It is dusk and a group of riders is moving towards the sea, most probably to embark in the harbor. The wind coming up from the sea tugs at their clothes and violently shakes the trees and the bushes. The scene is almost completely in darkness with the setting sun hidden behind the Gothic church that rises up majestically on a rock right by the water, as though it had originally formed as part of the natural rock. The transition from land to sea is like a cliff there, and the house of God seems like a vision bathed in an auspicious glow, a telling image of the Christian world view. Schinkel’s leaning towards narrative and drama shows his close affinity with the poets of German Romanticism such as Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, whose influence accounted for Schinkel’s preference for old German themes and medieval architecture in his works. In those days, it was generally thought that the Gothic style was German in origin, which in itself explains the enthusiasm among the Romantics for that period and its architecture, particularly during the period 1813 to 1815 with its groundswell of patriotism.


  • Title: Gothic Church on a Rock by the Sea
  • Creator: Karl Friedrich Schinkel
  • Date Created: 1815
  • Physical Dimensions: w98.0 x h72.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: W.S. 200
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Andres Kilger
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Karl Friedrich Schinkel was the foremost Prussian architect, city planner and a painter. From 1772 to 1800 he studied architecture under Friedrich Gilly and his father in Berlin. After a journey to Italy, he began work as an independent painter in 1805. In 1816 he created the scenery for Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, including the stage for the Queen of the Night scene, adorned with stars, which has since become iconic. Despite such successes, he decided to devote himself to architecture. He became famous as one of the most prominent German architects and created Neoclassical as well as Neo-Gothic buildings, mainly in Berlin and surrounding towns. Well known landmarks of his making include the Berlin Altes Museum on Museum Island, the Neue Wache (1816–18) and the Schauspielhaus (1819–21) at Gendarmenmarkt. In 1826 he also produced the plans for Charlottenhof Palace and St. Nikolaikirche, both in Potsdam. His style stands out for its pronounced Greek influence, while in his later years he applied Neo-Gothic elements such as can be seen in the brickwork of Friedrichswerder Church (1824–31).
  • Artist Place of Death: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Neuruppin, Germany
  • Artist Dates: 1781-03-13/1841-10-09

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Gothic Church on a Rock by the Sea

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