Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great

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Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great

The monumental equestrian statue of Frederick the Great at the Forum Fridericianum in Berlin district of Mitte is reminiscent of the Prussian King Friedrich II .

Erected in the years 1839–1851 by Christian Daniel Rauch , it is one of the most important works of the Berlin School of Sculpture and marks the transition from classicism to realism . The altogether 13.50 meter high monument shows the old Fritz, dressed in uniform , ermine and tricorn, on horseback over the most important generals, statesmen, artists and scientists of his time.

In World War II immured, the equestrian statue in 1950 by decision of the SED mined -Magistrats, 1963 at the Park Sanssouci up and command in 1980 Erich Honecker at the original location Unter den Linden rebuilt. During the last restoration in 1997-2000, the historical fencing, paving and lighting were restored.


View from the southeast with the Prussian State Library , after 1935
View from the northwest with the Prussian State Opera , around 1920

The largest dimension of the rectangular base is almost 7 m × 9 m, the total height of the monument 13.5 m. The base consists of two parts, a granite base and a bronze structure, the three floors of which are separated by slightly protruding cornices . In the lowest zone only inscription panels are embedded, the two upper zones show rich plastic jewelry. The middle step, which is set back far, offers space for almost free-form figures, above whose heads flatter reliefs can be seen in a second zone. A third floor with rectangular bas-reliefs follows. The corners are emphasized by volutes or figures on all levels . The five and a half meter high equestrian portrait of the king shows him upright and dignified on the horse Condé , Friedrich's favorite steed , in a steady pace . Friedrich has propped his right hand, from which a cane hangs down, on his side, he holds the reins loosely in his left. He is dressed in a historically accurate uniform, which is only partially covered by the coat that is loosely placed on his shoulder, and wears a three -cornered hat on his head .

Two themes determine the three-dimensional ornamentation of the plinth: If you see scenes from Friedrich's life in the upper frieze , the two lower famous contemporaries of Friedrich are immortalized.

The inscription panels on the long side and back bear their names (see below), the dedication on the front reads: “Friedrich the Great / Friedrich Wilhelm III. / 1840 / completed under Friedrich Wilhelm IV. 1851 ”. The four riders at the corners represent Prince Heinrich of Prussia and Duke Ferdinand von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel in the front, the hussar general Hans Joachim von Zieten and the cavalry general Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz in the back . There are important military men of the Silesian Wars, as well as the relief figures in between, with the exception of the back, which are dedicated to politicians, scientists and artists, for example Immanuel Kant and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing . A total of 74 men are depicted here, 21 of them as life-size sculptures.

Right roll of honor ( north view - left to right)
Left roll of honor ( south view - left to right)
Rear roll of honor ( west view - left to right)


Design, font and placement

Equestrian statue (right) in the painting Unter den Linden by Eduard Gaertner , 1852
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Palais (left) and equestrian statue of Frederick the Great (right), around 1900
West side of the equestrian statue from left: Finckenstein , Schlabrendorf , Carmer , Graun , Lessing and Kant

When the monument was unveiled on May 31, 1851 on the occasion of the 111th anniversary of the accession to the throne of the Prussian king, almost 65 years had passed since his death, and this monument task has occupied many important sculptors for just as long, for which almost 100 designs and models bear witness.

Friedrich himself did not want a memorial erected during his lifetime. Even the first drafts shortly after Friedrich's death (1786) failed because of the costume issue . At the request of Friedrich Wilhelm II, the designs from 1791 show him in antique clothing, based on the model of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius . Large parts of the population and the army wanted to see the king represented as they remembered him: in uniform and with a three-cornered hat.

Johann Gottfried Schadow, who had already studied molding and casting technology abroad (Copenhagen, Stockholm and Petersburg), submitted designs in 1796, including those showing the ruler in the period costume he also preferred, but that did not mean that the king and the academy were satisfied. Friedrich Wilhelm II then tended towards an architectural solution, but died over it. His successor, Friedrich Wilhelm III. , delayed the realization of the project over decades, due to disinterest and the Napoleonic wars. The Crown Prince, who later became Friedrich Wilhelm IV., Who also made a name for himself as a patron of the arts, showed all the more interest. After 1829 there was again a lot of design work, a project based on the Trajan's Column , which had been favored in the meantime, was rejected and in the meantime, Schadow's student Christian Daniel Rauch was entrusted with the preparatory work; he received the formal assignment on February 29, 1836. The saying goes down from Schadow: "My fame has gone up in smoke."

The model of a monumental equestrian statue on a decorated pedestal , which at the same time depicts the ruler as a popular figure dressed in the familiar uniform, was finally approved by a specially formed government commission. This also affected the selection and arrangement of the contemporaries, who were to be immortalized in the plinth area next to allegorical figures. The foundation stone was laid on June 1, 1840, the 100th anniversary of Frederick II's accession to the throne.

Rauch's employees in creating the models were Albert Wolff , Gustav Bläser , Eduard Julius Gebhard , Hugo Hagen , Carl Wolgast , Christian Genschow , Adolph Bräunlich , Bernhard Afinger , Julius Franz and Rudolph Piehl . Rauch had personally campaigned for the several years of production of the bronze figures using the most modern and efficient processes such as the partial molding in Sand - after a few trial work under his supervision in the art and bell foundry Lauchhammer , he brought its chaser and casting master Karl Ludwig Friebel to Berlin. Friebel performed the casting in an existing but structurally expanded workshop and, in coordination with the sculptor, had set up large workshops for model and chasing work. At the beginning of 1851 all parts, minor figures and reliefs were cast and were exhibited before they were assembled. Finally, on May 31, 1851, the monument was ceremoniously unveiled. Its dimensions are given in a contemporary document as 43  feet total height, of which 18 feet for the equestrian figure.

Dismantling and repositioning in Sanssouci Park

Removal of the protective cover, May 1950
Interim storage of a base part in Potsdam
New installation in Sanssouci Park, around 1962

During the Second World War , the monument was given a masonry shell to protect it from air raids . It survived the war unscathed. The huge block was used in the post-war years to affix political posters. After the split in Berlin, the head of the "Museum Office" of the East Berlin City Council declared on October 1, 1949: "The royal rider has to leave, [...] because he is riding towards the east". In connection with the programmatic demolition of the Berlin City Palace , the destruction of the Kaiser Wilhelm National Monument and the dismantling of the statues of Generals Bülow and Scharnhorst, also created by Rauch, at the Neue Wache , the magistrate decided in May 1950 to move the equestrian statue of Frederick to the park by Sanssouci . The removal of the protective cover at the end of May 1950 had attracted non-ferrous metal thieves who now caused considerable damage. On July 13th, the monument was removed from the base, followed by dismantling and the transport of the individual parts to Potsdam.

They were given a hiding place that was covered with straw and fenced in on the storage yard of the Berlin construction company Stuck und Naturstein opposite the New Palais . A reliable employee was held responsible for ensuring that the parts of the monument should be stored safely and unnoticed by the public. After ten years, this employee asked the Ministry of Culture of the GDR whether it was correct that the memorial should now be brought to a meltdown, a low-loader had already been ordered. Minister Hans Bentzien , who until then had not even known where the bronze statue was, found out that Paul Verner , at that time First Secretary of the Berlin district leadership of the SED and a member of the Politburo , had led the government to remove the symbol of a “reactionary Politics “wanted to clear the way for the redesign of the Lindenforum. Bentzien, teachers, historians and high-ranking politicians were able to officially prevent the meltdown with the help of some like-minded people and still organize a "completion report" with the presentation of a scrap certificate. In the corresponding interview on this process it says literally: "The king came on the low-loader, Eberhard Bartke (a department head for art in the ministry) sat in the cab, the white mice ( colloquial for" traffic cops ") secured. Then they drove around the square in Potsdam on a rainy night and unloaded the splendor elsewhere in the park. ”The General Director of the State Palaces and Gardens of Sanssouci , who was inaugurated in the rescue plan, ordered his palace gardener to move the memorial parts to a new location in the park unload and hide again well.

Finally, in 1962, the reassembled monument, as planned in 1950, was given a new place in the hippodrome of Charlottenhof Park . This happened without a stir in the media.

Reconstruction under the linden trees

Reconstruction of the equestrian statue Unter den Linden, 1980

The devotion to local German history and its partial re-evaluation in the GDR, especially in the biography of Friedrich II by Ingrid Mittenzwei , the slow progress in the redesign of the street Unter den Linden and probably the preparation for the upcoming 1987 750- The anniversary celebrations in Berlin contributed to the fact that in 1980 Erich Honecker personally gave the order to re-erect the equestrian monument. A special projects department headed by the city architect Erhardt Gißke and with the assistance of the building management of the State Palaces and Gardens of Sanssouci now organized the repatriation. After a restoration, the entire monument was given a permanent new place on November 30, 1980, around six meters east of its historical location. The much-noticed list took the form of a "disguised state act", accompanied by statements by State Council Chairman Honecker and the scientific institutions of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany .

For 2001, the Berlin Senate Building Department had put out a tender for a thorough restoration of the monument. The work was outsourced to Betina Roß GmbH , who did it properly in its Berlin workshop and under the supervision of the monument protection authority. In the meantime, the supporting foundation was renewed, new candelabra and a new ornamental grille made. After the restoration, the equestrian statue was rebuilt in its original location. In 2006 a new thorough cleaning took place, during which the statue was given a protective layer of wax against graffiti .


Replica in the Amber Room , Tsarskoye Selo
Replica at the Orangery Palace , Potsdam

A true-to-original, scaled-down replica of the equestrian statue described here was in the amber room of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo until 1917 . Her whereabouts after the October Revolution are unknown.

At the Orangery Palace in Sanssouci Park in Potsdam is located since 1865 a simplified, reduced marble replica of the equestrian statue. It was created by Rauch students Aloisio Lazzerini and Carlo Baratta.

Since 1858 there has been a reduced bronze replica of the equestrian figure in Gutspark Dehlitz . It commemorated the stay of Frederick the Great before the Battle of Roßbach on November 5, 1757 and was taken to Lützen Castle during World War II to protect it from being melted down .


The monumental effect on the median of the boulevard Unter den Linden and the uniform proportions in the middle of the buildings of the Forum Fridericianum give the monument, which is reminiscent of the equestrian statue of the Great Elector by Andreas Schlüter , an extraordinary urban significance. In addition, it is considered a major work by Christian Daniel Rauch and a masterpiece of the Berlin School of Sculpture . It also served as a model for many equestrian statues at the turn of the century.

In 1987 Gisela May celebrated its return to its original location.


  • Monument to King Frederick the Great. Unveiled on May 31, 1851 , Berlin 1851 (Reprint Leipzig 1987) books.google.de
  • Jutta von Simson: The Berlin monument to Frederick the Great. The drafts as a reflection of the Prussian self-image. With a contribution by Friedrich Mielke . Ullstein / Propylaen, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Vienna 1976, ISBN 3-549-06619-8
  • Peter Bloch , Waldemar Grzimek : Classic Berlin. The Berlin School of Sculpture in the nineteenth century. Propylaeen Verlag, Berlin 1978, ISBN 978-3-549-06631-7
  • Frank Pieter Hesse (red.), Gesine Sturm (red.): A monument to the king. The equestrian statue for Friedrich II. Unter den Linden in Berlin . Schelzky & Jeep, 2001, ISBN 978-3-89541-158-8 , German / English (= contributions to the preservation of monuments in Berlin, issue 17) illustrated book
  • Wieland Giebel (Ed.): The equestrian monument of Frederick the Great . Berlin Story Verlag, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-929829-69-3 .

Web links

Commons : Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great  - album with images, videos and audio files
Commons : Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great (Potsdam)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Lüeß: metal art . Pp. 550-554.
  2. Statues, monuments and ornamental buildings . In: Berliner Adreßbuch , 1875, part 4, p. 170.
  3. ^ Karl Rodemann (ed.): The Berlin Palace and its downfall. A picture report on the destruction of Berlin's cultural monuments . On behalf of the Federal Ministry for All-German Issues. Tauber Verlag, Berlin 1951, p. 24, illustrations p. 68/69
  4. a b Rudolf Hempel: The ride in the wrong direction. Interview with Hans Bentzien about the rescue of the equestrian statue of Friedrich II. In: Neues Deutschland , 22./23. November 1997
  5. Friedrich II. Of Prussia. A biography. Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften , Berlin 1979 (in West Germany in Pahl-Rugenstein Verlag , Cologne 1980, ISBN 3-7609-0512-9 ).
  6. ^ Helmut Engel and Wolfgang Ribbe : Via triumphalis. Historical landscape “Unter den Linden” between the Friedrich monument and the palace bridge . Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-05-003057-7 , p. 127
  7. ↑ The restoration of the bronze statue of Friedrich II was technically flawless. Press release from the Senate of June 14, 2001: "Contrary to the latest press releases on restoration work on the equestrian statue of Friedrich the Great Unter den Linden, the State Monuments Office confirms that the restoration work on the bronze statue of Friedrich II was technically flawless." Accessed on March 26, 2010
  8. Freshly cleaned old king . ( Memento from March 10, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) In: Berliner Morgenpost , October 19, 2006
  9. http://www.stadt-luetzen.de/de/ausfluege/gutspark-dehlitz-20000974.html
  10. Text excerpt

Coordinates: 52 ° 31 '2 "  N , 13 ° 23' 34"  E