A Final Reflection on the Brandenburg Gate

Approaching the stunning landmark, standing monumental and pure, a feeling of royalty rushed over me almost automatically as a response to the Gate. In the past I’ve admired countless memorials and historical landmarks, but this Gate was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Studying the details of the Gate I noticed the Greek influence displayed in the Quadriga; I wondered if there was a significance of the separated openings; I was enticed to learn more about the history of such a beautifully crafted staple of Berlin.

Choosing the Brandenburg as the topic of my blog, I began researching its significance and impact. The gate was originally commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II to represent peace. The five passageways did have a specific purpose; citizens were only allowed to use the outermost two on each side while the middle path was left for royalty. The Greek influence atop the gate displays Eirene, the goddess of peace, highlighting the impression it’s creators planned for it to have.

Since the gate has been in place since 1791, it has changed roles throughout history. These roles have included many political issues and one interesting occurrence with Napoleon. After the 1806 Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon was the first to use the Gate for a triumphal procession and took its Quadriga to Paris. The Quadriga was later restored in 1814 after Napoleon’s defeat. The gate was then a powerful symbol as a Prussian triumphal arch. I discovered that several United States presidents including Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have all made speeches at the Gate during and after the Berlin Wall.

Furthermore, when the Nazis ascended to power, they used the gate as a party symbol such as when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. Hitler even had an event at the Gate to celebrate one of his birthdays.

During the time that the Berlin Wall was standing, the Gate was a checkpoint that was later closed, eliminating the need for the road that passed underneath it. This was a dark time for Berlin and Germany leaving the Brandenburger Tor desolate. This changed when the Wall was taken down and the gate’s role changed once again. Now, the gate was a symbol of freedom and represented the desire for a unified city of Berlin.

Today, the Gate attracts tourists from all over the world to admire its rich history and impressive stature. This pedestrian zone is a large public area where events are held including stage shows, major sporting events, or fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The Brandenburg Gate appears to many as just a breathtaking landmark in a city that has faced so many hardships; however, learning about the purpose behind every detail has truly changed the way I view the Gate.

I’ve revisited the Gate several times after I began writing about it’s history and meaning and have accumulated a new appreciation for it. Whether one is simply passing by or under the grand structure, its presence has an affect on everyone. To know the damage that could have been done to the Gate during wars, the time of the Berlin wall, and other events, it’s unbelievable the Gate is still in such good condition. It has taken some damage in the past but restoration has brought the Gate up to its original standards. When I look at the Gate now, I see a peaceful wall holding different meanings for each person. To me, the Brandenburg Gate towers overhead as a reminder of the bigger issues in this world, the peace that can be achieved, the hard work and perseverance that drives change, and a unified Germany.


The Brandenburg Gate is hard to compare to anything I have been to at home. From a national standpoint, I think the closest memorial that I can compare the Gate to would be the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. The Washington Monument has been the backdrop for a number of significant historical events, one of the most famous being Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech in 1963.


 The Monument is one of the United States’ most famous symbols, as it stands proudly overlooking the capital much like the Brandenburg Gate does in Germany. Both are famous tourist attractions in their respective cities but also well known in their countries. People come from across the world to see the Gate and the Washington monument, but the destinations attract travelers from within their nations as well. With hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting both sites each year, it’s clear that these places mean a lot to their countries and citizens, and while the Washington Monument might be newer than the centuries-old Brandenburg Gate, it’s evident that both places hold great cultural and historical significance.

On a more local level, the Brandenburg Gate reminds me a great deal of one of Columbus’s local treasures: The Shoe. The Horseshoe, nicknamed The Shoe by its students at Ohio State, is the football stadium for the Ohio State football team. Built in 1922 as an athletic center for Ohio State students, The Shoe has been through a great deal of Ohio State history and is one of the most well-known symbols of the university and its proud student fanbase.


While The Shoe has never been stolen as a war prize like the Brandenburg quadriga statue was by Napoleon, the two share a good deal of similarities. For example, both the Gate and the Shoe are held as symbols for their respective cities. For Berlin, the Gate represents victory and pride for the Berlin people. The Shoe holds similar qualities for Ohio State students as well as Ohio State fans across the nation. The Shoe stands for all of Ohio States athletic wins and as the football team is one of the aspects of Ohio State that the students and alumni are most proud of, the Shoe is definitely a place of pride. In addition to these qualities, both the Brandenburg Gate and the Shoe were influenced by other country’s architecture when they laid the plans for designing the structures. The Brandenburg Gate was heavily influenced by ancient Greek design as the columns and stature were modeled after the Acropolis in Athens. Similar to this, the Shoe modeled itself after a famous Roman feature, the Pantheon. While they pulled from historical structures, both the Gate and the Shoe are distinct enough to stand on their own.

Looking past their surface features and meanings, the Brandenburg Gate and the Shoe are also similar in their uses. The Brandenburg Gate has been home to a host of famous speeches and concerts, such as Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech and the Ode to Joy concert after the fall of the wall. The Shoe has also hosted famous events, with speakers such as President Obama speaking at Spring commencement, as seen below, and big concerts such as Pink Floyd and U2 using it as a venue. The Gate and the Shoe have done a great job keeping their rich history while also staying current.

President Barack Obama is seen on a huge video screen as he speaks during the Ohio State University spring commencement in the Ohio Stadium, Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio. President Obama is the third sitting president to give the commencement speech at Ohio State University. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Overall, it’s clear that despite its unique features, the Brandenburg Gate is more similar to American monuments than not. Both cultures understand the importance of investing in monuments and as a result, both welcome hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. While the Gate has a much more extensive history, both the Washington Monument and the Shoe are widely recognized symbols in America as well as worldwide. It’s safe to say that in the years to come, the Gate, the Washington Monument and the Shoe will continue to be held as important symbols for their nations and the world.




2798 – The Importance of the Brandenburg Gate

When people think of Berlin, a few images come to mind. They think of the wall and all of its murals, of a thriving city covered with bustling people, but more often than not, they think of the Brandenburg Gate. Before leaving for Berlin, everyone I knew told me that I absolutely had to see it. I understood that it was a big site in Berlin, that it had a lot of history and a beautiful appearance, but I really didn’t understand its importance.

To get some background knowledge on the Gate, I decided to do a little digging before my departure. When I Googled it, I was amazed at the results. Thousands of images covered the page, each of them demonstrating a critical time in German and world history with the Gate tucked neatly in the back. From Nazis marching in front of it to Germans celebrating the fall of the wall behind it, I was amazed to see that the Gate had witnessed so much of history. A lot of the photos were familiar, such as the one below from MSNBC. These were photos that I had seen in our American media and had never realized that the Gate was in every one.

Cheering people stand on the Berlin Wall at Brandenburg Gate on Nov. 9, 1989.

Now that I understood just how prominent the Gate was, I was really excited to see it in person. It was like meeting a celebrity: something you had seen on TV and the media but now get to see in person. When we finally came across it, it was more incredible than I could have imagined. The sheer mass and size of this structure was jaw-dropping. The detail in each column and the statue at the top was magnificent. I’m not usually interested in buildings and architecture, but the Brandenburg Gate left me speechless.


I was happy to have the opportunity to do further research on the Gate when picking a topic for the blog. Learning the history of the Gate makes seeing it even more incredible. Throughout its history, the overarching theme was clear: the Gate was everyone’s perfect propaganda. The Gate was a symbol of Berlin. When Napoleon stole the statue, he was declaring his ownership of the city. When Nazis marched through the Gate, they were demonstrating their control. And when people stood in front of the Gate to celebrate the end of the wall, it represented a new time for Berlin. Now, seeing it for myself, it’s clear to me why everyone makes such a big deal over a simple Gate. Because this is more than just a Gate, this is Berlin.



It was one of the first nights in Berlin when the iconic Brandenburg Gate gleamed through the dark streets as we quickly drove past it. I’ve heard about the Gate in the past as well as seen plenty of pictures but nothing could compare to its majestic reality.

Without knowing the history or past of this marvelous landmark, we searched for this Gate a few days after. Walking up to the Gate gives one a feeling of honor and regality despite anyone’s individual experiences. As I stood with the other students, feeling dwarfed in the Gate’s presence, we observed its features in detail. I noticed the Quadriga on the top of the Gate and was curious as to why it had Greek influence. This is what really struck my interest in learning about the history of this landmark and why it attracts so many people.

The significance of the Brandenburg Gate changed throughout history but its original purpose was to be a grand entrance for royals entering the city. The middle gate was used only for royals while the others for common traffic. It’s interesting now to see it solely as an attraction because the street through it no longer exists. As you walk up to the Gate and pass through, one feels the sense of royalty it was intended to provide. The rich history of the Gate varied with the challenges of Germany and Berlin during wars, the Berlin Wall and many other hardships, creating individual meanings for each person who visits it. This special characteristic has a lasting impact on visitors that observe its beauty, which is the main reason I find this Gate so intriguing to learn about.

Today, the Gate is a gathering place for speeches, celebrations, or any other event where people want to make an impression on the city or the population. It’s presence is truly an honor for the people of Germany and others from all over the world.

The Brandenburg Gate, as mentioned before, has changed significance many times throughout history. Originally it was built as a grand entrance to the city. Many years after, the Berlin wall was constructed and the landmark was trapped in the East and no longer attracted people; however, famous speeches such as those by President Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy were delivered here, providing hope for a reunited Germany. Other prevalent events of the past took place here including a celebration for Adolf Hitler after he was appointed chancellor and, later, for his birthday. After the wall came down the Gate then became a symbol of unity while also maintaining its previous significance –victory.

From the beginning this structure was famous. With its intricate and delicate architecture as well as brilliant design and location, the Gate is hard to miss. While it’s symbolism has changed over time, it’s reputation and popularity only continued to grow.


2798 – The Brandenburg Gate in Context

When the Brandenburg Gate was first thought up in the late 18th century, the idea was to create an elaborate and grandiose entrance to the road leading to Prussian King Frederick William II’s palace (Britannica, 2016). Built at Kaiser Wilhelm’s discretion, the landmark was designed by architect Carl G. Langhans to remember the Seven Year’s War. The Gate was modeled after the Propylaea in Athens and featured 12 Doric columns carved out of sandstone along with a statue of the Greek goddess of victory Nike (Britannica, 2016). After three years of construction, the Brandenburg Gate was completed in 1791. Since its completion, the Gate has come to stand for the many parts of Berlin’s history: victory to war and division to unity.

Throughout the years, the Brandenburg Gate has been the backdrop for a series of significant political events and change. Just 15 years after the Gate’s completion, Berlin became occupied by Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grand Army as seen in the image below (Maranzani, 2013). Under Bonaparte’s command, the statue was torn from the Gate and shipped back to Paris where it remained in storage until the Prussian defeat of Napoleon in 1814 (Maranzani, 2013). When the statue was returned, an iron cross was added to commemorate the Prussian victory, further emphasizing Berlinas a place of triumph and victory.


In 1933 the Gate became a symbol of tyranny, seen below, when Adolf Hitler was appointed as  Chancellor – a role leading to his powerful political climb to the Dictator of Nazi Germany. As Hitler stood on a balcony at the Reich Chancellery the night of his appointment to the chancellorship, Nazi marchers poured through Berlin streets to the Brandenburg gate (World Future Fund). This landmark was used again just six years later in 1939 for Hitler’s 50th birthday where troops marched through the gate followed by Hitler himself and lastly a parade (World Future Fund).


After Hitler and the Nazis were defeated in 1945, Germany and Berlin were divided amongst the Allies. The Brandenburg Gate fell within Soviet territory, and when the GDR constructed the wall in 1961, Berlin’s beloved Gate was separated from the West. During this period, the Brandenburg Gate took on an entirely different image: one of separation and isolation. The Gate was located in what was known as the “death strip”, the obstacle-filled area between two concrete walls on the East side that was designed to prevent escapees (Britannica, 2016). The haunting image below depicts the Brandenburg Gate as it was seen during this period: a constant reminder of the city’s division.


Despite the Wall’s ominous presence, the Brandenburg Gate’s image of division began to shift as memorable speeches given at the Gate sparked hope for the future. Two years after the Wall was constructed, John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at the western side of the Gate to show solidarity with Berlin during the tense period of the Cold War. Delivered in German, Kennedy expressed that “When all [of Berlin and Germany] are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe”(President John F. Kennedy, 1963). Twenty-four years after JFK, Ronald Reagan delivered a famous speech at the Gate, addressing America’s support for Berlin and its people (Maranzani, 2013). Reagan closed his speech with one of the most famous and hopeful lines concerning Germany and Berlin’s separation: “Tear down this wall.”

After decades of separation, the Berlin wall was opened on November 9, 1989. That night, the Brandenburg Gate restored its image of unity, becoming the playground for East and Wester Berliners who were reunited at last. Seen in the photo below, people climbed the Wall and celebrated their newfound unity, standing proudly together in front of the Gate for the first time in almost 30 years. The celebration continued for weeks, and the Gate became a site of peace and unity.

Cheering people stand on the Berlin Wall at Brandenburg Gate on Nov. 9, 1989.

One of the most famous celebrations to take place at the Gate was the live broadcast of American conductor Leonard Bernstein’s unity concert. Bernstein conducted an orchestra composed of musicians from the four countries that occupied Berlin postwar, featuring an updated rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony titled “Ode to Freedom” (Maranzani, 2013). The first concert ended at midnight on December 23, the exact moment that the Wall became officially open for good (Maranzani, 2013). Tens of thousands of spectators gathered outside the wall to watch a live broadcast, making it the first TV event that was broadcast to both East and West Berlin in over 30 years (Maranzani, 2013).

After the fall of the wall, the Gate served as the backdrop for more positive and uplifting political speeches. In 1994, President Bill Clinton exclaimed America’s support and excitement for a “Europe united, united in peace, united in freedom, united in progress for the first time in history”(Kennedy, 1994). More recently in 2013, the Brandenburg Gate was the setting for President Barack Obama’s speech during which he reminded Berlin of their allies help during the issues of the Berlin wall and reassured them of his intentions to improve and maintain ally relationships to avoid conflicts in the future and resolve those of previous presidencies.

Berlin 2798 – An Introduction to the Brandenburg Gate

IMG_4238The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most famous historical landmarks. Located in Pariser Platz in East Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate has stood through 200 years of Berlin history. Once a haunting representation of political division, the Brandenburg Gate is now a symbol of Germany’s strength and unity after Soviet control.

The Gate was commissioned in 1788 by Frederick William II to be a grand entrance to the Prussian palace (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016). It took three years to construct the Greek-style structure, consisting of 12 Doric columns and stretching 66 feet high (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016). Atop the Gate is a statue of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, put in place in 1793. The statue itself has faced a great deal of historical transitions, including a move to Paris during the French occupation of Berlin from 1806-1814 as well as being featured in a great deal of Nazi propaganda during the 1930s (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016) .

On August 13, 1961, the construction of the Berlin Wall enclosed the Brandenburg Gate within East Berlin (A View on Cities, 2016). The Gate was shut down, leaving Pariser Platz as a desolate space symbolizing the political division of Berlin (A View on Cities, 2016). The space to the west of the gate became a notable area for American presidential speeches. Two years after the construction of the wall, John F. Kennedy delivered a famous speech near the Brandenburg Gate reassuring the people of Berlin and Germany that the wall did not signify any plans of war (BBC News, 2013).Twenty-four years later in 1987, millions of Americans watched as a crowd of more than 20,000 gathered at the Brandenburg Gate to hear Ronald Reagan tell Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” (A&E Networks, 2016).

On November 9, 1989, Reagan’s request was finally answered and the Berlin Wall was opened. To celebrate the occasion, American conductor Leonard Bernstein held a series of concerts featuring artists from all four countries that had occupied Berlin. The first concert was broadcast live to tens of thousands of viewers gathered at the Brandenburg Gate and throughout Berlin, marking the first television event transmitted to both East and West Germany in over 30 years (A&E Networks, 2016).

With its vast history, the Brandenburg Gate is more than just a tourist attraction. The gate stands as a reminder that despite a turbulent past, Berlin is now a beacon of unity and peace.