Design and construction
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 Brandenburg Gate was not part of the old Berlin Fortress, but one of eighteen gates within the Berlin Customs Wall (German: Akzisemauer), erected in the 1730s, including the old fortified city and many of its then suburbs.
The new gate was commissioned by Frederick William II of Prussia to represent peace. The Gate 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 originally were allowed to use only the outermost two on each side. Atop the gate is a Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, sculpted by Johann Gottfried Schadow. The new gate was originally named the Peace Gate (German: Friedenstor) and the goddess is Victoria, the goddess of victory.
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 element of "Athens on the River Spree" by architect Langhans.
19th and early 20th centuries
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, 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
View over Pariser Platz To the Brandenburg Gate June 1945
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.
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, but were visible for many years following the war.
Vehicles and pedestrians could travel freely through the gate, located in East Berlin, until the Berlin Wall was built, 13 August 1961. Brandenburg Gate border crossing was later closed on 14 August 1961. West Berliners gathered on the western side of the gate to demonstrate against the Berlin Wall, among them West Berlin's governing Mayor Willy Brandt, who had spontaneously returned from a federal election campaigning tour in West Germany earlier on the same day. It was closed throughout the Berlin Wall period until 22 December 1989.
A crane removes a section of the Berlin Wall
near Brandenburg Gate on 21 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.
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.
The Brandenburg Gate was privately refurbished on 21 December 2000, at a cost of six million euros. It was once again opened on 3 October 2002 following extensive refurbishment, for the 12th anniversary of German reunification.
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 colorfully 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.
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. After winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the held their victory rally in front of the gate.
It has also hosted street events at 2009 IAAF World Championships in Athletics and will repeat its
role in 2018 European Athletics Championships. It is also the usual finish line of the Berlin Marathon.