Brandenburger Tor history
The Brandenburger Tor was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans and constructed 1788-1791 on order by the Prussian king, Fredrik Vilhelm II. The gate used to be a part of the old city wall and was one of a total of eight gates leading into the city.
As much of the architecture at that time, Brandenburger Tor’s design is inspired by ancient Greek architecture and has many resemblances to the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Brandenburger Tor itself stands 26m high, 65,5m wide and 11m deep.
The top of Brandenburger Tor is dominated by a large statue. This is the quadriga; the four horse drawn chariot. The chariot is driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. The quadriga was built 1793 and designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow as a symbol of peace.
What many people do now know is that even though Brandenburger Tor itself has remained more or less intact over the years, the statue on top of it has been changed several times. After the Prussian defeat against the French commander Napoleon I in 1806, Napoleon ordered that the statue would be transported to Paris as a sign of the French superiority. It only remained there for eight years until the Prussians recaptured it and brought it back to Berlin.
After the statue had been brought back from Paris, the neighboring square was also renamed “Praiser Platz”, the Paris Square, as a symbol of the Prussian victory.
Destruction and restoration
After the Second World War, Brandenburger Tor was one of the few standing buildings in the area; though it was badly damaged by bullet holes and nearby explosions. After the war had ended and Berlin had been divided into two, both the West Berlin and the East Berlin governments restored the monument in a joint effort.
The west was in charge of restoring the statue while east was in charge of restoring the gate itself. Not surprisingly, the cooperation did not proceed without complications. Before moving the statue to the top of the gate, the communist government removed the Iron Cross and sawed off the Prussian eagle from Victorias banner, as it was seen as a symbol of the Prussian and the Nazi military. Let’s just say it didn’t improve the relationship between West and East.
During the Cold war and the rise of the Berlin wall, Brandenburger Tor became inaccessible to West Berliners and in a large extent also to East Berliners. As the wall collapsed, Brandenburger Tor once again became the symbol of freedom and unity it is today. On December 22, 1989, Brandenburger Tor re-opened when Helmut Kohl the West German chancellor, walked through to be greeted by Hans Modrow, the East German prime minister. Brandenburger Tor became the central place of celebration and the icon for the German reunion.
Brandenburger Tor has received several restorations during the last decade and no traffic is allowed through the gate anymore. This to ensure that Brandenburger Tor is as accessible to visitors as possible and to make sure it remains intact.
During the years, many famous speeches as been held at Brandenburger Tor, including speeches by John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Dalai Lama, to name a few.
Why visit Brandenburger Tor ?
The Brandenburger Tor one of Europe’s most famous landmarks and the most iconic site in Berlin. The monument and its symbolism have played a central part throughout the history. A visit to Berlin without experiencing the Brandenburger Tor is no visit at all!
The Gate of Victory
The main feature of Brandenburger Tor is the beautiful Victoria statue at the top. The roman goddess originally carried an olive wreath with a roman eagle on top of it. However, after the statue had been brought back to Berlin, the statue underwent a drastic change. Instead of carrying the olive wreath, symbolizing peace, a banner-like symbol was added instead. By looking towards the top of the banner, visitors can now see that it now depicts the Prussian coat of arms; the Prussian eagle.
Under the eagle hangs a wreath of oak leaves and inside it the Iron Cross. The Iron Cross was the military symbol of the Prussian kingdom and was later used by Germany as well. With that the so called “Gate of Peace” became the “Gate of Victory”.
After the German reunification, the Prussian eagle and the Iron Cross were restored in 1990, which until then had been kept in an East Berlin museum. Some argued that restoring the eagle and the cross was wrong, as they were symbols that had been used by the Nazis. However, as the symbols originally were founded during the liberation war against Napoleon, and not during the world war one and two, the protests had little support.
While the Branderburger Tor is beautiful in daylight, many say it becomes even more stunning during the evening. During the darker hours, Brandenburger Tor becomes illuminated – a sight you need to experience on your own to fully appreciate.
Brandenburger Tor location
Brandenburger Tor is located in Berlin, Germany. The gate is located in central parts of the city, in between Tiergarten and the famous Unter den Linden. It is easy to access by foot or by taking subway line 1 or 2.
For the exact location of Brandenburger Tor, check out the location map to the right.