National symbols of Germany

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Germany"s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. Begun in 1248, the building of this Gothic masterpiece took place in several stages and was not completed until 1880. Over seven centuries, its successive builders were inspired by the same faith and b ...
Founded: 1248 | Location: Cologne, Germany

Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch in Berlin, and one of the best-known landmarks of Germany. It is built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel. In the time of Frederick William (1688), shortly after the Thirty Years" War and a century before the gate was constructed, Berlin was a small w ...
Founded: 1788-1791 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Reichstag Building

The Reichstag building (Reichstagsgebäude) is a historical edifice in Berlin, constructed to house the Imperial Diet of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire. After World War II, the building fell into disuse; the parliament of the German Democratic Republic met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament of the Federal Repu ...
Founded: 1884-1894 | Location: Berlin, Germany

The Church of Our Lady

The Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) is undoubtedly the most famous landmark in the city of Munich. Its impressive domed twin towers rising a hundred metres into the sky can be seen from miles around. This triple-naved late-Gothic cathedral in Munich"s old quarter, which houses art treasures spanning five centuries, is the cathedral church of the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. The late-Gothic brick edifice with its ...
Founded: 1468-1488 | Location: Munich, Germany

Frauenkirche

The Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is considered an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture, featuring one of the largest domes in Europe. Built in the 18th century, the church was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. The remaining ruins were left for 50 years as a war memorial, following decisions of local East German leaders. The church was rebuilt after the reunification of ...
Founded: 1726-1743 | Location: Dresden, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds. The castle was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, bu ...
Founded: 1868 | Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany

Nuremberg Castle

The Imperial Castle is the symbol of Nuremberg. Since the Middle Ages its silhouette has represented the power and importance of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the outstanding role of the imperial city of Nuremberg. Nuremberg, which was first mentioned in a document as a royal property in 1050, played an important part in the imperial and domestic policy of the Salian and Hohenstaufen kings and emperors. ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Nuremberg, Germany

Aachen Cathedral

The Cathedral of Aachen is one of the most famous examples of occidental architecture. It is the coronation church of more than 30 German kings, burial site of Charlemagne, major pilgrimage church and cathedral church of the Aachen diocese since 1930. In 1978 it was the first German building to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. When the Emperor Charlemagne built his representative “Pfalz”, the Palace, be ...
Founded: 793-813 AD | Location: Aachen, Germany

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only surviving royal residence in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. The original palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg in what was then the village of Lietzow. Originally named Lietzenburg, the palace was designed by Johann Arnold Nering in baroque style. The inauguration of the ...
Founded: 1695-1713 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Sanssouci Palace

The Park Sanssouci was originally an orchard near Potsdam. This was the favorite retreat of King Frederick II - later known as Frederick the Great. Here he could stay without worries (hence the name sans souci, French for "without worries"). No women were allowed in Sanssouci, not even the king"s wife. In 1744 the king commissioned architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff to build a summer palace, the Schloss Sanssouc ...
Founded: 1744 | Location: Potsdam, Germany

Hanseatic City of Lübeck

Founded in 1143 on the Baltic coast of northern Germany, Lübeck was from 1230 to 1535 one of the principal cities of the Hanseatic League, a league of merchant cities which came to hold a monopoly over the trade of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. The plan of the Old Town island of Lübeck, with its blade-like outline determined by two parallel routes of traffic running along the crest of the island, dates back to the b ...
Founded: 1143 | Location: Lübeck, Germany

Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989, constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in November 1989. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in 1992. The barrier included guard towers placed along large ...
Founded: 1961 | Location: Berlin, Germany

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary's Church is the third largest church in Germany. It was built between 1250 and 1350 and has always been a symbol of the power and prosperity of the old Hanseatic city, and is situated at the highest point of the island that forms the old town of Lübeck. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the old Hanseatic City of Lübeck. St. Mary"s epitomizes north German Brick Gothic and set the standard for abou ...
Founded: 1250-1350 | Location: Lübeck, Germany

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta. The P ...
Founded: 186-200 AD | Location: Trier, Germany

Regensburg Old Town

Located on the Danube River, the Old Town of Regensburg is an exceptional example of a central-European medieval trading centre, which illustrates an interchange of cultural and architectural influences. The property encompasses the city centre on the south side of the river, two long islands in the Danube, the so-called Wöhrde (from the old German word waird, meaning island or peninsula), and the area of the former ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Regensburg, Germany

Schwerin Palace

For centuries the Schwerin Palace was the home of the dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg and later Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Today it serves as the residence of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament. It is regarded as one of the most important works of romantic Historicism in Europe and is designated to become a World Heritage Site. It is nicknamed 'Neuschwanstein of the North'. The first records of a castle at this ...
Founded: 1845-1857 | Location: Schwerin, Germany

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. A popular tourist destination, Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany. The castle sits atop the 855 meters Berg Hohenzollern, an isolated 855 m promontory on the western side of the Swabian Alps. The first fortress on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. ...
Founded: 1454/1846 | Location: Burg Hohenzollern, Germany

Maulbronn Monastery

Founded in 1147, the Cistercian Maulbronn Monastery is considered the most complete and best-preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps. Surrounded by fortified walls, the main buildings were constructed between the 12th and 16th centuries. The monastery"s church, mainly in Transitional Gothic style, had a major influence in the spread of Gothic architecture over much of northern and central Europe. The water-m ...
Founded: 1147 | Location: Maulbronn, Germany

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone fa ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Königstein, Germany

Quedlinburg Abbey

Quedlinburg Abbey was a house of secular canonesses. It was founded on the castle hill of Quedlinburg in the present Saxony-Anhalt in 936 by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, at the request of his mother Queen Matilda, later canonised as Saint Matilda, in honour of her late husband, Otto"s father, King Henry the Fowler, and as his memorial. Henry was buried here, as was Matilda herself. Thanks to its Imperial connections the n ...
Founded: 936 AD | Location: Quedlinburg, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.