City Palace, Berlin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Stadtschloss, Berlin)
Jump to: navigation, search
City Palace
Berlin Stadtschloss 1920er.jpg
General information
Architectural style Baroque
Location Mitte, Berlin, Germany
Construction started 1443
Completed 1451
Demolished heavily damaged by Allied bombing in 1945; demolished by GDR in 1950
Client Joachim II Hector, Elector of Brandenburg, John George, Elector of Brandenburg, John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick Wilhelm I of Prussia, Frederick the Great, Frederick William III of Prussia, Frederick William IV of Prussia, Wilhelm I, German Emperor, Friedrich III, German Emperor, Wilhelm II, German Emperor
Design and construction
Architect Andreas Schlüter, Karl Friedrich Schinkel
The Berliner Stadtschloss (or Stadtschloß) in a 19th-century painting

The Berlin City Palace (German: Berliner Stadtschloss) was a royal and imperial palace in the centre of Berlin, the historical capital of Prussia, and subsequently Germany. It was located on the Museum Island at Schlossplatz, opposite the Lustgarten park. It was the winter residence of the Kings of Prussia and the German Emperors. In 2013 work started on reconstruction and a part of the exterior of the palace has been rebuilt. The completion is expected in 2019.

The palace was originally built in the 15th century and changed throughout the next few centuries. It bore features of the Baroque style, and its shape, finalised by the middle 18th century, is attributed to German architect Andreas Schlüter, whose first design is likely to date from 1702, though the palace incorporated earlier parts seen in 1688 by Nicodemus Tessin. It served as a residence to various Electors of Brandenburg. It was the principal residence and winter residence of the Hohenzollern Kings of Prussia from 1701 to 1918. After the unification of Germany in 1871, it was also the central residence for the German Emperors. It became a museum following the fall of the German Empire in 1918. The palace was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in World War II. Although it could have been repaired at great expense, the palace was demolished in 1950 by the German Democratic Republic authorities, despite West German protests.

Following the reunification of Germany, it was decided to rebuild the entire exterior of the palace in the original style except for one side. The new building will have the cubature of the former palace and include authentically reconstructed facades on three of the four exterior sides of the building. The interior will be modern, but the facades of one of the courts will be in the original style (Schlüterhof). However, the floorplan has been designed to allow potential future reconstruction of notable historical rooms. The building will house the Humboldtforum museum and congress complex, and is scheduled to be finished 14 September 2019.[1]

History up to 1871[edit]

Sumptuous reception by the Prussian royal family to King August the Strong of Saxony and Poland at the palace (1729)
Undated aerial view of the Berliner Stadtschloss, reflecting the situation between 1905 and 1925
The Stadtschloss with the National Memorial to emperor Wilhelm I), around 1900

The German word Schloss is usually translated as "palace", and the later Stadtschloss replaced an earlier fort or castle guarding the crossing of the Spree river at Cölln (a town, which, on 1 January 1710, united with neighbouring Berlin under the latter name). The castle stood on Fishers’ Island, now known as Museum Island. In 1443 the Hohenzoller Frederick II "Irontooth", Margrave and Prince Elector of Brandenburg, laid the foundations of the first fort or castle ever erected in Berlin in a section of swampy wasteland north of Cölln. At the completion of the castle in 1451 Frederick Irontooth moved in from Brandenburg's prior residence in Brandenburg upon Havel. The main role of the castle and its garrison in this period was to establish the authority of the Margraves over the unruly citizens of Berlin, who were reluctant to give up their mediaeval privileges to a centralised monarchy. In 1415 King Sigismund had enfeoffed the Hohenzollern with Brandenburg, who were now establishing their power and withdrawing electoral privileges, which the cities had alienated in the prior Brandenburgian interregnum (1319–1415).

The castle also included an originally Catholic chapel. In 1454 Frederick Irontooth, after having returned—via Rome—from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, elevated the castle chapel to become a parish church, richly endowing it with relics and altars.[2] Pope Nicholas V ordered Stephan Bodecker, then Prince-Bishop of Brandenburg, to consecrate the Chapel to Erasmus of Formiae.[3]

On 7 April 1465, at Frederick Irontooth's request, Pope Paul II attributed to St Erasmus Chapel a canon-law College named Stift zu Ehren Unserer Lieben Frauen, des heiligen Kreuzes, St. Petri und Pauli, St. Erasmi und St. Nicolai. This collegiate church became the nucleus of today's Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church, neighbouring the former site of the castle.

In 1538, the Margrave Joachim II demolished the palace and engaged the master builder Caspar Theiss to build a new and grander building in the Italian Renaissance style. After the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), Frederick William (1620–1688), the "Great Elector", embellished the palace further. In 1688, Nicodemus Tessin saw courtyard arcades with massive columns in front. Not much is known about the alterations of 1690–1695, when Johann Nering was the court architect. Martin Grünberg had carried on with the alterations in 1695–1699.

In 1699 the Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg (who took the title King in Prussia in 1701, becoming Frederick I), appointed the architect Andreas Schlüter to execute so-called second plan in the Italian manner dating from 1697. Schlüter's first design is likely to date from 1702, who planned to rebuild the palace in the Protestant Baroque style. His overall conception of the shape of a regular cube enclosing a magnificently ornamented courtyard was retained by all the building directors who succeeded him. In 1706, he was replaced by Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe, who designed the western extension of the palace doubling its size. In all essentials, Schlüter's balanced, rhythmical articulation of the façades was retained, but Göthe moved the main entrance to the new west wing.

King Frederick William I, who became king in 1713, was interested mainly in building up Prussia as a military power, and dismissed most of the craftsmen working on the Stadtschloss. As a result, Göthe's plan was only partly implemented. Nevertheless, the exterior of the palace had come close to its final form by the mid 18th century. The final stage was the erection of the dome in 1845, in the reign of Frederick William IV. The dome was built by Friedrich August Stüler after a design of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Thereafter, only smaller changes in the palace’s exterior took place. Major work took place inside the palace, however, engaging the talents of Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, Carl von Gontard and many others.

The Stadtschloss was at the centre of the Revolution of 1848 in Prussia. Huge crowds gathered outside the palace to present an "address to the king" containing their demands for a constitution, liberal reform and German unification. Frederick William emerged from the palace to accept their demands. On March 18, a large demonstration outside the Stadtschloss led to bloodshed and the outbreak of street fighting. Frederick William later reneged on his promises and reimposed an autocratic regime. From that time onwards, many Berliners and other Germans came to see the Stadtschloss as a symbol of oppression and "Prussian militarism".

Later history[edit]

Karl Liebknecht proclaims the German Free Socialist Republic at the Berliner Stadtschloss, 9 November 1918 (Mural, Hochschule für Musik, Berlin)

In 1871, King William I was elevated to the status of Emperor (Kaiser) of a united Germany, and the Stadtschloss became the symbolic centre of the German Empire. The Empire was, however, at least in theory a constitutional state, and from 1894 the new Reichstag building, the seat of the German parliament, came to rival and overshadow the Stadtschloss as the centre of power. In conjunction with Germany’s defeat in World War I, William II was forced to abdicate both as German Emperor and as King of Prussia. In November 1918, the Spartacist leader, Karl Liebknecht, declared the German Socialist Republic from a balcony of the Stadtschloss, ending more than 400 years of royal occupation of the building.

During the Weimar Republic, parts of the Stadtschloss were turned into a museum, while other parts continued to be used for receptions and other state functions. Under Adolf Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) Party, which laid to rest monarchist hopes of a Hohenzollern restoration, the building was mostly ignored. During World War II, the Stadtschloss was twice struck by Allied bombs: on 3 February and 24 February 1945. On the latter occasion, when the air defence and fire-fighting systems of Berlin had been destroyed, the building was struck by incendiaries, lost its roof and was largely burnt out.

The end of the war saw the Stadtschloss a burned-out shell of its former glory, although the building had remained structurally sound and much of its interior decoration was still preserved. It could have been restored, as many other bombed-out buildings in central Berlin later were. However, the area in which it was located was within the Soviet Union zone, which became the German Democratic Republic. The building was used for a Soviet war movie ("the Battle of Berlin") in which the Stadtschloss served as a backdrop, with live artillery shells fired at it for the realistic cinematic impact.[4]

The site of the City Place in 2007, with the Palast der Republik being demolished.

The new Communist regime installed in East Berlin by the Soviet Union declared the Stadtschloss a symbol of Prussian militarism, although at that time there appeared to be no plans to destroy the building. Some parts of it were in fact repaired and used from 1945 to 1950 as an exhibition space. However, in July 1950 Walter Ulbricht, the new General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, announced the demolition of the palace. Despite objections, dynamiting was undertaken between September and December 1950. Only one section was preserved, a portal from the balcony of which Karl Liebknecht had declared the German Socialist Republic. It was later added to the Council of State building (Staatsratsgebäude) where it formed the main entrance. The empty space where the Stadtschloss had stood was named Marx-Engels-Platz and used as a parade ground.

Liebknecht's balcony in the Council of State Staatsratsgebäude building (today's ESMT European School of Management and Technology)

In 1964, the GDR built a new Staatsrat or Council of State building on part of the site, incorporating Liebknecht’s balcony in its facade. From 1973 to 1976, during the reign of Erich Honecker, a large modernist building was built, the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), which occupied most of the site of the former Stadtschloss. Shortly before German reunification in October 1990, the Palast der Republik was found to be contaminated with asbestos and was closed to the public. After reunification, the Berlin city government ordered the removal of the asbestos, a process which was completed by 2003. In November 2003, the German federal government decided to demolish the building and leave the area as parkland pending a decision as to its ultimate future. Demolition started in February 2006 and was completed in 2008.


Following reunification a long-running debate commenced as to whether the palace should be reconstructed, and whether this should be in part or whole. Pro-reconstruction lobby groups argued that the rebuilding of the Stadtschloss would restore the unity and integrity of the historical centre of Berlin, which includes the Berliner Dom, the Lustgarten and the museums of Museum Island. Opponents of the project included those who advocated the retention of the Palast der Republik on the grounds that it was itself of historical significance; those who argued that the area should become a public park; and those who believed that a new building would be a pastiche of former architectural styles; would be an unwelcome symbol of Germany’s imperial past; and would be unacceptably expensive for no definite economic benefit. They also argued that it would be impossible to accurately reconstruct the exterior or interiors of the building, since neither detailed plans nor the necessary craft skills are available. Others disputed this, claiming that sufficient photographic documentation of both existed when it was converted to a museum following 1918.[citation needed]

Reconstruction under way, 2015.

The driving force in ultimately achieving reconstruction of the Stadtschloss was a Hamburg businessman and aristocrat Wilhelm von Boddien, described as "a great communicator".[5] In 1992 von Boddien founded and became Chairman of what became the most influential lobby group, Förderverein Berliner Schloss eV – Friends Of The Berlin Schloss. Boddein's group accumulated plans that had been believed lost, and funded a research project at the Technical University of Berlin to measure surviving photos and drawings of the Palace to create precise architectural plans. In 1993, it pulled off a further remarkable achievement, erecting a canvas mockup of a portion of the Stadtschloss facades in 1: 1 scale on the world's largest scaffolding assembly. Privately funded by donations and sponsorship it stood for a year and half, and is considered to be what turned public and official opinion in favour of reconstruction.

In view of the previous opposition, including high cost, and most importantly, the psychological and political objections, successive German governments had declined to commit themselves to the project. However, by 2002 and 2003 cross-party resolutions of the Bundestag reached a compromise to support at least a partial rebuilding of the Stadtschloss. In 2007, the Bundestag (German parliament) made a definitive decision about the reconstruction. According to this compromise, three façades of the palace would be rebuilt, but the interior is to be a modern structure to serve as a cultural museum and forum. However, the proportions of many of the original state rooms have been retained so as to enable their reconstruction at a later date should this be desired. Reconstruction of the Renaissance-gabled Pharmacy Wing, which connected to the Stadtschloss on the north side, would be another possible future project.

Panorama of how the finished reconstruction would look.

Due to German government budget cuts, construction of the 'Humboldtforum', as the new palace is called, was delayed. The foundation stone was finally laid by President Joachim Gauck in a ceremony on 12 June 2013 signalling the launch of a €590m (£500m) reconstruction project.[6] On completion in 2019 the building will house a modern museum containing collections of African and other non-European art, as well as two restaurants, a theater, a movie theater and an auditorium. [7] Donations continue to be sought for the baroque facade decoration by Förderverein Berliner Schloss eV, which is funding this part of the reconstruction.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "So verlief das Richtfest am Berliner Schloss (Topping-out wreath ceremony at the Palace, German article)". Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Ingo Materna and Wolfgang Ribbe, Geschichte in Daten – Brandenburg, Munich and Berlin: Koehler & Amelang, 1995, p. 68. ISBN 3-7338-0188-1.
  3. ^ Wolfgang Gottschalk, Altberliner Kirchen in historischen Ansichten, Würzburg: Weidlich, 1985, p. 171. ISBN 3-8035-1262-X
  4. ^ Renate Petras, Das Schloss in Berlin: Von der Revolution 1918 bis zur Vernichtung 1950, Berlin: Verlag Bauwesen, 1999, p. 110. ISBN 3-345-00690-1
  5. ^
  6. ^ Harriet Alexander (12 Jun 2013). "Berlin begins reconstruction of King Frederick the Great's palace". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  7. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°31′03″N 13°24′10″E / 52.51750°N 13.40278°E / 52.51750; 13.40278