The Cathedral of Light of the Nazi rallies in rare pictures, 1937

The Cathedral of Light was a main aesthetic feature of the Nazi Party rallies in Nuremberg starting in 1933. It consisted of 130 anti-aircraft searchlights at 12-metre intervals, aimed skyward to form a series of vertical bars around the audience.

The effect was a spectacular one, both from within and outside the design. The Cathedral of Light was documented in the Nazi propaganda film Festliches Nuremberg, released in 1937.

The Lichtdome was the brainchild of Albert Speer, who was commissioned by Adolf Hitler to design and organize the Nuremberg Parade Ground for the annual celebrations. It is still considered one of Speer's most important works.

The venue for the rallies was Zeppelinfeld, which was built to house over 300,000 participants as part of a vast complex built specifically for those events.

Speer described the effect: "The feeling was that of a vast room, with beams acting as mighty pillars of infinitely light outer walls". The British ambassador to Germany, Sir Neville Henderson, described it as "both solemn and beautiful ... to be in a cathedral of ice".

In Berlin during 1934, an American journalist, William L. The poet wrote: "I am beginning to understand some of the reasons for Hitler's success. He is restoring spectacle and color and mysticism to the miserable lives of 20th-century Germans".

The searchlights were borrowed from the Luftwaffe, causing problems with its commander Hermann Göring as they represented most of Germany's strategic reserve.

Hitler dismissed him, suggesting that it was a useful piece of propaganda. "If we use them in such large numbers for this sort of thing, other countries will think we are swimming in the searchlight".

When the war began, lights were used to illuminate enemy aircraft so that the flank could easily shoot them down at night. Being spotted by such a searchlight was usually a death sentence for an Allied bomber. The range of those used in this incident was about ten to twelve kilometers.

Technical Aspects Of Illumination

Developed in the late 1930s, the Flak Searchlights -34 and -37 used 150-centimeter-diameter parabolic glass reflectors with an output of 990 million candelas.

The system was powered by a 24-kW generator, based on a 51-horsepower (38 kW) 8-cylinder engine providing 200 amps of current at 110 volts.

The searchlight was connected to the generator by a cable 200 m long. The system had a detection range of about 8 km for targets at altitudes of 4,000 to 5,000 m.

The system can be made mobile using two sets of Special Trailer 104 units, one for the searchlight and the other for the generator. It required a crew of seven to operate it.

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