Brandenburg Gate

       
Brandenburg Gate

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The Brandenburg Gate (German: Brandenburger Tor) is a former city gate, rebuilt in the late 18th century as a neoclassical triumphal arch, and now one of the most well-known landmarks of Berlin and Germany. It is located west of the city centre at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. It is the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building. The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees which formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs. It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace and built by Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791. Having suffered considerable damage in World War II, the Brandenburg Gate was fully restored from 2000 to 2002 by the Stiftung Denkmalschutz Berlin (Berlin Monument Conservation Foundation). During the post-war Partition of Germany the gate was isolated and inaccessible immediately next to the Berlin Wall, and the area around the gate featured most prominently in the media coverage of the opening of the wall in 1989.In the time of Frederick William (1688), shortly after the Thirty Years' war and a century before the gate was constructed, Berlin was a small walled city within a star fort with several named gates: Spandauer Tor, St. Georgen Tor, Stralower Tor, Cöpenicker Tor, Neues Tor, and Leipziger Tor (see map). Relative peace, a policy of religious tolerance, and status as capital of the Kingdom of Prussia facilitated the growth of the city.


The Berlin Excise Wall with its 18 gates
The Brandenburg Gate was not part of the old fortifications but one of 18 gates within the Berlin Customs Wall (German: Akzisemauer), erected in the 1730s, including the old fortified city and many of its then suburbs.
The Brandenburg Gate was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II to represent peace. The Gate was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, the Court Superintendent of Buildings. Between 1788 and 1791 the earlier simple guard houses siding the gate were replaced by the current construction. The Gate consists of twelve Doric columns, six to each side, forming five passageways. Citizens originally were allowed to use only the outermost two. Atop the gate is the Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory.


Napoleon passing through the Brandenburg Gate after the battle of Jena-Auersted (1806)
The Gate's design is based upon the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece and is consistent with Berlin's history of architectural classicism (first, Baroque, and then neo-Palladian). The Gate was the first "Athens on the River Spree" by architect Carl Gotthard von Langhans. The capital Quadriga was sculpted by Johann Gottfried Schadow.
The Brandenburg Gate's design has remained essentially unchanged since its completion even as it has played different political roles in German history. After the 1806 Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon was the first to use the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession and took its Quadriga to Paris.
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 symbol of Prussian power, the Iron Cross. The Quadriga faces east, as it did when it was originally installed in 1793. Only the royal family was allowed to pass through the central archway, as well as members of the Pfuel family, from 1814 to 1919. In addition, the central archway was also used by the coaches of Ambassadors on the single occasion of their presenting their letters of credence to the monarch.


When a much larger Berlin was partitioned after World War II, the central borough of the city fell into the Soviet sector, adjoining the British sector at the Brandenburg Gate.
When the Nazis ascended to power they used the Gate as a party symbol. The Gate survived World War II and was one of the damaged structures still standing in the Pariser Platz ruins in 1945 (another being the Academy of Fine Arts). The gate was badly damaged with holes in the columns from bullets and nearby explosions. Following Germany's surrender and the end of the war, the governments of East Berlin and West Berlin restored it in a joint effort. The holes were patched, and were visible for many years following the war.
During 1990, the Quadriga was removed from the gate as part of renovation work carried out by the East German authorities following the fall of the wall in November 1989. Germany was officially reunified in October 1990.
On December 21, 2000, the Brandenburg Gate was privately refurbished at a cost of six million Euros.
On October 3, 2002, the twelfth anniversary of German Reunification, the Brandenburg Gate was once again reopened following extensive refurbishment.
The Brandenburg Gate is now again closed for vehicle traffic, and much of Pariser Platz has been turned into a cobblestone pedestrian zone.
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