Brandenburg Gate

Coordinates: 52°30′59″N 13°22′40″E / 52.5163°N 13.3777°E / 52.5163; 13.3777
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Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburger Tor
The Brandenburg Gate, viewed from
the Pariser Platz on the east side
General information
TypeCity gate
Architectural styleNeoclassical
LocationBerlin, Germany
Coordinates52°30′59″N 13°22′40″E / 52.5163°N 13.3777°E / 52.5163; 13.3777
Construction started1788
Design and construction
Architect(s)Carl Gotthard Langhans

The Brandenburg Gate (German: Brandenburger Tor [ˈbʁandn̩ˌbʊʁɡɐ ˈtoːɐ̯] (listen)) is an 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II after restoring the Orangist power by suppressing the Dutch popular unrest.[1] One of the best-known landmarks of Germany, it was built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel, which used to be the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg.

It is located in the western part of the city centre of Berlin within Mitte, at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building, which houses the German parliament (Bundestag). The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, a boulevard of linden trees which led directly to the royal City Palace of the Prussian monarchs.

Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered not only a symbol of the tumultuous histories of Germany and Europe, but also of European unity and peace.[2]


Design and construction[edit]

In the time of King Frederick William I (1688), shortly after the Thirty Years' War and a century before today's Brandenburg 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. With the construction of Dorotheenstadt around 1670 and its inclusion in Berlin's city fortifications, a first gate was built on the site, consisting of a breach through the raised wall and a drawbridge over the dug moat.

The Berlin Customs Wall with its eighteen gates, around 1855. The Brandenburger Thor (Brandenburg Gate) is on the left.

With the construction of the Berlin Customs Wall (German: Akzisemauer) in 1734, which enclosed the old fortified city and many of its then suburbs, a predecessor of today's Brandenburg Gate was built by the Court Architect Philipp Gerlach as a city gate on the road to Brandenburg an der Havel. The gate system consisted of two Baroque pylons decorated with pilasters and trophies, to which the gate wings were attached. In addition to the ornamental gate, there were simple passages for pedestrians in the wall, which were decorated with ornamental vases at this point.[3]

The current gate was commissioned by Frederick William II of Prussia to represent peace and was originally named the Peace Gate (German: Friedenstor).[4] It was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, the Court Superintendent of Buildings, and built between 1788 and 1791, replacing the earlier simple guardhouses which flanked the original gate in the Customs Wall. The gate consists of twelve Doric columns, six to each side, forming five passageways. Citizens were originally allowed to use only the outermost two on each side. Its design is based on the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, and is consistent with Berlin's history of architectural classicism (first Baroque, and then neo-Palladian). The gate was the first element of a "new Athens on the river Spree" by Langhans.[5] Atop the gate is a sculpture by Johann Gottfried Schadow of a quadriga—a chariot drawn by four horses—driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory.

19th and early 20th centuries[edit]

The Brandenburg Gate 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,[6] and took its quadriga to Paris.[7] After Napoleon's defeat in 1814 and the Prussian occupation of Paris by General Ernst von Pfuel, the quadriga was restored to Berlin.[8] It was now redesigned by Karl Friedrich Schinkel for the new role of the Brandenburg Gate as a Prussian triumphal arch. The goddess, now definitely Victoria, was equipped with the Prussian eagle and Iron Cross on her lance with a wreath of oak leaves.[4]

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,[7] as well as members of the Pfuel family, from 1814 to 1919.[9][10] The Kaiser granted this honour to the family in gratitude to Ernst von Pfuel, who had overseen the return of the quadriga to the top of the gate.[11] 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 council.

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. One horse's head from the original quadriga survived, and is today kept in the collection of the Märkisches Museum. Efforts to disguise the government district of Berlin and confuse Allied bombers had included the construction of a replica Brandenburg Gate located away from the city centre.[12]: 452 

Cold War[edit]

After Germany's surrender at the end of the war, the governments of East Berlin and West Berlin restored it in a joint effort. The holes were patched, but were visible for many years. The gate was located in the Soviet occupation zone, directly next to the border to the British occupation zone, which later became the border between East and West Berlin.

Vehicles and pedestrians could travel freely through the gate until the day after construction began on the Berlin Wall on Barbed Wire Sunday, 13 August 1961. West Berliners gathered on the western side of the gate to demonstrate against the Berlin Wall, among them West Berlin's mayor, Willy Brandt, who had returned from a federal election campaign tour in West Germany earlier the same day. The wall passed directly by the western side of the gate, which was closed throughout the Berlin Wall period, which ended on 22 December 1989.


When the Revolutions of 1989 occurred and the wall was demolished, the gate symbolized freedom and the desire to unify the city of Berlin. Thousands of people gathered at the wall to celebrate its fall on 9 November 1989. On 22 December 1989, the Brandenburg Gate border crossing was reopened when Helmut Kohl, the West German chancellor, walked through to be greeted by Hans Modrow, the East German prime minister. Demolition of the rest of the wall around the area took place the following year. In 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.

A crane removes a section of the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate on 21 December 1989.

The Brandenburg Gate was privately refurbished on 21 December 2000, at a cost of €6 million. It was once again opened on 3 October 2002 following extensive refurbishment, for the 12th anniversary of German reunification.

The Brandenburg Gate became the main venue for the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall or "Festival of Freedom" on the evening of 9 November 2009. The high point of the celebrations was when over 1000 colourfully designed foam domino tiles, each over 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) tall, were lined up along the route of the former wall through the city centre. The domino "wall" was then toppled in stages converging here.[13]

The Brandenburg Gate is now again closed to vehicle traffic, and much of Pariser Platz has been turned into a cobblestone pedestrian zone. The gate, along with the broad Straße des 17. Juni avenue to the west, is also one of the large public areas in Berlin where over a million people can gather to watch stage shows or party together, watch major sport events shown on huge screens, or see fireworks at midnight on New Year's Eve.[14] After winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Germany national football team held their victory rally in front of the gate.

It has also hosted street events at 2009 IAAF World Championships in Athletics and repeated its role in 2018 European Athletics Championships. It is also the usual finish line of the Berlin Marathon.

Political history[edit]

Ronald Reagan speaking at the Brandenburg Gate section of the Berlin Wall on 12 June 1987, challenging Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!"

A Soviet flag flew from a flagpole atop the gate from 1945 until 1957, when it was replaced by an East German flag. Since the reunification of Germany in 1990, the flag and the pole have been removed. During the 1953 riots in East Berlin the Soviet flag was torn off by West Germans.[15]

In 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited the Brandenburg Gate. The Soviets hung large red banners across it to prevent him looking into East Berlin.

In the 1980s, decrying the existence of two German states and two Berlins, West Berlin mayor Richard von Weizsäcker said: "The German Question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed."[16]

On 12 June 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan spoke to the West Berlin populace at the Brandenburg Gate, demanding the razing of the Berlin Wall.[17][18] Addressing the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan said,

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

On 25 December 1989, less than two months after the Berlin Wall began to come down, the conductor Leonard Bernstein conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in a version of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven at the then newly opened Brandenburg Gate. In the concluding choral movement of the symphony, the "Ode to Joy", the word Freude ("Joy") was replaced with Freiheit ("Freedom") to celebrate the fall of the Wall and the imminent reunification of Germany.

On 2–3 October 1990, the Brandenburg Gate was the scene of the official ceremony to mark the reunification of Germany. At the stroke of midnight on 3 October, the black-red-gold flag of West Germany—now the flag of a reunified Germany—was raised over the gate.

On 12 July 1994, U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke at the Brandenburg Gate about peace in post–Cold War Europe.[19]

On 9 November 2009, Chancellor Angela Merkel walked through the Brandenburg Gate with Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev and Poland's Lech Wałęsa as part of the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.[20][21]

On 13 August 2011, Germany marked the 50th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall began construction with a memorial service and a minute of silence in memory of those who died trying to flee to the West. "It is our shared responsibility to keep the memory alive and to pass it on to the coming generations as a reminder to stand up for freedom and democracy to ensure that such injustice may never happen again," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel—who grew up behind the wall in Germany's communist eastern part—also attended the commemoration. German President Christian Wulff added, "It has been shown once again: Freedom is invincible at the end. No wall can permanently withstand the desire for freedom."[22][23][24]

On 19 June 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the Gate about nuclear arms reduction and the recently revealed U.S. internet surveillance activities.[25]

On the night of 5 January 2015, the lights illuminating the gate were completely shut off in protest against a protest held by far-right anti-Islamic group Pegida.[26][27][28]

In April 2017, Die Zeit noted that the gate was not illuminated in Russian colours after the 2017 Saint Petersburg Metro bombing. The gate was previously illuminated after attacks in Jerusalem and Orlando. The Berlin Senate only allows the gate to be illuminated for events in partner cities and cities with a special connection to Berlin.[29]

In February 2022, the gate was lit up with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. A candlelight vigil was also held in front of the gate on the 31st Independence Day of Ukraine.[30][31]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Das Brandenburger Tor und sein Geheimnis, Der Tagesspiegel
  2. ^ "Brandenburg Gate". Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  3. ^ Willmuth Arenhövel, Rolf Bothe (Hrsg.): Das Brandenburger Tor 1791–1991. Eine Monographie. Mit Beiträgen von Laurenz Demps, Sibylle Einholz, Dominik Bartmann u. a. 2. verb. Auflage. Willmuth Arenhövel Verlag für Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-922912-26-5.
  4. ^ a b "Denkmale in Berlin. Brandenburger Tor". Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt, Berlin. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  5. ^ Ward, Graham, "The Making of the Modern Metropolis" in The Oxford Handbook of Theology and Modern European Thought, p. 68., Oxford University Press, 2013.
  6. ^ "Deutsches Historisches Museum". Archived from the original on 24 June 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b Dunton, Larkin (1742). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 188.
  8. ^ Sullivan, Paul (2016). "Brandenburg Gate". Pocket Rough Guide Berlin. Rough Guides. London: Penguin Random House. p. 72. ISBN 9780241254622. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  9. ^ Müller, Titus (28 July 2016). Berlin Feuerland (in German). ISBN 9783641125110. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  10. ^ "225 Jahre Brandenburger Tor". DW.COM. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  11. ^ Dedio, Florian; Dedio, Gunnar (2013). "Berlin, Germany, before the war". The Great War Diaries: Breathtaking Colour Photographs from a World Torn Apart. London: BBC Books, Penguin Random House. p. 50. ISBN 9781448141678. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  12. ^ Overy, Richard (2013). The Bombing War, Europe 1939–45 (Kindle, 2014 ed.). London: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-141-92782-4.
  13. ^ "20 Jahre Mauerfall" (in German). Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH. 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  14. ^ "Berlin feiert am Brandenburger Tor ins neue Jahr 2013 (in German)". Berliner Morgenpost. 4 March 2007.
  15. ^ British Pathé (13 April 2014). "Dramatic Scenes – Berlin Riots (1953)". Archived from the original on 6 November 2021 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ "Remarks on East-West Relations at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin". Archived from the original on 15 November 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Remembering Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech 25 years later". CBS News. 12 June 2012.
  18. ^ "Lessons from Reagan after "Tear down this wall" speech". CBS News. 12 June 2012.
  19. ^ ""Berlin is free!" President Clinton Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. July 1994".
  20. ^ "Germany Celebrates Fall of the Berlin Wall". FoxNews. 9 November 2009. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  21. ^ "Fall of the Berlin Wall [slides/captions]". FoxNews. 9 November 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  22. ^ "Germany marks 50th anniversary of Berlin Wall". The Daily Telegraph. London. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  23. ^ "Germany Marks Construction of the Berlin Wall". Fox News. Associated Press. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  24. ^ "Reflecting on the Berlin Wall, 50 Years After Its Construction". 11 August 2011. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  25. ^ Roberts, Dan; Connolly, Kate (19 June 2013). "Obama calls for reduction in nuclear arms in broad-brush Berlin speech". The Guardian. London.
  26. ^ Tagesspiegel: Bärgida und Gegendemonstration beendet (in German), 5 January 2015, retrieved 20 November 2015
  27. ^ RBB: Licht aus am Brandenburger Tor (in German) "Lights off at Brandenburg Gate", 5 January 2015, retrieved 20 November 2015
  28. ^ Storify: Anti-islamization rally in Germany met with countrywide protests, 5 January 2015, retrieved 20 November 2015
  29. ^ "Berlin: Für St. Petersburg leuchtet das Brandenburger Tor nicht".
  30. ^ Askew, Joshua (2 August 2022). "In pictures: Europe celebrates Ukraine Independence Day". euronews. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  31. ^ "World marks Ukraine's Independence Day amid war". Daily Sabah. 25 August 2022. Retrieved 12 September 2022.

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