The Friedhofskirche (cemetery church) of St. Konstantin and St. Helena is the oldest of the three Russian Orthodox churches in Berlin, and the only one in Germany that has its own cemetery.
It is situated in an industrial area near the motorway exit Holzhauser Straße. An elaborate enclosure surrounds it, as though to protect it from the noisy inhospitable surroundings. The gateway is covered by a beautiful carved roof, under which the nine cemetery bells are housed. Once through the entrance, a tranquil world comes into view. An avenue of lime trees leads to a brick church whose five blue cupolas gleam enchantingly through the dense foliage. The cupolas are crowned with orthodox crosses, which tower above small crescent moons in memory of old religious wars.
The church was built in 1894. Albert Bohm, a member of the Prussian court architectural board, drew up the plans free of charge. Two restored portraits of the Virgin Mary stand out under their icon ornamentation. They were donated by two monasteries on the sacred Mount Athos at the end of the nineteenth century.
When the cemetery was laid out, Tsar Alexander III sent Russian soil to Berlin by train to scatter over the site. It is the simple old graves with their unpretentious wooden crosses that have above all left their imprint on the leafy churchyard.
Among the better-known names here that are also familiar to West Europeans are Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka. This operatic composer died in Berlin and is buried in St. Petersburg, but is remembered here with a memorial stone. The architect Mikhail Ossipovich Eisenstein, father of the famous film director Sergey Eisenstein, and Alexander Rimski-Korsakov – a nephew of the composer of the same name – are also commemorated here.
Address: Wittestr. 37, 13509 Berlin, +49 (0)30 4324012 Hours of opening: daily 8.00 to sunset