The concept of the Bode museum, which was originally called the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, can be traced back to Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, who published her ideas in a memorandum in 1883. It was Wilhelm von Bode who finally put these ground-breaking ideas into practice. In 1897, construction work began at the northern tip of the Museum Island on a museum that was to be devoted to the Renaissance, designed by Eberhard von Ihne.

Once completed, the museum would bear the name of Empress Victoria’s deceased husband, Kaiser (Emperor) Friedrich, who died in 1888. When the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum opened in 1904, painting and sculpture, considered at the time as the ‘high arts’, were for the first time presented side by side on an equal footing with each other - a presentation strategy that differed radically from that of traditional museums.

The building was badly damaged in the Second World War and underwent several stages of restoration between 1948 and 1986. In 1956 it was renamed the Bode-Museum after its first director and spiritual founder. German reunification also brought with it the merging of the previously separated collections under the auspices of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, with the decision soon being taken for the museum to undergo an extensive overhaul to bring it up to date with modern museum and conservation requirements.

After extensive renovation work, the museum building reopened to the public in autumn 2006. Contrary to the original concept, it now principally houses the Sculpture Collection and the Museum of Byzantine Art. The display of sculptures is enriched by some 150 works from the collection of the Gemäldegalerie, which has been located at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz since 1998. With its collection of coins and medals, the Münzkabinett is also housed at the Bode-Museum, where it presents its chronicle of human history forged in metal.

Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art features an array of spell-binding masterpieces such as Donatello’s ‘Pazzi Madonna’ and Antonio Canova’s ‘Dancer’ and several examples of important German sculpture by Tilman Riemenschneider and Ignaz Günther. The collection of ancient sculpture is one of the largest in the world. It has its roots in the Brandenburg-Prussian royal Kunstkammer or ‘cabinet of art’. The efforts of two men, Gustav Friedrich Waagen and especially Wilhelm von Bode, resulted in the significant development of the collection in the 19th and early 20th century through the acquisition of great numbers of sculptures mainly of Italian and German origin. In the building that rises up from the Spree like a moated palace, the collection was presented in a startlingly innovative fashion that broke with traditional museum practice at the time. Combined with historical architectural elements, the works of art were displayed in surroundings that were supposed to convey the spirit of the age in which they were created and thus ‘heighten’ their visual impact.

The museum’s department of Byzantine art boasts first-class holdings of late-antique and Byzantine works of art ranging from the 3rd to 15th century. Nearly all the works originate from the ancient Mediterranean region, with particular emphasis on pre-Christian and Christian sarcophagi from Rome, figurative and ornamental sculpture from the Eastern Roman Empire, exquisite ivory carvings and mosaic icons, as well as everyday and religious objects from post-pharaonic Egypt.

With over half a million objects, Berlin’s Münzkabinett (Numismatic Collection) is one of the most important numismatic collections in the world. Alongside coins and medals, the collection also contains non-numismatic forms of money, seals, tokens, and jetons as well as minting tools. Spread over four large cabinets on the second floor containing 4000 coins and medals, the exhibition in the Bode-Museum presents a history of humankind in metal, from the beginnings of coinage in the 7th century BC to the euro coins of the present day. All exhibits can also be viewed in the online interactive catalogue, where they are described in more detail. Further treasures in the collection currently not on view in exhibitions are available for scientific research in the study room on the Bode-Museum’s lower floor, where the numismatic special library can also be used.

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Founded: 1897
Category: Museums in Germany
Historical period: German Empire (Germany)

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Eketorp Fort

Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.

The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.

In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.

Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.

Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.