Brandenburg Gate, Germany

An enduring symbol of a nation

By CyArk

CyArk

Introducing the Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th century monument in Berlin, built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg. Throughout its history, the Brandenburg Gate has been a site of major historical events. It is considered to be a national symbol for Germany, and represents not only the charged past of the country, but also a symbol of peace and unity for all of Europe.

Berlin 1945 (1945-07) by William VandivertLIFE Photo Collection

Historic Context

The Brandenburg Gate was commissioned by Prussian Emperor Frederick William II to commemorate the peace that was restored after the Batavian Revolution. After the Prussians were defeated by Napoleon in 1806, Napoleon used the Brandenburg Gate for his triumphal procession, and removed the quadriga to bring to Paris. The quadriga was returned with the Prussian occupation of Paris, and the gate was used mainly by royal family members. When the Nazis took power in the 20th century, the gate became a symbol of Nazi power. The gate was damaged all throughout World War II, and a replica was even produced and placed away from the center of Berlin in order to confuse Allied bombers. Many different flags have flown atop the gate itself throughout the course of its history, and was the backdrop of many important speeches and events, including Ronald Regan’s famous speech requesting the removal of the Berlin Wall.

Ground level view of the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

Brandenburg Gate Today

With the fall of the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, in 1989, the Brandenburg Gate again became central in symbolizing a reunited country. The site today is a popular tourist spot in Berlin and also features many events and celebrations. In the summers, large screens are placed around the plaza so that viewers can cheer on Germany in the FIFA World Cup. There is a large New Year’s Eve celebration complete with fireworks every year. Local festivals and educational tours also frequently take place in the plaza of the site.

A close up of the Quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

Symbolism on the Gate

Originally the bronze quadriga that crowns the gate was a depiction of Eirene, the goddess of peace. Her iconography included a scepter of leadership and a wreath of olive leaves. However, after the sculpture was captured by Napoleon and returned some years later, the goddess was refashioned. By placing the Iron Cross inside the wreath and topping it with the Prussian Black Eagle, the goddess no longer represented peace, but military victory. Although the iconography of the goddess statue changed from peace to victory not long after it was built, the relief sculptures on the Gate still reflect the original message of peace. The panel below the bronze quadriga depicts the goddess Eirene surrounded by the personifications of virtues such as Friendship, Joy, and Public Policy. 

Statue of Mars at the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

A Neoclassical Masterpiece

Completed in 1791 by architect Carl Gotthard Langhans and sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow,  Brandenburg Gate immediately became one of the most recognizable structures in Berlin. Langhans modeled the Brandenburg Gate on the Propylaea, the entrance gate to the Athenian Acropolis, which includes Doric columns, a capped pediment, and adjoining temples. In the small temple to the left of the Brandenburg Gate which once served as a guardhouse, there is a small statue of Mars, the Roman god of War, sheathing his sword, and thereby, bringing war to an end.

CyArk scanning the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

Expedition Overview

CyArk partnered with the Landesdenkmalamt Berlin and the Institute of Photogrammetry at the University of Stuttgart to scan Brandenburg Gate as well as the entire Pariser Platz in 2015 in preparation for Germany’s 25th anniversary of reunification. Using LiDAR technology and photogrammetry, the site was digitally recorded to complement a historical archive of documentation and conservation materials housed in Berlin's Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt (Senate House for Urban Development and Environment). The project was completed through the generous support of Iron Mountain. 

Brandenburg Gate scanning timelapse by CyArkCyArk

Ground level view of the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

Additional Resources

For more information on this site, its history and additional resources relating to CyArk’s work please visit

CyArk Brandenburg Gate Resources.

Credits: Story

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This project was made possible through the generous support of Iron Mountain and the following partners:

Landesdenkmalamt Berlin

Institute for Photogrammetry

Iron Mountain

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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