Berlin: The capital of Prussia
In 1688, during the time of Friedrich Wilhelm, shortly after the Thirty Years War, and a century before the Brandenburg Gate was constructed, Berlin was a small walled city shaped like a star. Access to Berlin was only possible through the following gates, the Spandau Gate, St. Georges Gate, Stralower Gate, Kőpenick’s Gate, New Gate, or the Leipziger Gate. Relative piece, a policy of religious tolerance, and the status as the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia facilitated the growth of the city.
The story of the Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate was not part of the old fortifications. However, the predecessor of the Brandenburg Gate was one of the 18 gates of the Wall, which was built in 1730s. The Brandenburg Gate was built on the road to Brandenburg an der Havel, the city that granted Berlin its city rights. The construction contract for the new and well-known Brandenburg Gate was granted by Friedrich Wilhelm II, as a symbol of piece and prosperity. The Gate was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, which was meant to resemble the Gate of Athens. The Brandenburg Gate was built from 1788-1791 and after its completion replaced the simple guard houses by the city wall. The Gate consists of 12 Doric style columns, with 6 being on each side. The columns themselves create 5 passages. Originally the citizens were only allowed to use the outer two of the passages.
Today you can see Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory at the top of the gate. She stands in a chariot, drawn by four hourses, [also known as] the Quadriga. The primary name of the new Brandenburg Gate was "Peace Gate" and the goddess in the Quadriga was originally named Eirene, the goddess of peace. Only with the victory over Napoleon, the goddess of peace turned into the goddess of victory. br> The Brandenburg Gate played different political roles in German history. After the Prussian defeat in 1806 at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon was the first one, who used the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal march and took the Quadriga along to Paris. After Napoleons defeat and the Prussian occupation of Paris by general Ernst von Pfuel in 1814, the Quadriga returned to Berlin and the Brandenburg Gate was new designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel as Prussian arch of triumph. The goddess Victoria was now equipped with a wreath of oak leaves, the Prussian eagle and the Iron Cross on her lance. The Quadriga was installed in east direction, as it originally did in 1793. Only the royal family and members of the Pfuel family between 1814 and 1919 were allowed to walk through the central archway.
The Brandenburg Gate after the world war
When the Nazis rise began, the Brandenburg Gate was used as a party symbol. In World War II the gate was badly damaged from bullets and bombs, which caused nearby explosions.
However, the gate survived World War II with quite a few damages. With Germanys capitulation and the end of the war, the holes [of the gate] were patched in a joint effort by
the governments of East and West Berlin. The damages were visible for many years.
In 1990 the Quadriga was removed from the gate. She was part of the renovation work realised by the DDR government after the Fall of the Wall.
Starting December 21st 2000, the Brandenburg Gate was renovated at a price of six million Euros. On the 3rd of October 2002, the twelth anniversary of German reunification, the Brandenburg Gate was reopened after comprehensive reconstruction.
The Brandenburg Gate is now closed again for vehicle traffic. A big part of the Pariser Platz has been turned into a stoned pedestrian zone. The Brandenburg Gate and the 17th of June street are meeting places in Berlin. There is room for more than a million people. Stage shows, partys and fireworks taking place regularly. New Year's Eve is a special highlight.