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National Monuments and Nationalism in 19th Century Germany


Hans A. Pohlsander

No century in modern European history has built monuments with more enthusiasm than the 19th. Of the hundreds of monuments erected, those which sprang from a nation-wide initiative and addressed themselves to a nation, rather than part of a nation, we may call national monuments. Nelson’s Column in London or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris are obvious examples. In Germany the 19th century witnessed a veritable flood of monuments, many of which rank as national monuments. These reflected and contributed to a developing sense of national identity and the search for national unity; they also document an unsuccessful effort to create a «genuinely German» style. They constitute a historical record, quite apart from aesthetic appeal or ideological message. As this historical record is examined, German national monuments of the 19th century are described and interpreted against the background of the nationalism which gave birth to them.


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CHAPTER V Monuments to German Culture 103


Chapter V Monuments to German Culture The monuments to be considered in this chapter are “Kulturdenkmäler” or “nationalkulturelle Denkmäler,” i.e. monuments to the German “Kulturnation.” They have been selected on the basis of the historical sig- nificance of their subjects in German arts, letters, and science. Most, per- haps all of them, may lay claim to being national monuments, and some are worthy of international attention. They have been arranged in chronological order, by date of completion. The chapter must begin with a monument which actually lies outside, by a few years, of the chronological parameters set to this study, but was a first in the history of German monuments. The very first German personality neither of the nobility nor of the clergy to have a monument erected to him was the poet Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715–1769).1 This monument was designed right after his death by his friend Adam Friedrich Oeser (1717–1799), painter, sculptor, and director of the Kunstakademie in Leipzig;2 it was executed 1 Christian Fürchtegott Gellert was a theologian and poet, who is best remembered for his Fabeln und Erzählungen. He also produced a novel, several plays, and several hymns. Among the latter the most famous is “Die Himmel rühmen des Ewigen Ehre” (“The Heavens declare the glory of the Eternal One”), set to music by Beethoven. Carsten Schlingmann, Gellert: Eine literarhistorische Revision (Bad Homburg 1967). Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz, “Gellert, Christian Fürchtegott, Lieder- unf Fabeldichter,” in BBKL...

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