The Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloss)

by Scott Mehl

Berliner Stadtschloss c1920. Photo credit: Wikipedia

On Wednesday, June 12, 2013, the foundation stone was laid for the reconstruction of the Berlin City Palace, once a principal residence of the Kings of Prussia.

The Palace was first built between 1443-1451 by Friedrich II, Margrave and Elector of Brandenburg (known as Irontooth). It included a Catholic chapel, later elevated to a parish church, and consecrated by Pope Nicholas V. The original palace was torn down in 1538 by Margrave Joachim II, who had a new, larger palace built in the Italian Renaissance style, with further alterations continuing over the next 175 years.

In 1699, Friedrich I, King in Prussia, had the palace overhauled again in the Baroque style, with the building enclosing a courtyard. In 1845, the dome was finally added, during Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s reign. This would be the last major change to the exterior of the palace.

Berliner Stadschloss c1900. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Stadtschloss became the primary palace of the newly created German Empire in 1871 and remained so until 1918 when the German Socialist Republic was announced from a balcony at the palace (following the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II).

For some years, the palace was used for museum space, as well as official functions, before sitting empty for many years leading up to World War II. It was heavily bombed by Allied forces in 1945. Being within the Soviet Union Zone after the war, the building was used as a backdrop for a Soviet movie – ‘The Battle of Berlin’. Live artillery was used during the filming of the movie, which further damaged the building. Finally, in 1950, the building was razed by the Soviets, with the open space now used as parade grounds. The only part that was saved was the balcony from which the German Socialist Republic was proclaimed. This was moved to the Council of State building, forming the main entrance.

In the 1970s, a new building was erected on the site – the Palace of the Republic (‘Palast der Republik’), however, it was later closed and torn down. After the reunification of Germany, several groups promoted the rebuilding of the original Stadtschloss, most suggesting the exteriors being recreated with more modern space inside. Finally, in 2007, the German Parliament voted to reconstruct the palace. Three of the exterior façades will be rebuilt, while the interior is a modern structure. The construction cost of approximately 590 million Euros ($786 million). The new name will be The Humboldt Forum, and the space will be used primarily to exhibit non-European artifacts from collections of other Berlin museums.

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