Architecture & Buildings

Europe, Germany, Frankfurt am Main

The Paulskirche is a church in Frankfurt am Main with important political symbolism in Germany. It was opened as a Protestant church in 1789, coincidentally the same year as the French Revolution, and in 1848-1849 it became the seat of the Frankfurt Parliament, the first publicly and freely elected body of Germany. The church started with the construction of the oval-shaped central church building in 1789. It was completed from 1829 to 1833, whereupon the organ loft was disconnected in 1833. Because of its centralized form and dome, it was desired as the meeting place for the Frankfurt Parliament in the course of the German revolutions of 1848. From March 31 until April 3, 1848 it was the meeting place for the Vorparlament, which prepared the election for the National Assembly. On May 18, 1848 the National Assembly met for the first time in the church, and was, therefore, named the Paulskirchenparlament. Until 1849, the National Assembly worked in the church to develop the first constitution for a united Germany. The resistance of Prussia, the Austrian Empire and a number of smaller German states ultimately destroyed the effort. In May 1849, there were a number of uprisings to force the implementation of the constitution, but these were destroyed with the help of Prussia. On May 30, 1849, the Parliament in the Paulskirche was dissolved. After 1852, the Paulskirche was again used for religious services. In World War II, the church was nearly destroyed along with much of the Frankfurt Innenstadt. As a tribute to its symbolism of freedom and as the cradle of Germany it was the first building to be rebuilt in Frankfurt after the war, reopened on the 100th anniversary of the Frankfurt Parliament. Due to cost restraints, the original inner form was dramatically altered. An inserted floor now divides the basement, which currently serves as a display room, from the actual hall in the main floor. After the war, it was no longer used as a church, and instead became a center used for various displays and events. The most well-known is the annual awarding of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade during the Frankfurt Book Fair. For the 150th birthday of the German democratic experience in 1998, the Paulskirche once again attracted the public interest. In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy gave a major speech in the Paulskirche during a visit to Germany.