Possible removal of biblical inscription and cross from Berlin Palace causes controversy

“We do not see it as an attack on religious freedom”, said the German Evangelical Alliance. Minister of State for Culture propose to cover the Bible verse with “reflecting texts”.

Evangelical Focus

EAD · BERLIN · 08 NOVEMBER 2022 · 16:35 CET

The Humboldt  Forum in Berlin. / Photo:  <a target="_blank" href="https://pixabay.com/es/users/treptoweralex-1518237/">Alexander Naumann </a>, Pixabay, CC0 .,
The Humboldt Forum in Berlin. / Photo: Alexander Naumann , Pixabay, CC0 .

The Berlin Palace was rebuilt as a historical building, following a decision by the Bundestag (German parliament), and since 2020 it has been the headquarters of the Humboldt Forum.

During the reconstruction, it was discussed whether the cross and the inscription on the dome should also be rebuilt in their original form.

The inscription, chosen by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV in the 19th century, combines two Bible verses, Acts 4:12 and Philippians 2:10.

It states: “There is salvation in no other, nor is there any other name given to men, but in the name of Jesus, to the glory of God the Father. That in the name of Jesus all the knees of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth should bow”.


Heated debate

The debate has reignited again, with critics complaining that the text expresses a political claim to the dominion of Christianity, which would contradict the democratic values of Germany and the cosmopolitan humanist spirit of the Humboldt Forum.

The Minister of State for Culture from the Green party, Claudia Roth, has proposed to temporarily cover the Bible verse with alternative, reflecting texts”, illuminated at night by LED light,  as part of an artistic project.

The federal government said in a statement that it “is aware of the problem that arises from the restoration of monarchical and Christian symbolism on the building of an institution such as the Humboldt Forum, which is justified in terms of urban planning and building culture, but which can also be interpreted politically and religiously”.


EAD: “We do not see it as an attack on religious freedom”

The German Evangelical Alliance (EAD) entered the debate with a statement, stressing that “it is the right of politics to question an inscription on a public building and to ask about its meaning for today's society. We do not see it as an attack on religious freedom”.

“But since the Palace is a historical reconstruction, which as such was decided by the Bundestag, we also see no reason to have the same debates every few years”, they add.

The EAD recognises that “a Bible verse can be misused, and of course it was used by Frederick William IV to legitimise his own power as God-given”, but “at the same time, it can be understood the other way round, and this is also how it was intended by the authors of the texts”.

The evangelical body explains that “whoever bows his knees before Christ can (and must) stand upright before any ruler and precisely not bow to him. The confession of Christ's rule is a rejection of dictatorship and tyranny”.


Evangelical support and involvement on the art project

Furthermore, the EAD supports the temporary art project, which, they believe, “can certainly contribute to promote the debate on the content of the verses”.

That is why they claim that “Christian churches should play a leading role in the project”, and warn that “the project should not be used as an attempt to defame Christian values and banish them from society”, because “Christianity belongs to Germany”.

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