a chain, has not been preserved. The baptismal font is octagonal and resembles a chalice. In Christian symbolism, these shapes are emblematic of baptism and resurrection. It changed its place in the church interior several times over the centuries. Starting in 1996, the highly fragmented baptismal font was restored. Many lost parts could be reconstructed on the basis of old photographs. They can be easily recognized by their shiny surface. Today the baptismal font is back in its original place in the western part of the Nicholas Church.

Nikolai Quarter

Until its destruction in February 1945, the city quarter between today's banks of the Spree, Rathausstraße, Spandauer Straße and Mühlendamm was known as the Nikolaikirchenviertel. In 1979, the magistrate of East Berlin announced an urban planning competition for the reconstruction of the "Am Marx-Engels-Forum," as the area was named at the time. The building measures envisaged the reconstruction of the Nicholas Church and a historicizing development of its surroundings. The planning guidelines were the ground plan of Old Berlin and its mixture of functions.

Nicholas Church songs: Befiehl du deine Wege

Johann Crüger assigned a melody to the first printing of this text by Paul Gerhardt in 1653, which Bartholomäus Gesius first printed in 1603 in his collection "Enchiridium Etlicher Deutschen und Lateinischen Gesengen" on the basis of an older psalm song. In 1730, the melody found its final form through Georg Philipp Telemann. Incidentally, J.S. Bach used the melody "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" for this song text.The poet and theologian Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) came to Berlin around 1643 and was pastor at the Nikolaikirche in Berlin from 1657 to 1666.The trio phon-O-rama arranged Gesius' melody in the instrumentation: Martin Klingeberg - trumpet Gerhard Gschlössl - sousaphone Jan Leipnitz - drumsThe Nikolas Church in Berlin, which today belongs to the Berlin City Museum, is known worldwide as the place of origin of famous songs, in addition to its importance in the history of the city and its architecture.

Welcome to the Museum Nikolaikirche, the St. Nicolas Church Museum

Kraut Chapel: contemporary art fills the void - Link in German only

Here, empty spaces are filled with contemporary art. Nine artists will alternately present their interpretation of the lost painting. [Link]( in German only.

Schindler Chapel

The burial chapel of the Schindler family in the southern nave had stood empty since the reconstruction of St. Nicholas Church, and its sculptures were considered irrevocably destroyed. Nevertheless, it was possible to work out a reconstruction from the preserved fragments, which gives a vivid impression of the original state of the Christian resurrection scene. This also includes the lighting effects deliberately used by the sculptor, which immerse the work of art in warm yellow and cool blue tones. [Link]( in German only.