BERLIN’S QUEER, SEX-POSITIVE 'GIN CHURCH’ ATTRACTS MORE 'SINNERS'
The Church of the Twelve Apostles in Berlin is a normal-seeming church at first glance, all red bricks and a dramatic spire in the southwestern neighborhood of Schoeneberg.
And while the windows, made of gin bottles, have a story to tell, the church's present-day circumstances also make it an unconventional destination to put on your list of places to visit when in Berlin, Silvia Kusidlo reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
First, the windows: Bombs dropped during World War II left the church massively damaged and destroyed the original glazing. However, as no new panes were available at the time, the owners of the Berlin liquor manufacturer Gilka had a clever idea: They donated tens of thousands of empty gin bottles to be installed as glass blocks in the windows. The people of Berlin then promptly nicknamed it the "gin church."
More recently, several composting toilets have been set up on the sidewalk in front of the church as well, sparking considerable controversy: Many sex workers use them at night to conduct business.
The street the church is located on, Kurfuerstenstrasse, and the nearby area is known for sex work, and even during the pandemic, it's possible to see women and girls working at all times of the day.
There are also many restaurants, bookstores and trendy cultural institutions near the church, an area popular with the queer scene. "The problem is that many open spaces where sex workers used to go with clients have disappeared due to the construction of large properties," says pastor Burkhard Bornemann.
But they have to go somewhere; that's why the church just accepts that sex work happens in the little wooden boxes and as always offers sex workers help.
Bornemann, who's gay, has also put on unconventional events at the church, specifically the annual "Classic Meets Fetish" concert, where men in vinyl and leather play classical songs for like-minded people. Even the pastor shows up in a leather outfit: "It's a political statement and personal fun." It also brings in money for the 150-year-old church, where sinners congregate 24/7.