Königsberg Cathedral

Ruslan Shamukov/TASS
In 1302, work was completed on a cathedral in Altstadt. However, the new bishop did not think this building was sufficiently magnificent. On September 13, 1333, the Grand Master ordered that a plot be set aside for a new Cathedral in Kneiphof. The smaller cathedral was demolished and the bricks from it were used in the construction of the one we can see today on Kant Island. For material delivery purposes they created the Cathedral Gate (demolished in 1944) to connect Kneiphof to Altstadt via the Cathedral Bridge. This bridge was demolished after work on the cathedral was completed.

The initial construction plan envisaged the new cathedral as a fortress – although Grand Master Luther von Braunschweig had his say in the matter, claiming that it made no sense to build a new fortress an arrow's flight away from the existing castle. So the base was lightened and the walls were made thinner. Over the years the towers have suffered from subsidence; in particular, the North Tower has around a 45 centimetre (1.5 foot) lean, which has earned it the nickname of Baltic Tower of Pisa. The construction of the castle took about 50 years. Nevertheless, even after it was officially completed, the fine-tuning process continued for a few more decades.

The Königsberg Cathedral represents the tradition of Hanseatic (red-brick) Gothic style architecture originating in Germany and Poland and rarely seen in Russia. Churches and castles in this style have no sculptural decoration. Their facades are beautiful but rigid: red-bricks and the art of stonemasonry.

The Cathedral was dedicated to the sacred body of Jesus Christ, to his Blessed Mother, all the saints and Saint Adalbert. Knights prayed in the single-nave section of the church, while the rest of the congregation used the three-nave section.

The last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Albrecht of Brandenburg was fond of the ideas of Martin Luther and the Reformation, which explains how Prussia became the first protestant-dominated state in Europe. In 1523, the first ever Lutheran sermon in German was given in the Königsberg Cathedral. 

In 1544 the Duke founded Albertina University, and the cathedral became the university church. Its South Tower held a library named after its founder Martin von Wallenrod. The library contained not only books, but maps, globes and manuscripts. During World War II the library disappeared; some of the books were burnt, and the rest scattered across the world. There are still 291 volumes from the Wallenrod collection kept at Kaliningrad State University. 

At the end of the 16th century, Albertina University bought a spot near the north wall of the main nave to establish a place for its professors to be buried. One of those tombs eventually saved the Cathedral in 1945.

It was the second half of the 18th century when one of the founders of German philosophy, Immanuel Kant, gave lectures at the Königsberg University. He taught logic, ethics, metaphysics, mathematics, mechanics, natural science and geography. At the same time, Kant wrote several works and essays on his theory of knowledge, ethics, anthropology, religion and political philosophy. Besides his enlightened mind, Kant is also known for his discipline and pedantry: he was literally the man to synchronize your watch with. And he never left his home town of Königsberg. Vladimir Lenin considered Kant a forerunner of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. One of Kant's major works – his Critique of Pure Reason – was compulsory reading in the USSR's higher education system. It was the philosopher's tomb that saved the cathedral from removal by the Soviets. 

During World War II, the cathedral's interior was almost burnt out. From the 1990s to 2005, restorer Igor Odintsov took charge of renovating the cathedral and became its director. There are no services held in the Cathedral now, but you can find a Russian Orthodox and a Lutheran chapel there. The Kant Museum is also housed here with its pre-war model of the city and medieval armour and weapons on show. On Saturdays (at 6 p.m.) the Cathedral is used for organ music recitals. On Sundays, piano and symphony concerts are held here. The Cathedral organ is the largest in Europe.