Spandau Citadel

Berlin, Germany

Spandau Citadel is one of the most important and best-preserved Renaissance fortresses in Europe. In the 16th century, developments in weaponry rendered older castles useless. Thus, Kurfürst Joachim II ordered his fortification in Spandau to be constructed as a fortress in the ‘new Italian style.’ The fortress was laid out as a rectangle of curtains (fortress walls) with bastions, entirely encircled by water. The distance between the top of each bastion is about 300 meters. Around 1680, during the time of Friedrich Wilhelm, the segment gable was added to adorn the 16th century gatehouse. In its centre is displayed the Brandenburg coat of arms composed of twenty-seven fields. After Kurfürst Friedrich III. claimed the royal title on January 18, 1701, he had the Kurhut (traditional hat of German princes) above the coat of arms replaced by the royal crown. In 1813 Prussian artillery bombarded the citadel in an attempt to recapture it from Napoleon’s troops. The gatehouse was severely damaged, and in 1839 it was reconstructed in the neo-classical style. Passage through the so-called Commander`s House, today home to the permanent exhibition about the castle and citadel, leads visitors to the Julius Tower.

The master builders Chiaramella and Lynar incorporated two buildings from the medieval Castle Spandau into the construction of the fortress: the 13th century Julius Tower and the Palas from the 15th century. The Tower, thirty meters high, offers a splendid look-out point. Originally built for residence and defence, its up to 3,60 meters thick walls were used after 1871 to shelter the ‘Reichskriegsschatz,’ the reparations indemnity paid by the French after the Franco-Prussian War.

Archaeological work has revealed that the medieval Ascanian castle had its own, even earlier predecessors. Remnants of a Slavic fortification from around 1050 were discovered, including sections of a wood-earth wall. This structure, as well as the stone foundation of the 15th century castle wall, are presented in situ in the West Curtain.

During the Third Reich, the Citadel was a restricted military zone for the army’s gas-defence laboratories. Around 300 employees worked not only on poisonous defence gas, but also on developing chemical weapons. Evidence of lasting effects prompted intensive police searches for chemical residues between 1988 and 1992, considerably delaying the restoration of the Citadel.

After the Second World War, the Citadel was used for a variety of purposes - although, contrary to popular legend, Rudolf Hess was never imprisoned here. Today the fortress embraces a purely cultural function. Concerts and large art and historical exhibitions occupy its public spaces. The former Arsenal houses the Museum of Spandau City History, while the central courtyard frequently hosts large events and open air concerts. The Bastion Kronprinz holds exhibition spaces and the Youth Art School www.kunstbastion.de. Artists, craftsmen and a puppet theatre are established in House 4.

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Details

Founded: 1557-1594
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Reformation & Wars of Religion (Germany)

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Slobodan Ninkov (2 years ago)
Nice fortress to visit... during ww2 russians had to negotiate surrender of fortress....fortress was that though! There is a restaurant inside fortress with middle ages feeling and look. Open table food is great as well as red beer. Overal amazing experience worth visiting!!! Definitely one of the hidden gems of Berlin :)
florian herold (2 years ago)
We enjoyed the giant fireworks on new year's eve here. Spectacular with a medieval atmosphere!
Ahmed ElGhoroury (2 years ago)
Really enjoyed the new year's eve party. Great for kids of all ages.
Stas Kruglov (3 years ago)
I find that this Citadel is really worth to visit. For a small price you can visit multiple mini-museums, climb up to the tower and enjoy the cool view. Recommended for all fans of the history.
s a i r a saironic (3 years ago)
We saw Jack Johnson playing here and it was such a fantastic atmosphere. Kind of private with thousands of people. Just the right mixture for a concert. The food was not bad as well. We took a stroll around the citadel earlier and it is very rustic and beautiful. And most likely the highest point of Berlin (not man made).
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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.

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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.

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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.