Permanent exhibition

Permanent exhibition of Berlin’s Huguenot museum

Who were the Huguenots?

Those identified as Huguenots are Reformed Christians, who live according to the teaching of John Calvin (1509 – 1564) and come from the French-speaking region. The expression, which existed from around 1560, was always used by opponents as a derogatory term for French Reformists. The Huguenot cross is a worldwide symbol of identification and faith of Reformed Christians.

In the first areas, the exhibition traces the history of Protestantism in France in the 16th century, which was always characterised by measures of oppression and persecution. Nevertheless, the Huguenots grew into a significant political force and the number of religious followers continued to increase. A total of eight Huguenot wars in 1562 – 1593 resulted in division of France. The St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572, also known as the “Parisian Blood Wedding”, is a famous climax in the religious wars. The exhibition displays the engraving of the Parisian St Bartholomew’s Day massacre by Jan and Caspar Luyken (1696).
With the Edict of Nantes in 1598, Heinrich IV created the legal framework for peaceful and respectful contact between the denominations. For the first time, it had become possible for the Huguenots to practise their religion in peace. A reproduction of the Edict of Nantes is also displayed in the exhibition.

Oppression and flight

In 1685, one of the largest migrations in the early modern era began. The repeal of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV intended to force Protestants living in France to renounce their beliefs and move to the Catholic Church. Those who wanted to remain true to their faith had to go underground or flee abroad to a country in which better conditions existed for them, a dangerous path due to emigration bans. In the next areas of the exhibition, the visitor is shown the historic developments in France in the 17th century.


When the Edict of Potsdam was issued, there was already a Reformed French settlement in Berlin. Berlin therefore became the natural place for the many new refugees to go. By the start of 1689, many colonies had arisen in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, with or without their own French church. This first, founding wave of French colonies from 1685 to 1688 can be seen as a direct effect of the Edict of Fontainebleau and prohibition of the practice of the religion in France. Other founding waves of French colonies followed and each was closely linked to the domestic and foreign political activities of Brandenburg-Prussia, other receiving countries and France. The number of immigrants and their descendants in the colonies also rose in parallel with the growing number of colonies being established. By 1740 there were around 20,000 Huguenot subjects living in Brandenburg-Prussia, with Berlin and its suburbs always forming the centre. The Edict of Potsdam therefore forms one of the most important exhibits in the exhibition.

Huguenots in Berlin and Brandenburg

The colony in Berlin in particular became viewed as a new home by the former religious refugees. Most of the social institutions of the Church were available here and, in 1700, every fourth resident of Berlin was French. The exhibition presents the parishes and church buildings, the institutions for care of the poor or for education and schooling, as well as famous figures from the arts and sciences.
Likewise, the architectural history of the Cathedral and the adjacent French Church of Friedrichstadt are also documented in a number of display cases, up to the destructions in the Second World War.