German Culture Minister criticises Bible verses on Berlin City Palace


Central Europe


“To the glory of God” is written at the dome of the Berlin City Palace. Photo EPA, Clemens Bilan

German Minister of Culture Claudia Roth has criticised the biblical inscription on the dome of the rebuilt Berlin City Palace. Roth said that the Humboldt Forum housed in the City Palace is “not the Vatican”.

So writes German Protestant news agency IDEA based on the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Ever since the City Palace –the residence of the former King of Prussia and the German Emperor– was rebuilt between 2010 and 2021, the text on the dome has been under discussion. The inscription is a contraction of two biblical texts that King Frederick Wilhelm IV (1795-1861) had applied at the time: “Under heaven, no other name is given but that of Jesus, before whom every knee will bow” (Acts 4: 12 and Philippians 2: 10). Many nowadays regard the text as a universal claim of Christianity or even a Christian claim to subjugation. A cross above the dome is criticised for the same reasons. Originally, underneath the dome there was a chapel for the king.


Previously, the Humboldt Forum – which is housed in the City Palace and describes itself as “a place for culture and science, exchange and debate” – announced that it would erect a bronze plaque distancing itself “from the claim of Christianity to sole validity and dominance expressed in the inscription”.

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine, Roth said that the inscription on the dome contradicts the goal of making the Humboldt Forum a place open to the world. Instead, it formulates a “claim to dominance that simply has a deterrent effect”. The Humboldt Forum is “not the Vatican”. According to the minister, a member of the environment party “Greens”, there needs to be further discussion on how to make it a place where no one feels excluded.

Innocent angels

“Tolerance is in a bad way when one cannot even bear the sight of a hundred and fifty-year-old text that no one has to agree with”, Richard Schröder wrote last week in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. In an opinion article, the professor emeritus at the Humboldt University in Berlin refuted the arguments of the Humboldt Forum to distance itself from the text on the palace’s dome.

For example, the philosopher and Protestant theologian discusses the “claim of Christianity to sole validity and dominance”, which the institutions in the Humboldt Forum “want to recognise” in the dome inscription. “In contrast, they say, it must apply: All religions are of equal value and worth. This is certainly well-intentioned, but not well-thought-out and poorly observed”, Schröder writes.

He continues: “A committed religious person cannot treat all religions equally. If he professes his religion, he necessarily does not profess the other. One can strive to show respect to all religions and their representatives. But one cannot recognise the truth claims of different religions united because they cannot be united.”

“The dome inscription, they say in Berlin, hinders intercultural dialogue”, the emeritus professor concludes. “But how do we, the hosts of such dialogues, want to appear? As we are, with our incriminating history? Or as innocent angels and blank slates who have renounced their history?”



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