The Tomb of Frederick the Great
The Tomb of Frederick the Great was a subject to which Old Fritz, as he was popularly known, gave a great deal of thought. Frederick the Great died on August 17, 1786 in the armchair of his study in Sanssouci. He wished to be buried in a tomb next to his "Weinberghäuschen" and next to his favourite dogs.
In his 46-year reign, Frederick frequently concerned himself with his own death. Besides his political testament of 1752, which he re-elaborated before almost every battle, he made new orders before every war, in which he regulated the smallest details of all his familiars and finances. Just as frequent were his repetitions of the instructions for his funeral:
I have lived as a philosopher and wish to be buried as such, without circumstance, without solemn pomp, without splendour. I want to be neither opened nor embalmed. Bury me in Sanssouci at the level of the terraces in a tomb which I have had prepared for myself... Should I die in time of war or whilst on a journey, I should be buried in the first convenient place and brought to Sanssouci in the winter). (1769)
His nephew and successor Frederick William II did not obey these instructions and ordered him to be buried in the Potsdam garrison church (destroyed in 1945) next to his father, the soldier-king Frederick William I.
However, the church grave was not the final resting place of the Prussian Kings. Almost 160 years later, in the turmoil of World War II, German soldiers took the coffins to safety in an attempt to save them from possible destruction. In March 1943 they were taken into an underground bunker in Potsdam-Eiche and then in March 1945 to the salt mine at Bernterode in Eichsfeld (Thüringen). From there they were carried off after the war by soldiers of the U.S. Army to Marburg (Hesse). The coffins stayed in the Marburg Elisabeth Church until their transfer to Burg Hohenzollern at Hechingen (Baden-Württemberg) in August 1952.
After the reunification of Germany the final wish of Frederick the Great was fulfilled. On August 17, 1991, the 205th anniversary of his death, the sarcophagus with the mortal remains of the King was laid out in the forecourt of Sanssouci palace, escorted by an honour guard of the Bundeswehr. The burial took place that night in the tomb Frederick had planned for the purpose since 1744 on the highest terrace of vineyards. "Quand je serai là, je serai sans souci" (Once I am there, I shall be carefree) Frederick the Great said in 1744.
His soldier-king father found his final resting place in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Mausoleum at the Church of Peace in Sanssouci Park.
- James, Barry: 200 Years Later, Frederick the Great Still Makes Trouble, International Herald Tribune, August 15, 1991[dead link]
- Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Filmreihe: Schätze der Welt – Erbe der Menschheit, p. 11 (German, PDF)