St. Augustinus

Berlin, Germany | C.1928

Photo Credit: Michael Schulz

Modern for the time it was created, St. Augustinus – or St. Augustine – is a Catholic Church in Berlin, Germany. Led by architects Josef Bachem and Heinrich Horvatin, it was designed in the Late Expressionist style in 1928.

The history of St. Augustine is intimately intertwined with the nearby Catholic parish of St. Afra. The parish of St. Afra was founded in 1903, and the congregation grew so rapidly that a new community broke off and St. Augustine emerged. However, it wouldn’t become an independent parish until 15 years later.

The two parishes continued to share the Church of St. Afra until strained relationships between the two congregations grew due to the limited amount of space. Ultimately in 1925, St. Augustine’s first pastor Carl Pelz decided to build his own church and organized an architectural competition. Ultimately the unique design of Bachem and Heinrich was selected.

The duo’s vision incorporated clear forms and sparse ornamentation associated with Late Expressionism. It scarcely resembled the perception of a church at the time – which were commonly designed in decorative neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles. The design was so appalling to some that the archbishop refused to inaugurate the church, leaving the Bishop to complete the consecration.

Luckily the design was embraced by the community. Its interior contains a breathtaking hall with domed vaults and niches of side altars and confessionals in beveled corners. Columned choir spaces on either side of the altar are anchored by an organ beneath a large round arch. A tower with four bronze church bells is situated on the south side of the building is used to signal times of worship.

The construction of the Berlin Wall would ultimately physically separate St. Augustine and St. Afra. Over the next two decades, St. Augustine would struggle to retain parishioners and eventually dissolved. Today, the church belongs to the parish of the Holy Family, yet the name St. Augustine is still emblazoned on the building.

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