24 days ago the archangel Gabriel kneeled in front of Mary. Now the Infant Jesus has been born and – only a few rooms away – is already sitting on Mary’s lap. The altar from Tyrol was
carved from Swiss Stone Pine wood around 1485 and was added to the collection of the Bode Museum in 1908.
Upper Austria was the home of many winged altars; about 2000 of these Gothic altars once existed. Often these magnificent works of art were only saved due to the determination of an individual. The altar of the cross from the parish church in Hallstatt was rescued by a miner around 1750. Instead of sawing it up as firewood as ordered he kept it aside.
The enormous costs involved with the creation of such an altar were not caused by the elaborate wood carving; the expensive part were painting and gilding. The opulence of these altars can hardly be surpassed; in their original position the altars were part of a total work of art encompassing architecture, painted glass, wall paintings, textiles and the works of gold- and silversmiths.
The Television Tower and Outer Space
In red, the colour of Socialism, the sphere of the Berlin Television Tower should shine according to the design of GDR architect Hermann Henselmann; its shape was intended to commemorate that of the Sowjet Sputnik satellites. Structurally resembling a chimney it should under no circumstances look like one, this was stipulated during a meeting in 1964. The building that officially was called “Fernseh- und UKW-Turm Berlin” (TV and Metric Wave Tower Berlin), in Oktober 1969 was the second highest tlevision tower in the world. Only the Russian tower Ostankino in Moscow was higher. At the same time it was – after the tower in Moscow and the Empire State Building in New York – the third highest free-standing building of its times.
Nights in Kreuzberg
The first person to receive the Iron Cross from the hands of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III. was his wife Luise – posthumously and on her birthday. His beloved consort had confronted Napoleon and pleaded for the preservation of the Prussian state; she died with only 34 years. After her death she became almost a saint for her subjects.
The king himself drafted the design of the cross; with the elaboration of details he entrusted his court architect Schinkel.He placed the Iron Cross as a finial on top of a memorial for the war of liberation. Only the top of a Gothic, cast-iron cathedral peeps out of the hillock; the rest of the building seems to be hidden within the hill – a clever way to solve the problem of notorious lack of money. During the inauguration the hill was named “Kreuzberg” ( lit.: cross mountain); the surrounding part of Berlin was named accordingly.
A jigsaw of beasts
Blue galzed tiles and fantastic nimal reliefs over the facade of the Ishtar Gate: The mythical beast Muschuschu with the horned head of a snake, the front legs of a big cat, the hind legs of a bird of prey and a tail armed with a scorpion’s sting was the symbol of the town- and main deity Marduk. The composit beast probably was a combination of the most dangerous animals known in ancient Mesopotamia – lion, horn viper, bird of prey and scorpion – created to scare off enimies outside the gate together with the powerful bull of the weather god Adad.
The deep blue, glossy pieces of debris from the Ishtar Gate caught the eye of Wilhelminian scholar Robert Koldeway during an exploration of the ruins of Babylon. While the archaeologist conducted his excavations on the bank of the Euphrates, the Berlin Museum created their “Ancient Near Eastern Department” in 1899. Their expectations to grace this department with treasures from Mesopotamia were fully satisfied.
Bevor man den bereits vierten Berliner Dom an dieser Stelle betritt, begegnet man rechts oberhalb des Eingangs einer weißen Rosenblüte auf blauem Grund, in der Mitte ein rotes Herz mit einem schwarzen Kreuz: der Lutherrose. Ursprünglich stammt sie aus einem Fenster im Augustinerkloster zu Erfurt, wo sie Martin Luther als Mönch vor Augen hatte. Später ließ Kurprinz Johann Friedrich von Sachsen damit ein Siegel für den Reformator gestalten. Luther kennzeichnete damit seinen Schriftverkehr und deutete die Lutherrose als symbolische Zusammenfassung seiner Theologie. Der goldene Siegelring befindet sich seit 1733 im Grünen Gewölbe in Dresden.
„Das erste sollte ein Kreuz sein, schwarz im Herzen, das seine natürliche Farbe hätte, damit ich mir selbst Erinnerung gäbe, dass der Glaube an den Gekreuzigten mich selig macht. Denn so man von Herzen glaubt, wird man gerecht. Solch Herz aber soll mitten in einer weißen Rose stehen, anzeigen, dass der Glaube Freude, Trost und Friede gibt. Darum soll die Rose weiß und nicht rot sein; denn weiße Farbe ist der Geister und aller Engel Farbe. Solche Rose steht im himmelfarbenen Feld, dass solche Freude im Geist und Glauben ein Anfang ist der himmlischen Freude zukünftig. Und um solch Feld einen goldenen Ring, dass solche Seligkeit im Himmel ewig währet und kein Ende hat und auch köstlich ist über alle Freude und Güter, wie das Gold das edelste, köstlichste Erz ist.“
With lion paws, the head of a ram, a falcon or a human, with wings or without, the Sphinx is a weird beast. In Greece it towers on a pillar and pronounces riddles, she obviously has breasts and is a female. But on the other side of the Mediterranian Sea? There a pharao’s head is on top of the lion’s body – and the sphinx is obviously male. In European Baroque and Classicism master stone masons reorganised the different ingredients once again, combined Greek and Egyptian features and integrated the resulting composit figure with its pharao’s head and female breasts into the cityscapes.
The most famous sphinx can be found in front of the pyramids at Gizeh, but the New Museum, home of the Egyptian collection in Berlin, offers ample material to add to this “gender debate”.
Everybody in Berlin was “amused”
When the Afghan king Amanullah Khan and his charming wife Soraya visited Berlin in 1928 Berlin was over the moon. Thousands came to Unter den Linden and to Friedrichstrasse to see the exotic state visitor with thrier own eyes. The king wore a light blue tunic embroidered with gold thread, countless medals and on his shako with heron feathers glistens a diamond agraffe. The people in Berlin without further ado christen him “Ullemulle”.
The youthful king is interested in technologies and progress, he drives a tube train and races a car along the motoring circuit Avus, he inspected a parade of fourty airplanes in thr Tempelhofer Feld and visits AEG in Schöneweide. At the same time Soraya and her attendants enter the beauty salon Kühnen. The Prinz-Albrecht-Palais where the couple lodges becomes a kind of warehouse for everything they wish for in their home country – modern carpets, chemical products, sculptures … But the guests also bring presents for the host, among them an ancient Buddha statue from Gandhara. Today it belongs to the Museum of Asian Art and will be on display in the Humboldt-Forum from 2019.
In dulci jubilo
Ihren Namen verdankt die zwischen zwei Engeln fast schwebende berühmte Kanzel ihrem Schöpfer, dem Hofbildhauer und Schlossbaudirektor Andreas Schlüter. Er schuf sie 1703 für die Marienkirche am Alexanderplatz. Beeinflußt war Schlüter von Bernini und Michelangelo, deren Werke er spätestens bei seiner Reise nach Italien sah. Die dekorative Fülle verdeckt die konstruktive Kühnheit: vier Säulen der Kanzel ersetzen den unteren Teil des Schiffspfeilers. Über dem Schalldeckel bricht ein kleines Heer posaunenblasender und segenbringender Engel aus den Wolken hervor und jubiliert ganz ungestüm.
Die Marienkirche ist die älteste noch sakral genutzte städtische Pfarrkirche Berlins.
Onions, leek, celary, coriander, dillweed, poppies, radish, mangel, garlic, shallots, parsley, chervil, lattice, parsnips, cabbage and nigella – all this grew in what nowadays is the Pleasure Garden. The garden was part of the palace – its vegetables were harvested and brought straight to the palace kitchen. In the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War the garden was entirely overgrown but in 1646 the court gardeners recreated the pleasure garden in the Dutch style including a flower garden, an orangery and a spice garden. This is where in 1649 the first potatoes – imported from the Netherlands – were planted; like tomatoes they were kept as purely decorative plants. With its many statues, grottoes, pleasure houses, aviaries and fountains it was later opened to the public and became a popular meeting place. What else happened to the garden has been told already on day 11.
In a flash!
A comparatively simple network of underground tubes was used to send postal items through Berlin. The sender delivered it to one of the connected post ofices and the letter wasplaced into a special cartridge. A machine generated underpressure that drew the cartridge into the tube. Alternating between pressurised air and suction air the letter shoot war transported through the system with a speed of ten to fifteen meters per second. In the early days they were directed manually at intermediate stations, later electromagnetic gates automatically send the cartridge to the post office closest to the recipient’s address, where a cycle messenger already waited to deliver the letter.
In 1865 this pneumatic delivery system, the most advanced of its time, started operations between the main post office in Oranienberger Strasse and the stock exchange (at the site of todays S-Bahn Station Hackescher Markt).
Socialism à la James Bond
The Palace of the Republic does no longer exist and the Palace Hotel opposite of it was also demolished in 2001. The site os now occupied by the City Quartier DomAquarée. The socialist hotel built by Sweden was a playground for many subversive activities. Diplomats, artists, actors and Western spies were among its guests and the all had to pay in hard currency. High-ranking GDR politicians threw excessive parties in the Sinus bar of the hotel. Currency dealings as well as the exchange of secret agents between East and West were arranged here. The Ministry for State Security observed large parts of the hotel with cameras; some rooms were equipped with hidden microphones and cameras for “special” guests. Hotel staff and prostitutes were on the pay roll of the Stasi, too.
The terrorist Abu Daoud who pulled the strings of the 1972 Munich massacre, was placed in the hotel by the ministry for a considerable time starting in 1981. In March 1989 the Austrian businessman Herbert Rübler died in the hotel frm a head injury. The ministry suspected him of beeing a double agent. An arson attack in the underground parking in 1991 destroyed eight cars.
Thanks to Sophie
A beautifully patterned baroque wallpaper is the sumptous decoration of the apsis of the Sophienkirche. For a long time it faded on the wall until it was painted over with oil paint. Today it is freshly restored and shines in all its splendour.
In 1712, Sophie Luise, the wife of King Frederick, donated a new parish church für the inhabitants of the Spandau suburb. The grand tower with its curved copper roof was added some thirty years later and was payed for by the otherwise notoriously thrifty Soldier King. It is the only extant Baroque tower in Berlin.
On 13th September 1964 during a surprise visit in East Berlin the American civil rights activist Martin Luther King preached in front of 3000 people about freedom and human rights – first in St. Mary at Alexanderplatz and later in the Sophienkirche. Exactly one month later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
A sphere inserted into a cylinder. This is the basic geometry of the Pantheon in Rome that served as a model for the rotunda in the Old Museum. Only the oculus in the centre of the dome is not open like the one in Rome but covered with glas, the weather in Germany being far more inclement. Furthermore the rotunda has only half the size of the Pantheon. As decoration for the paneled ceiling Schinkel selected the signs of the zodiac. A large granite bowl was also commissioned for the hall but it turned out too big and was set up in front of the museum instead.
Not far from the Museum Island there is yet another building that took the Pantheon as its model as well – St. Hedwig Cathedral.
Fallen off the horse
The pleasure garden in front of the Old Museum was turned into a parade-ground covered with sand during the reign of the “Soldier-King”. As soon as he assumed power in 1713 he cancelled all expenses for the garden and had all rare plants, statues and flower tubs removed. To the dismay of all townspeople 100 years later Napoleon made his troups bivouac on the lawn that in the meantime had covered the place. The garden designer Lenné intervened between 1826 and 1829 and restructured the entire space. After June 16th 1871 the centre of the pleasure garden was dominated by an equestrian sculpture of Friedrich Wilhelm III that commemorating the return of the victorious soldiers from the Franco-German war. During the first years of the GDR not only the city palace was blown up; even earlier the already damaged sculpture was melted down – pragamatic and ideologically correct – as non-ferrous metal scrap.
With scoop net and poetry
A parka, nowadays a fashionable garment again, was firste mentioned by Adalbert von Chamisso in his book “Description of a Voyage Round the World”. It was worn by the Chukchi people whom he encountered during his circumnavigation 1815-1818.
Numerous plants and animals, among them a butterfly, and even an archipelago bear Chamisso’s name. Like many of his contemporaries he pursued many interests. A friend of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Chamisso became known as the author of “Peter Schlemihl’s Miraculous Story” – Schlemihl sells his shadow for a pouch of gold but is made to regret it after a while. A memorial bust of Chamisso at Monbijou Place honours the great Romantic writer.
Penguins are generally believed to be frost resistant, their home is Antarctica. Most visitors are therefore amazed to find Humboldt penguins under the tropical sun of the Pacific coast of Peru. The cold Humboldt Current flowing along the coast from the south makes this possible, It causes an remarkably cool climate and is the reason why penguin can hatch in the tropics.
The first to discover these penguins, Alexander von Humboldt is said to have seen them during his journey to the Americas 1799-1804 around Callao in today’s Peru. And though the have not made it into the Humboldt Forum yet, the endangered species has made it onto a UN stamp.
Once upon a time
This marble Sleeping Beauty has pricked herself with the spindle. Louis Sussmann-Hellborn created the sculpture in 1878 and presented it to the National Gallery. Highly respected in his times the now almost forgotten artist inhabited a representative mansion near the Tiergarten.
The facade of the third building on Museum Island, the National Gallery that houses one of the most beautiful collections of 19th century art, has the appearance of an antique temple, the inside showcases an almost theatrical staircase – and in the vestibule of this museum our fairy-tale princess is sleeping.
King of Billing
“Not only street corners, pillars and fountains, even roofs and chimneys have been painted and inscribed by companies” Mr. Litfaß enthuses during a visit to Paris and raves on about the “giant adverts”, ready to be inspired by it.
The green memorial pillar at Münzstrasse near Alexanderplatz is easily overlooked though it marks the site of a revolutionary invention. On April 15th 1855 the first advertising pillar – aptly named “Litfaß-Säule” in German – was erected in this spot. The pillars soon were ubiquitous and earned their inventor the somewhat disrespectful nickname “Säulenheiliger” (stylite). But Ernst Theodor Amandus Litfaß also excelled as printer, publisher, event organiser and amateur artist. His grave can be found in the Dorotheenstadt cementery.
Across the desert into the Pergamon Museum
In the year 1887 there are birds, griffins, grapes on their way to the Museum Island. They are now travelling on the tracks of the Hedjaz railway whose construction almost caused the destruction of this delicately decorated desert castle. Now this railway is the means to transport its ornate facade from Mschatta in today’s Jordan to Berlin.
“We have to have this, what ever it costs!” Emperor WIlhelm II is reported to have said. The Ottoman sultan, anxious to foster the Ottoman-German relations,
presented the facade to the Emperor. Today you are welcome to admire it in the Pergamon Museum.
Tinsel and glitter
Only an impressive chain of office provided Erhard Krack with the full dignity as Lord Mayor. He had this showpiece made especially for the celebrations commemorating the 750th founding anniversary of the still divided city. The VEB Prägewerk Markneukirchen allegedly charged 10 000 East German mark. He wore his full official attire when he received the Soviet state president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Krack served as mayer of East Berlin between 1974 and 1990. His chain of office, however, seemed to have disappeared after the reunification. It was rediscovered only in 2015 when a strongbox in the attic of the Red City Hall (Rotes Rathaus) was opened. Among other – sometimes bizarre – official presents and objects it is now on display in the city hall.
By the beautiful blue river Spree
“… and once again to be sure it was not by chance…” Whoever missed the dancing lessons in his youth, here he gets a second chance. Foxtrott, Waltz,Cha Cha Cha, … Anton, the dancing master, does not mind to take over the female part occasionally. Straight across the dance floor waiters carry plates with large Viennese Schnitzel; lots of tinsel glisten on the walls.
On September 13th 1913 Fritz Bühler opened his dance hall “Bühlers Ballhaus” (Bühlers ballroom” in the courtyard of Auguststrasse 24/25. It became “Clärchens Ballhaus” after his death in war, when his widow Clara took over the management of the hall. It is in fact the only one left of more than 900 ballrooms in the times of the Prussian empire and until today there is dancing every evening. During the summertime the house looses his guests to the open air dance hall on the banks of the Spree – here the illuminated Bodemuseum adds to the atmosphere of the dance.
פתחו שערים ויבא גוי צדיק שמר אמנים
“a pride of the Jewish community in Berlin, an ornament of the city, a fairy-tale building in a rather plain part of the city …”
This is how in 1866 the National Newspaper (National-Zeitung) describes the newly inaugurated synagogue in the Oranienburger Straße with its Moorish decor inspired by the Alhambra in Granada.
A excellent pulpit orator and until 1938 Chief Rabbi of this grand synagogue was Rabbi Malwin Warschauer, who also held the impressive funeral speech for the famous artist Max Liebermann. The Jewish cementery with Liebermanns family grave in the Schönhauser Allee is one of the most beautiful cementeries in Berlin.
The rabbi tried in vain to win Albert Einstein as a member of the community; he refused referring to his “obstinacy”. in 1930, though, the ingenious physicist came to the synagogue with his violin case – an onlooker described it as “in tatters” – and gave a solo violin concert.
Journey to the centre of the earth
According to Greek myths Zeus sent out two eagles from the extreme west and the extreme east of the world in order to locate the centre of the earth. The two birds met and dropped a stone at exactly this point.
The architect Andreas Schlüter was convinced: this stone was dropped right in front of the Berlin Palace (Berliner Stadtschloss). In the course of the Baroque alterations of the palace at the beginning of the 18th century he had a so-called omphalos, a round disc with a central umbilical stone set up in front of the palace to be viewed from the windows of the mezzanine. The omphalos served as a symbol of the geographical and political importance of the city; furthermore it became the point of origin in the Prussian mileage system; the distances on Prussian milestones refered to it. In the late 19th century the German Emperor and the sculptor Reinhold Begas selected this place for the impressive palace fountain.
People in Berlin were quick to name this fountain “Forkenbecken” (“fork basin”) although it displayed god Neptun ruling over the waters – this probably refers to Neptun’s trident as well as to the fact that in 1891 the incumbent mayor of Berlin, Forkenbeck, together with the emperor and the sculptor attended the official inauguration.
After the war the Neptun fountain was set up in front of the Red City Hall (Rotes Rathaus). Here the crocodile joins a seal, a tortoise and a snake as fountain heads.
A visit at Maria
“Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son…”
It is Archangel Gabriel himself who annunciates this to Mary. In some scenes he hands her a large white lily, the symbol of virginity, in others such as this he raises his index finger. The artist depicted Gabriels facial features as soft and feminine, as if to avoid everything that might terrify Mary.
Gabriel, the archangel specialised in announciation, in the course of time became the patron saint of all postmen and postwomen. And since 1951, after the modernisation of communication techniques, his scope of responsabilities also includes telecommunications. For all this he is honoured every year on the 29th of September.
This gentle Gabriel from Italy is part of the collections in the Bode-Museum.