The Brandenburg Gate completes the trio of iconic symbols of the Cold War, the background of an image that has been around the world, and a bulwark of divided Berlin.
When the night of November 9, 1989, the wall was demolished, thousands of people gathered right in front of the door, which had been closed since 1969 in the “no man’s land” between the two sectors of the city. But the story of the Brandenburg Gate goes a long way when in 1788 William II, a great lover of art and Greek mythology, commissioned the construction of one of the 18 entrance gates to the City of Berlin on the example of the front door to the Athens Acropolis. On top of this majestic arch supported by 12 columns 26 meters high, stands a Quadriga which depicts the Goddess of Victory aboard a chariot drawn by four horses.
As any monument of Berlin, also sculpture overlooking the Brandenburg Gate has a troubled history to tell: in 1806 it was the spoils of war when Napoleon conquered the city, was taken and brought to Paris before returning to Berlin in 1814, and during the WWII it was destroyed by bombing. The Quadriga we see today were recast in 1953 and placed on one of the most significant landmarks of twentieth-century history.
For a long time, only the Emperor and his family were able to cross the central arch of the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) in Berlin. This ban suggests the symbolic value that this gate has always had for the Germans. In practice, since its construction, the Brandenburg Gate has been a witness and protagonist of the most important events in German history. They are almost always tragic events, rarely joyous.
Built for the glory of Germany
Like many other “triumphal arches”, even the Brandenburg Gate was built as a symbol of the glory of the German nation. The architect Langhans was inspired by the temples of Athens: the door was, symbolically, to let in Berlin the wind of democracy. Upon the Gate was placed a chariot representing the goddess of victory with four horses. The work was so pleased to Napoleon who, when in 1807 conquered Prussia, appropriated it, and brought it as a trophy in France. Only in 1814, with the defeat of the French Emperor, the Quadriga was placed back there.
Germany’s history has passed through the Brandenburg Gate
The Quadriga atop the Brandenburg Gate was to be called “Chariot of Peace” but, in fact, the door has always been a symbol associated with the wars and militarism. In 1933, after his rise to power, Hitler organized a candlelight vigil there transforming the port into an exclusive place of the Nazis. When Berlin was liberated by the Soviet Red Army, the flag with the hammer and sickle remained hoisted there until 1953 when doused by a demonstration of the Russian workers.
With the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate stood for many decades in the “no man’s land” between the two sectors of the city. Only in 1989, with the fall of the Wall, the Gate has returned a symbol of freedom and peace. More than a million people crossed it to go from east to west. From that moment the Cross and Prussian eagle returned to decorate the Quadriga that, it is not the original one: destroyed by the bombs of World War II, was recast in 1953 but without the Prussians symbols.
Today the Brandenburg Gate houses a tourist office and the “Room of Silence”, where you can gather in meditation.
Around the Brandenburg Gate
The Pariser Platz, the square in front of the door, was completely destroyed by World War II. With the construction of the wall remained for many decades empty and desolate, guarded only by Vopos, the Soviet armed guard. After the fall of the Wall, the Berlin administration has instructed several world-renowned architects to redo the square respecting the original structure. On either side of the Gate were rebuilt two twin buildings and all around embassies, headquarters of banks and other high buildings. All this, perhaps, very hurriedly. But this has been a constant in the recent history of Berlin.
Opening hours: open air
How to reach: Metro Brandenburger Tor (U55, S1, S2, S25)
Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin