|Architect:||Carl Gotthard Langhans|
|1958 (restored damage from WWII)|
The structure was commissioned by the Prussian King Frederick William II in 1788 and construction was completed in 1791. The gate originally functioned as the gate for the west edge of the Unter den Linden, a grand boulevard which led to the Prussian Palace.
The design of the gate is based on the Propylea in Athens which was the primary gate to the Acropolis. This was one of the most widely known structures in ancient Athens and the classical era. The Brandenburg Gate has a similar structure with 5 sets of Doric columns that create five portals. The center portal of both structures had special significance with the Brandenburg’s central portal reserved only for royals.
A quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, was sculpted by Gottfried Schadow and was added to the top of the gate in 1793. The quadriga is driven by the goddess of victory and is bearing a symbol of peace. The sculpture was taken to Paris by Napoleon during the French occupation between 1806 and 1808. It was returned in 1814 and placed back atop the gate.
The gate was used in a parade to celebrate Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 and appeared in Nazi propaganda throughout Hitler’s reign. Like much of Berlin, it was significantly damaged during World War II and was restored in 1958.
During the Cold War, the gate was part of the Berlin Wall and was shut off from access for Berlin residents of both east and west Berlin. The gate became a major symbol of divided Germany for the nearly three decade long Cold War from 1961 to 1989. The gate served as a backdrop one of Ronald Reagan’s preeminent moments as President of the United States when he infamously implored the Soviet leader to loosen the Soviet Union’s grip on the Eastern Bloc with the lines “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
The gate was again used as a symbol of German unity when the chancellors of East and West Germany met below the gate in 1989 as a symbol of the start of German Reunification. The Gate was fully restored again in 2002.
If You Go:
The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most widely known monuments in Berlin and is a must see for any visit. It is open to walk beneath and the details of the gate can be viewed closeup. The Reichstag and other national German monuments and civic structures are nearby.
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