The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is a former city gate and one of the most well-known landmarks of Berlin and Germany. It is located west of the city centre at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. It is the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building. The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees which formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs.
It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace and built by Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791. Having suffered considerable damage in World War II, the Brandenburg Gate was fully restored from 2000 to 2002 by the Stiftung Denkmalschutz Berlin (Berlin Monument Conservation Foundation). 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 walled city within a star fort with several named gates: Spandauer Tor, St. Georgen Tor, Stralower Tor, Cöpenicker Tor, Neues Tor, and Leipziger Tor (see map). Relative peace, a policy of religious tolerance, and status as capital of the Kingdom of Prussia facilitated the growth of the city.
The Brandenburg Gate was not part of the old fortifications but one of 18 gates within the Berlin Customs Wall (German: Akzisemauer), erected in the 1730s, including the old fortified city and many of its then suburbs. The Brandenburg Gate was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II to represent peace. The Gate was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, the Court Superintendent of Buildings.
Between 1788 and 1791 the prior simple guard houses siding the gate were replaced by the current construction. The Gate consists of twelve Doric columns, six to each side, forming five passageways. Citizens originally were allowed to use only the outermost two. Atop the gate is the Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. The Gate's design is based upon the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece and is consistent with Berlin's history of architectural classicism (first, Baroque, and then neo-Palladian). The Gate was the first "Athens on the River Spree" by architect Carl Gotthard von Langhans. The capital Quadriga was sculpted by Johann Gottfried Schadow. The Brandenburg Gate's design has remained essentially unchanged since its completion even as it has played different political roles in German history.
On August 13, 2011, Germany marked the 50th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall started to go up with a memorial service and a minute of silence in memory of those who died trying to flee to the West. "It is our shared responsibility to keep the memory alive and to pass it on to the coming generations as a reminder to stand up for freedom and democracy to ensure that such injustice may never happen again," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel —who grew up behind the wall in Germany's communist eastern part—also attended the commemoration. German President Christian Wulff added, "It has been shown once again: Freedom is invincible at the end. No wall can permanently withstand the desire for freedom."