There was another, smaller Brandenburg Gate at the spot of the current one.
The first Brandenburg Gate, also called Tiergarten Tor, was already in use at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Rather plain and functional, it consisted of only two gateposts and a guardhouse. From the Brandenburg Gate you reached the Tiergarten, at that time not a well-kept park, but a large wooded area just outside the city, the Charlottenburg Castle. The simple gate, which stood at the end of the city’s most magnificent street, Unter den Linden, soon ceased to meet the demands of the growing city. From 1788 to 1791, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II had the new Brandenburg Gate rebuilt by Carl Gotthard Langhans in the early Classicist style.
The gate’s design is based upon the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis.
The construction contract for the Brandenburg Gate was granted by Frederick William II, it was to represent a symbol of peace. The gate was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, he was heavily inspired by the famous gateway of the Acropolis in Athens. The Brandenburg Gate was built between 1788 and 1791. The gate consists of twelve Doric columns, six on each side. The columns together form five passes. Originally, citizens were allowed to use only the outer two passages as the main one was for the use of royal family members only.
The original goddess in the Quadriga was Eirene, the goddess of peace.
On top of the gate you can see today Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. She is standing in a car drawn by four horses, the Quadriga. The original name of the new Brandenburg Gate was “Peace Gate” and the goddess in the Quadriga was originally Eirene, the goddess of peace. After the Prussian defeat in 1806 at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon was the first to use the Brandenburg Gate after his triumph and took the Quadriga with him to Paris. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 and the Prussian occupation of Paris by General Ernst von Pfuel, the Quadriga was brought back to Berlin. The Brandenburg Gate was redesigned after the victory over Napoleon, by Karl Friedrich Schinkel as a Prussian triumphal arch. The goddess, now Victoria, was equipped with the Prussian eagle, the Iron Cross on her lance and a wreath of oak leaves.
The first triumph of the unified Germany took place at the Brandenburg Gate.
The largest victory parade of the 19th century took place at the gate on 16 June 1871. After the victorious campaign against France, the German Empire was proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles and proclaimed the Prussian King Wilhelm I. the first German Emperor. The Berliners celebrated not only a victory, but also for the first time the unity of Germany. From then on, the Brandenburg Gate became the national symbol of the empire. The state guests who visited Berlin were received at the Brandenburg Gate.
Brandenburg Gate used to be a symbol of division, now it is a symbol of unity.
With the division of Germany after the WWII and the construction of the wall in 1961, the Brandenburg Gate became a restricted area and was not accessible to Berliners and visitors. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, 100,000 people accompanied the official opening of the Brandenburg Gate on 22 December 1989 and shortly after celebrated their first New Year’s Eve here. Even today, the Brandenburg Gate is a unique symbol for the re-unification of Germany.