The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch in Berlin, and one of the best-known landmarks of Germany.
It is built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel.
It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace.
Built according to the plans of Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791, the Brandenburg Gate is modelled on the Propylaeum of Athens’ Acropolis.
Langhan built the monument to stand 26 meters (85 feet) high and 65 meters (213 feet) wide, with 12 Doric columns, six to each side measuring 15 meters (49 feet) in height.
The gate has five passages. The central and widest one was reserved for the royals; the adjacent passages were for use of the aristocracy while ordinary citizens were only allowed to use the outer two.
The gate is decorated with reliefs and sculptures designed by Gottfried Schadow, the majority of them based on the exploits of Heracles.
The classical sandstone work is one of the masterpieces of this era and is the only surviving one of 18 previous city portals.
The Quadriga, a sculpture representing the Goddess of Victory, by Johann Gottfried Schadow which can be spotted from a long distance was erected on the Gate in 1793.
The statue remained in place for just over a decade, before falling into the clutches of Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grand Army.
After occupying Berlin that fall and triumphantly marching beneath the arches of the Gate, Napoleon ordered the Quadriga dismantled and shipped back to Paris.
After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the quadriga was triumphantly taken back to Berlin, and was turned into a symbol of victory: an iron cross and eagle were added to the laurel wreath.
At the same time the square near the gate was renamed Pariser Platz after the French capital Paris in honour of the anti-Napoleon Allies’ occupation of Paris in 1814.
When the Nazis ascended to power, they used the gate as a party symbol.
The entire structure was heavily damaged during World War II, and in 1957–58 it was restored, with the quadriga recast from the original molds.
From 1961 to 1989 the Brandenburg Gate came to symbolize divided Germany, as the Berlin Wall shut off access to the gate for both East and West Germans.
The gate was reopened on December 22, 1989, in the course of the reunification of East and West Berlin, when West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl walked through it to meet East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow.
The Brandenburg Gate is flanked by two small buildings, Haus Liebermann and Haus Sommer, which were built in the late 1990s by architect Josef Paul Kleihues to replace the pavilions that were destroyed during World War II.
On 21 December 2000, the Brandenburg Gate was privately refurbished at a cost of six million euros.
On 3 October 2002, the 12th anniversary of German reunification, the Brandenburg Gate was once again opened following extensive refurbishment.
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 Berlin Festival of Lights is an event that occurs annually in October. For one or two weeks, well-known sights like Brandenburg Gate, Fernsehturm, Berlin Cathedral or Berlin Victory Column are scenes of illumination and Light art.
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.