The Brandenburg Gate
Long ago, Berlin was a small, walled city within a fort with several gates: Spandauer Thor, St.
Georgen Thor, Stralower Thor, Copernicker Thor, Neue Thor, and Leipziger Thor. The
Brandenburg Gate is in the heart of Berlin today, at the junction of Unter den Linden, which
formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs, and Ebertstraße, immediately west
of the Pariser Platz. It was in recent times a symbol of the German partition, dividing the city and
severing a nation in two, especially after the construction of the Berlin Wall close by.
It was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia as a sign of peace and built by Carl Gotthard
Langhans from 1788 to 1791. Langhans rebuilt it from an older Gate from 1734 into a magnificent
building. He found his inspiration in Greek antiquity and used the Propyläen of the Athen Arkopolis
as an example. The highlight of the gate is the Quadriga, designed by Gottfried Schadow, consisting
of a chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. When
Napoleon's troops marched through the Brandenburg Gate in 1806, they kidnapped the goddess
which graced the top of the Quadriga and transported it to Paris by ship. After Napoleon's defeat in
1814 and the Prussian occupation of Paris by General Ernst von Pfuel, the Quadriga was restored to
Berlin and Victoria's wreath of oak leaves was supplemented with a new proud national symbol, the
Iron Cross, which Schinkel set up on the staff of the goddess. Only the imperial family and members
of the Pfuel family were allowed to drive trough the middle passage of the Brandenburg Gate until
1918, when the Emperor Wilhelm II abdicated.
Ferocious Allied bombs all but destroyed it in the War, and it was derided as a symbol of "Prussian
militarism". The communist Soviet flag flew from a flagpole atop the gate from 1945 until 1957,
when it was replaced by an East German flag. The goddess was again kidnapped, this time by the
communist government of East Germany in 1958, to strip it of the iron cross and the eagle, not
wanting to "encourage German nationalism" (click above). Since the reunification of Germany, the
flag and the pole have been removed and the iron cross and the eagle replaced. The Brandenburg
Gate was more fully restored from 2000 to 2002
Above left to right: The Gate in the 1890s; in 1945; in the 1960s
Above left to right: The Gate in the 1815; during napoleon's invasion of Berlin; around 1900
Click on image