Sunday, 6 June 2021

The plans that betray
the original ideals
in early football clubs

A panorama of Villa Park from the Trinity Road Stand (Photograph: Harry Vale/Wikipedia)

Patrick Comerford

I live in a house divided. Since my teens, I have been an Aston Villa supporter, for no other reason than that Villa Park was the nearest ground to Lichfield; one of my sons is a lifelong fan of Newcastle United – for no other reason than as a young child he was attracted by the starkness of their black-and-white strip.

We have exchanged banter this season, as Aston Villa hovered around the middle of the table, never quite making into the top flight, while Newcastle eventually managed to avoid relegation.

On occasions, we have gone together to fixtures in England and Ireland home games in Dublin; we are ‘ABU’ supporters (‘Anyone But United’); and we have shared the same criticism of recent plans to create a ‘European Super League.’

Not that either Aston Villa or Newcastle were ever going to be considered for any new ‘super league.’ But the notions that football clubs are commodities to be traded and that ticketholders are customers and not fans or loyal supporters, eat away in insidious ways at many of the principles that undergird local support for local teams.

Fans saw the scheme as the ‘ultimate betrayal.’ Supporters of the ‘English Six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – were vocal in their protests.

Chelsea supporters already resent the Russian owner Roman Abramovich, an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Manchester United fans feel scorned by the American Glazer family, who secured their loans to buy the club against its assets, including Old Trafford.

Aston, the home station for Villa Park … it had an early attraction as the first club on the line from Lichfield to Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

***

Perhaps Manchester United fans went over the top when they invaded the pitch at Old Trafford; they certainly went beyond peaceful protest when police were injured and the teams’ hotel was besieged.

The cancellation of the ‘super league’ has been hailed as a victory for fans. But it may yet turn out to be nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory. The owners of the big clubs seem more interested in profit margins and the money earned through pay-to-view television, advertising, gambling and merchandising.

No-one failed to notice the irony of Boris Johnson pretending to take an interest in the plight of mainly working-class fans. That irony was compounded by the fact that the Prime Minister who made Brexit his trademark was opposed to taking the elite clubs out of the give-and-take of a league system that brings together the strong, the mediocre and the weak.

Some commentators also link Johnson with a Saudi bid to buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley of Sports Direct. There are objections to a foreign state becoming a major stakeholder in a very integral part of English identity, and protesters accuse Saudi Arabia of abuses of human rights, including the murder of the US-based Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

The CIA links the murder to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the Premier League is worried the bid could make the Crown Prince the effective owner of the club.

Saint James’ Park remains the name of Newcastle United’s home ground (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The church origins of
so many English clubs


This is not the first time for something like this in English football. In the 1990s, the top clubs broke away to form the Premier League.

But all of this is light years away from the origins of many English clubs, that can be traced to works kick-abouts and the ‘social gospel’ ideas of many Victorian parishes and churches, keen to provide facilities that offered healthy exercise and social activities for young men and boys in the rapidly expanding, industrial swaths of England.

Aston Villa, for example, was formed in 1874 by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Handsworth, which is now part of Birmingham, and played its first match against the local Aston Brook Saint Mary’s rugby team, formed in a Church of England parish church that was demolished in the 1970s.

Aston Villa was one of a dozen teams that competed in the inaugural Football League in 1888, and one of the club’s directors, William McGregor (1846-1911), was the league’s founder and chair of the Football Association Aston Villa became as the most successful English club in the Victorian era, winning five League titles and three FA Cups by 1901.

For 40 years, McGregor worshipped at Wheeler Street Congregational Church in Aston. The Revd WG Percival said the best thing about him ‘was not so much the genial, kindly, honest sportsman, but the Christian behind it all.’ When he died, McGregor was buried in the churchyard at Saint Mary’s, Handsworth.

The former Hibernian Military School played a role in the formation of Bohemian AFC (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

***

Aston Villa’s arch-rivals are Birmingham City, with games between the two clubs – first played in 1879 – known as the ‘Second City Derby.’ Birmingham City was formed by members of Holy Trinity Church choir and Saint Andrew’s, the name of the club’s home ground, also points to early church links.

Other teams in the region include Wolverhampton Wanderers, another founding club in the Football League in 1888. Wolves were formed as Saint Luke’s FC in 1877 by John Baynton and John Brodie, two schoolboys at Saint Luke’s Church School in Blakenhall, when they were presented with a football by their headmaster, Harry Barcroft.

Newcastle United, the focus of division in this household, plays at Saint James’ Park, another name reflecting the early links many clubs had with local churches. To this day, Southampton glories in the nickname of ‘The Saints.’ They were founded from Saint Mary’s Parish, which gives the stadium its name.

Manchester City (1880) owes it origins to the Revd Arthur Connell of Saint Mark’s Church and his efforts to regenerate the former rural district of West Gorton. There are similar church origins for many other clubs.

In Scotland, Glasgow Celtic was established in 1888 by several Roman Catholic parishes trying to raise money to help feed poor children in the city. Sadly, the divisions between supporters In Liverpool and Glasgow perpetuate sectarian divisions among early Irish immigrants.

Watching an Irish home game in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

An Anglican bishop who
played soccer at Croke Park


I wonder whether there are similar origins for Saint Patrick’s Athletic in Dublin. It is said the colours of Drogheda United represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

The original founder clubs of the League of Ireland were Shelbourne, Bohemians, Saint James’s Gate, Jacobs, Olympia, Frankfort, Dublin United and YMCA, some with obvious links with the Church of Ireland or seen at the time as ‘culturally Protestant.’

Bohemian Football Club, the second oldest League of Ireland club in continuous existence, began when a small group from Bells Academy in North Great George’s Street joined students from the Hibernian Military School in the Phoenix Park to form a club in 1890.

The founding secretary, Andrew Philip Magill (18), was a Protestant, and the founding secretary Paul Bell (17) was a Protestant. The name Bohemian AFC reflected the club’s difficulties in finding a suitable venue, wandering between the Phoenix Park, Jones Road and Whitehall, until their move to Dalymount in Phibsboro in 1901.

Jacobs Football Club was based in Crumlin. In the 1919-1920 season, during the Irish War of Independence, a group of Jacobs players invaded the dressing room of their opponents, Olympia, after a Leinster Senior Cup game. Two Jacobs players and an Olympia player were suspended when it emerged that Jacobs had been taunted for ‘playing soldiers’ in their team.

Bishop John Curtis (1880-1962) … the Irish missionary bishop who played soccer at Croke Park

***

The United Churches Football League was formed in 1948 to facilitate Saturday-only football opportunities. It was founded at a meeting in Saint Mark’s Parish Hall in Westland Row, chaired by Canon George Hobson, but its origins can be traced back to the 1920s, when an early league was formed by former members of the Boys’ Brigade in the Old Boys Union.

Early clubs with links with Church of Ireland parishes included Saint Paul’s, North Strand, Saint Marks, Saint George’s and Clontarf. Key figures in the league included Canon Robin Armstrong, later Rector of Dun Laoghaire, who was an amateur international player while with Bohs, George Fitch of Kildare Place School, and Jim Carroll of Hibernian Marine.

Another renowned player was John Curtis (1880-1962), the last Irish Anglican bishop to work in China. In his late teens, Curtis played at inside-left for Bohs in 1897-1898, when Oliver St John Gogarty played at outside-left, and they won the Leinster Senior Cup. He played again when Bohs won the Leinster Senior Cup the following season.

In 1899-1900, Bohemians got to the Irish Cup final against Cliftonville after John Curtis scored a vital goal in the semi-final against Belfast Celtic at Jones Road, now Croke Park. But Bohs lost that final 2-1 in Grosvenor Park in Belfast. His two younger brothers, Edward (Ned) and Harry, also played for Bohs.

His career became the stuff of schoolboy adventure stories and comic strips: after the Japanese invaded China at the start of World War II, he was a prisoner of war in Shanghai. He stayed in China as a missionary bishop after the revolution, living in Hangzhou until he was forced to leave in 1950.

Clarendon House, Rathgar Road … the childhood home of Bishop John Curtis (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This two-page feature was first published in June 2021 in the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough)

Sunday intercessions on
6 June 2021, Trinity I

‘Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me’ … the cell where Martin Niemöller was held in isolation in Sachsenhausen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

‘All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord’ (Psalm 138: 5):

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the world, for the kingdoms and the nations of the world,
and for our own country, Ireland, north and south.

We pray for justice, mercy and peace,
for an end to violence, hatred and oppression.

We give thanks for all who are responding
to the pandemic crisis and the cyber attack …

We pray too for the people of India and Nepal,
and the people of Myanmar …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’ (Mark 3: 35):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may love one another as sisters and brothers.

We pray for our Bishop, Kenneth,
our neighbouring churches and parishes,
and people of faith everywhere,
that we may be blessed in our variety and diversity.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma),
and the Archbishop of Myanmar,
Stephen Than Myint Oo, Bishop of Yangon.

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh,
and for Bishop Ferran Glenfield.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer this week,
We pray for all who remain vulnerable and anxious as we emerge from lockdown.

We pray for our own parishes and people …
We give thanks for all involved in reopening this church …
and we pray for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘O Lord, your love endures for ever’ (Psalm 138: 9):

Holy Spirit,
we pray for one another …
we pray for those we love and those who love us …
we pray for our families, friends and neighbours …
and we pray for those we promised to pray for …

We pray for those who feel rejected and discouraged …
we pray for all in need and those who seek healing …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Ann … Daphne … Sylvia … Ajay …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
for all who are broken-hearted,
trying to come to terms with the loss of loved ones,
for the Downes, Smyth and Doherty families …

We remember and give thanks for those who have died …
especially Ena Downes … Joe and Linda Smyth … Catherine Doherty …
May their memories be a blessing …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) on the First Sunday after Trinity:

Almighty God, king of kings,
You lift the lowly and cast down the proud.
May we work in your image to create a fairer world,
Filled with peace and justice.

Merciful Father …

How the things we do today
reflect our values and shape
the future we are creating

‘But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property (Mark 3: 27) … Kilkenny Castle at night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 6 June 2021

The First Sunday After Trinity (Trinity I)

11 am:
The Parish Eucharist

Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry

The Readings:
I Samuel 8: 4-11, 16-20; Psalm 138; Mark 3: 20-35.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons’ (Mark 3: 22) … a gargoyle at Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

TS Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral is based on the events leading up to the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, on 29 December 1170.

Becket was murdered at the behest of King Henry II, and the play focuses on Becket’s internal struggles. As he reflects on the martyrdom he faces, his tempters arrive, like Job’s comforters, and they question the archbishop about his plight, echoing in many ways Christ’s temptations in the wilderness.

The first tempter offers Becket the prospect of physical safety. The second tempter offers him power, riches and fame in serving the king so that he can disarm the powerful and help the poor. The third tempter suggests the archbishop should form an alliance with the barons and seize a chance to resist the king.

Finally, the fourth tempter urges Thomas to look to the glory of martyrdom.

Becket responds to all his tempters and specifically addresses the immoral suggestions of the fourth tempter at the end of the first act:

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason
.

Saint Mark’s Gospel is very sparse in its account of the story of Christ’s temptations in the wilderness – just two verses (see Mark 1: 12-13). In the much fuller accounts given by Saint Matthew (Matthew 4: 1-11) and Saint Luke (Luke 4: 1-13), Christ is tempted to do the right things for the wrong reason.

What would be wrong with Christ turning stones into bread (see Matthew 4: 3; Luke 4: 3-4) to feed the hungry?

What would be wrong with Christ showing miraculous powers (see Matthew 4: 3; Luke 4: 9) to point to the majesty of God (see Matthew 4: 4; Luke 4: 10-11)?

What would be wrong with Christ taking command of the kingdoms of this world (see Matthew 4: 9; Luke 4: 5-7) to usher in justice, mercy and peace?

Let us not deceive ourselves, these are real temptations. For those who are morally driven there is always a real temptation to do the right thing but to do it for the wrong reason.

In today’s Gospel reading, Christ is challenged in two fundamental ways. He is challenged about whether his work is the work of God or the work of the Devil (Mark 3: 22), and he is challenged to think about what his family thinks about what he is doing (Mark 3: 32).

This theme of temptation and power is also at the heart of our first reading (I Samuel 8: 4-11, [12-15], 16-20 [11: 14-15]). The elders of Israel want a king, and go to Samuel, claiming their motivation is to be ‘like other nations’ (I Samuel 8: 5). But the real reason was a power grab, motivated by a loss of faith in the power of God.

We all know Ireland benefitted in recent years from wanting to be a modern nation, like our neighbours. But that ambition turned to greed, and we were surprised when greed turned to economic collapse. We had given in to the temptation to do what appeared to be the right thing for the wrong reason.

Too often when I am offered the opportunity to do the right thing, to make a difference in this society, in this world, I ask: ‘What’s in this for me?’

When I am asked to speak up for those who are marginalised or oppressed, this should be good enough reason in itself. But then I wonder how others are going to react – react not to the marginalised or oppressed, but to me.

How often have I seen what is the right thing to do, but have found an excuse that I pretend is not of my own making?

How often do I think of doing the right thing only if it is going to please my family members or please my neighbours?

How often do I use the Bible to justify not extending civil rights to others?

How often do I use obscure Bible texts to prop up my own prejudices, forgetting that any text in the Bible, however clear or obscure it may be, depends, in Christ’s own words, on the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love one another.

We can convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing when we are doing it for the wrong reason. A wrong decision taken once, thinking it is doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason, is not just an action in the present moment. It forms habits and it shapes who we are, within time and eternity.

The Revd Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), a prominent German Lutheran pastor and an outspoken opponent of Hitler, spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He once said:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.


What we do today or refuse to do today, even if we think it is the right thing to do but we do it for the wrong reasons, reflects how we have formed ourselves habitually in the past, is an image of our inner being in the present, and has consequences for the future we wish to shape.

As TS Eliot writes:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past
(‘Burnt Norton’).

How is the Church to recover its voice and speak up for the oppressed and the marginalised, not because it is fashionable or politically correct today, but because it is the right thing to do today and for the future?

Surely all our actions must depend on those two great commandments – to love God and to love one another.

As the Post-Communion Prayer today reminds us, ‘May our Communion strengthen us in faith, build us up in hope, and make us grow in love; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.’

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons’ (Mark 3: 22) … an image at La Lonja de la Seda in Valencia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Mark 3: 20-35 (NRSVA):

20 The crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ – 30 for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ 33 And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past’ (TS Eliot, ‘Burnt Norton’) … summer returns to Cross in Hand Lane, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you:
Mercifully accept our prayers
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature
we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace,
that in the keeping of your commandments
we may please you, both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal Father,
we thank you for nourishing us
with these heavenly gifts.
May our communion strengthen us in faith,
build us up in hope,
and make us grow in love;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations’ (I Samuel 8: 5) … a door-knocker on a front door in Cahir, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Hymns:

522, In Christ there is no east or west (CD 30)
662, Those who would valour see (CD 38)

‘In Christ there is no east or west’ (Hymn 522) … confusing road signs in Tsesmes near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.



Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
8, Berlin Cathedral

The Berliner Dom, popularly known as Berlin Cathedral … it was never the seat of a bishop or the centre of a diocese (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week my photographs are of cathedrals in European capitals or former capitals. Today is the First Sunday after Trinity (Trinity I), and my photographs this morning (6 June 2021) are from the Berliner Dom, popularly known as Berlin Cathedral, although it was never the seat of a bishop or the centre of a diocese.

The Berliner Dom is officially a parish church and a collegiate church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Berliner Dom or Berlin Cathedral stands on Museum Island in the middle of the River Spree. With its central copper dome rising to 98 metres, it stands out above the park before it and the surrounding streets.

This neo-baroque cathedral was designed by Julius Raschdorff (1823-1914), one of the leading German architects of the second half of the 19th century. The magnificent dome is one of the main landmarks in Berlin’s cityscape. Inside, the cathedral attracts a constant flow of visitors with its elaborate decorative and ornamental designs and the dome that offers panoramic views across the city.

Although technically it is not a cathedral, for it is neither the seat of a bishop nor the principal church in a diocese, the churches on this site have been known as the Dom (cathedral) down through the centuries, and it was once the court church of the Hohenzollern dynasty, the rulers of Prussia and later the German Emperors.

Officially this is a ‘Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church’ and has the status of a parish church. Its history dates back to the 15th century, when the chapel of the new royal city palace was elevated to the status of a collegiate church.

In 1451, the Prince-Elector Frederick II Irontooth of Brandenburg moved from Brandenburg on Havel to a new city palace on the southern part of what is now Museum Island and which then also had a large chapel.

After a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a visit to Rome on the way back home in 1454, Frederick Irontooth had the chapel raised to the status of a parish church, and richly endowed it with relics and altars. Pope Nicholas V ordered Stephan Bodecker, then Prince-Bishop of Brandenburg, to consecrate the chapel to Saint Erasmus of Formiae.

In 1465, the church became collegiate church with an elaborate dedication and endowed with income to support a college of eight prebendaries or canons Ever since, it has been known as a collegiate church (Domstift) or cathedral church (Domkirche).

In 1536, the Dominicans or Black Friars were forced to move from the area to a new house in Brandenburg and their church was assigned to an enlarged collegiate church with 12 prebendaries or canons, From 1545, on the electoral family of Hohenzollern also used the church as their burial place.

Withn the Reformatio, the Elector Joachim II Hector became a Lutheran in 1539, and the collegiate church became a Lutheran church. Despite these changes, he enriched the church with luxurious furnishings, including monstrances, relics, chasubles and carpets.

A year after his accession to the throne, Prince-Elector John Sigismund, then a crypto-Calvinist, dissolved the college in 1608 and the church was renamed the Supreme Parish Church of Holy Trinity in Cölln.

John Sigismund publicly became a Calvinist in 1613, although his wife Anna and most of his subjects remained Lutherans. Berlin’s other churches remained Lutheran too, but the Supreme Parish Church of Holy Trinity, the Hohenzollern house church, became Berlin’s first – and until 1695, only – Calvinist church. From 1632 on, it was the parish church for all Calvinists in Berlin, and as a Calvinist church, the patronage of the Holy Trinity was increasingly dropped in all references to its name.

The dilapidated double-tower façade was torn down in 1667 and Martin Böhme erected a new baroque façade with two towers in 1717.

The Supreme Parish Church was demolished in 1747 to clear space for the baroque extension of the Berlin Palace, and a new baroque Calvinist Supreme Parish Church, built in an area north of the palace by Johann Boumann the Elder in 1747-1750, opened in 1750.

During the reign of King Frederick William III of Prussia, the community of the Supreme Parish Church joined a new church uniting Prussian Calvinist and Lutheran congregations in 1817, and from 1821 this was known as the Evangelical Church in Prussia.

To mark this union, Prussia’s leading architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), was commissioned to transform the court church into a neo-classical building in 1820-1822. However, within half a century, tastes in church architecture had changed in the royal court.

In Prussia, there was no separation of Church and State, and when Wilhelm II came to the throne as Emperor of Germany in 1888, he also became the summus episcopus or ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia’s older Provinces, as the united church was named from 1875.

The new emperor found Schinkel’s church was far too modest, and insisted on a new monumental church in keeping with the imperial monarchy’s power and prestige. Several designs were put forward for a new church, but none had been accepted.

Raschdorff was commissioned to design the new church, but he had to present three designs before Wilhelm II was satisfied. his opulent, grandiose structure would be Berlin’s answer to Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The old building was demolished in 1893, and the foundation stone for the new church was laid in 1894. The new church was consecrated 11 years later in 1905.

Raschdorff drew his inspiration from the Italian High Renaissance and the more florid baroque style. With its lavish mix of ornamental mosaics, gold features and impressive statues, the octagonal interior is clearly informed by the late 19th century’s love of grand gestures and display. Today, it is a major work of Historicist architecture of the Kaiserzeit.

The Berliner Dom is dominated by its monumental dome soaring above the main nave, crowned by a lantern with a golden cross and flanked by four towers.

Inside the church, the eight mosaics in the dome by Anton von Werner depict the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.

The statues on the ledges above the half columns represent the four Continental Reformers, John Zwingli, Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and John Calvin. Four red sandstone reliefs by Otto Lessing depict scenes from the Acts of the Apostles.

The altar, in white marble and yellow onyx, was designed by Friedrich August Stüler. The gilded bronze reredos with the 12 Apostles was made by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and was part of the choir screen in the earlier cathedral. There are two ceremonial candle holders made of gilded iron, both by Schinkel.

Above the altar, three stained-glass windows depict the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

The pulpit is in carved oak, and the white marble baptismal font is the work of Christian Daniel Rauch.

The pipe organ, built by Wilhelm Sauer, which has been fully restored, has 113 stops, 7,269 pipes and a four-manual console. It is the largest and most important organ with pneumatic action from the German Late Romantic period.

The baroque ceremonial sarcophagus below the organ loft is for the Prince Elector Friedrich Wilhelm and his second wife Dorothea. Here too are the bronze mediaeval grave monument of Prince Elector Johann Cicero, the marble funerary monument of Kaiser Friedrich III and the golden ceremonial sarcophagus of King Friedrich I and Sophie Charlotte, both by Andreas Schlüter.

In contrast, the simpler Baptismal and Matrimonial Chapel is more meditative, inviting visitors to stop, rest, reflect and pray. Here, the painting of the Descent of the Holy Spirit by Carl Begas the Elder is in the style of Raphael.

The richly decorated Imperial Staircase was intended for the use of the German Emperor. The stairwell comes with an American-made elevator included at the request of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The museum displays drawings, designs and models illustrating the history of the cathedral.

From here, I climbed the 270 steps to the dome’s outer walkway, and was rewarded with panoramic views of the city.

Below the cathedral, the Hohenzollern Crypt, the most important dynastic sepulchre in Germany, contains nearly 100 sarcophagi and burial monuments from four centuries. Some are plain and simple, while others are extremely ornate, including the sarcophagi carved by Schlüter for Friedrich I and Queen Sophie Charlotte, which are masterpieces of baroque sculpture.

The only Hohenzollern ruler not buried here is Kaiser Wilhelm II, who abdicated at the end of World War I in 1918. He is buried in a mausoleum in the grounds of his house in the Netherlands, where he died in exile.

The church was severely damaged during World War II. In 1940, the bombing blew away part of the windows. On 24 May 1944, a bomb destroyed the roof lantern of the dome. The fire could not be put out, and the lantern burnt out and collapsed into the main floor.

After World War II and the division of Germany, the Cathedral Church was in East Berlin. A temporary roof was built in 1949-1953, to enclose the building.

Work began on restoring the church in 1975, although in a simplified form. The baptistery and wedding church was reopened for services in 1980, and the restoration of the nave began in 1984.

The full restoration was not completed until 1993, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The nave was reinaugurated on 6 June 1993, in a ceremony attended by the Chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

A new golden cross placed on the dome in 2008, replacing a more simple one from the East German period.

In recent years, there has been talk about restoring the dome and the cupolas to their original appearance, but this has not happened because of a lack of funds.

Today, Berlin Cathedral is officially the Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin (Oberpfarr- und Domkirche zu Berlin). The Dom is a parish church and a member of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.

Inside the dome are images illustrating the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 3: 20-35 (NRSVA):

20 The crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ – 30 for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ 33 And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

The altar was designed by Friedrich August Stüler and the reredos with the 12 Apostles was made by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (6 June 2021, Trinity I) invites us to pray:

Almighty God, king of kings,
You lift the lowly and cast down the proud.
May we work in your image to create a fairer world,
Filled with peace and justice.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The statues of the four Reformers, Zwingli, Luther, Melanchthon and Calvin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on image for a full-screen view)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org