History up to 1871
The Prussian royal family receiving King August the Strong of Saxony and Poland at the Stadtschloss (1729)
Aerial view of the Stadtschloss, circa 1905-1925
The palace replaced an earlier fort or castle guarding the crossing of the
Spree river at
Cölln, a neighboring town which merged with Berlin in 1710. The castle stood on Fishers' Island, as the southern end of the
Museum Island in the Spree is known. In 1443
Frederick II "Irontooth",
Margrave and Prince Elector of Brandenburg, laid the foundations of Berlin's first fortification in a section of swampy wasteland north of Cölln. At the completion of the castle in 1451, Frederick moved there from the town of
Brandenburg. The main role of the castle and its garrison in this period was to establish the authority of the Margraves over the unruly citizens of Berlin, who were reluctant to give up their medieval privileges to a monarchy. In 1415 King
Sigismund had enfeoffed the Hohenzollern princes with Brandenburg, and they were now establishing their power and withdrawing electoral privileges which the cities had attained in the Brandenburg interregnum of 1319–1415.
The castle also included a chapel. In 1454 Frederick II, after having returned via
Rome from his pilgrimage to
Jerusalem, made the castle chapel a parish church, richly endowing it with relics and altars.
Pope Nicholas V ordered
Stephan Bodecker, then Prince-
Bishop of Brandenburg, to consecrate the Chapel to
Erasmus of Formiae.
On 7 April 1465, at Frederick's request,
Pope Paul II attributed to St Erasmus Chapel a
College named Stift zu Ehren Unserer Lieben Frauen, des heiligen Kreuzes, St. Petri und Pauli, St. Erasmi und St. Nicolai. This
collegiate church became the nucleus of today's
Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church, adjoining the site of the castle.
In 1538, the Margrave
Joachim II demolished the palace and engaged the master builder
Caspar Theiss to build a new and grander building in the
Italian Renaissance style. After the
Thirty Years War (1618–1648),
Frederick William (1620–1688), the "Great Elector", embellished the palace further. In 1688,
Nicodemus Tessin designed courtyard arcades with massive columns in front. Not much is known about the alterations of 1690–1695, when
Johann Nering was the court architect.
Martin Grünberg continued the alterations in 1695–1699.
In 1699 the
Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg (who took the title
King in Prussia in 1701, becoming Frederick I), appointed the architect
Andreas Schlüter to execute a "second plan" in the Italian manner. Schlüter's first design probably dates from 1702; he planned to rebuild the palace in the Protestant
Baroque style. His overall concept in the shape of a regular cube enclosing a magnificently ornamented courtyard was retained by all the building directors who succeeded him. In 1706, Schlüter was replaced by
Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe, who designed the western extension of the palace, doubling its size. In all essentials, Schlüter's balanced, rhythmic composition of the façades was retained, but Göthe moved the main entrance to the new west wing.
Frederick William I, who became king in 1713, was interested mainly in building up Prussia as a military power, and dismissed most of the craftsmen working on the Stadtschloss. As a result, Göthe's plan was only partly carried out. Nevertheless, the exterior of the palace had come close to its final form by the mid-18th century. The final stage was the erection of the dome in 1845, during the reign of
Frederick William IV. The dome was built by
Friedrich August Stüler after a design by
Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Subsequent major works were limited to the interior, engaging the talents of
Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff,
Carl von Gontard and many others.
The Stadtschloss was at the centre of the
Revolution of 1848 in Prussia. Huge crowds gathered outside the palace to present an "address to the king" containing their demands for a constitution, liberal reform and German unification.
Frederick William emerged from the palace to accept their demands. On 18 March, a large demonstration outside the Stadtschloss led to bloodshed and the outbreak of street fighting. Frederick William later reneged on his promises and reimposed an autocratic regime. From that time onwards, many Berliners and other Germans came to see the Stadtschloss as a symbol of oppression and "Prussian militarism".