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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 VIII From Prussia to Germany 175


Chapter VIII From Prussia to Germany The city of Berlin offers a number of 19th-century monuments which are to be attributed to a Prussian rather than an all-German initiative but, in the course of time, have assumed the character of German national monuments. One of these is the Brandenburg Gate.1 And no building in Berlin is better known than this one. It stands in the very middle (now) of the city and is reached from the west by the Straße des 17. Juni (formerly the Charlottenburger Chaussee) and from the east by Unter den Linden (ill. 38). Replacing an earlier, unpretentious structure, it was built in 1788–1791 after a design by Carl Gotthard Langhans (1732–1808), who had been appointed director of the Oberhofbauamt in 1788. The gate was originally called “Friedenstor” and was opened, without any ceremony, to traffic on 6 August 1791.2 Langhans drew his inspiration from the Propylaea of the Athenian Acropolis and, in a remarkable departure from previous style and policy, gave to the city its first building in neo-classical style.3 This was not, 1 Gustav Seibt, “Das Brandenburger Tor” 71, 74–75, and 79. Demps, Das Brandenburger Tor 7 and 47. 2 Bauch, Das Brandenburger Tor 38. Scharf, Zum Stolze 23–24. Rober R. Taylor, Hohenzollern Berlin 76. Eckardt, Schadow 42–43. Krenzlin, Quadriga 33. Krenzlin, “Das Brandenburger Tor” 72 and 73. Gustav Seibt, “Das Brandenburger Tor” 72. Caspar, “Das Tor” 176. Christina Petersen in Engel, Das Brandenburger Tor 45–52. Demps, Das...

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