What is Brandenburg Gate?

M. Lupica

Brandenburg Gate is one of Europe’s most famous landmarks. Located just west of Berlin Center, the Brandenburg Gate was first commissioned by King Fredrick William II, and was built between 1788-1791 by Carl Gotthard Langhans. The landmark has been a symbol of many different regimes over its history, starting with the Prussian Empire and continuing through the Nazis and then the Iron Curtain. Today, it represents freedom and peace as the symbolic site of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of German peace, unity and freedom.
The Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of German peace, unity and freedom.

The Brandenburg Gate is one of the world’s most recognizable structures. It was originally part of a group of gates that formed the entrance to Berlin. The gate is located just west of Berlin Center and just south of the Reichstag building, which was the political center of the Prussian Empire. Brandenburger Tor, as it is called in German, also once marked the beginning of Under den Linden, which was a boulevard lined with linden trees leading to the palace that housed Prussia’s leaders.

Brandenburg is a federal state in eastern Germany.
Brandenburg is a federal state in eastern Germany.

Frederick William II of Prussia, who was the King of Prussia and the Elector of Brandenburg, commissioned the gate’s creation as a symbol of peace. It was designed and built by Carl Gotthard Langhans with three pillars on each side, creating four smaller entryways and one central one. The statue on top of the gate, called the Berlin Quadriga, is a sculpture of a chariot being pulled by four horses and driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. Victoria originally carried a wreath of oak leaves, but after the statue’s return to Prussia in 1814 after Napoleon captured and took it to France, the wreath was replaced with an Iron Cross as a symbol of Prussian power.

After the Nazis rose to power, Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of their party. After World War II ended, Germany became divided, and the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961. At this point, people were no longer allowed to travel through the gate, and it became a symbol of Soviet oppression, as an East German flag flew from a flagpole on top of it. Brandenburg Gate was also the site of what may be United States President Ronald Reagan’s most famous moment — a speech given in 1987 urging Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall and unify Germany.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Brandenburg Gate has become a symbol of peace, freedom, and unity in Germany. The gate sustained heavy damage in WWII, and though the governments of East and West Berlin teamed up to return it to respectable condition, it remained visibly damaged. In 2000, the German government began a restoration project that lasted for two years, and the renovated Brandenburg Gate was unveiled and reopened on the 12th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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