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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

Victory Column: a Historic Monument for the Setting


Victory Column: a Historic Monument for the Setting

The Victory Column (Siegessäule) is a Berlin monument celebrating the wars of German unification. Located in the middle of Tiergarten Park, it offers a panoramic view of the capital from its summit.


A Visit to the Victory Column is Optional.


In 1862, Chancellor Bismark announced that German unity would be achieved by iron and blood. The question was primarily a national one. Prussia was challenging Austrian hegemony in German affairs, and letting the whole of Europe know it. A series of wars led within a few years to the triumph of the Little German solution, namely the unification of the German states and the exclusion of Austria. Austria then abandoned its Germanic perspective and embraced a Balkan vision through the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bismarck and Prussia's success was total.


After a first victory over Denmark in 1863, the Chancellery ordered the erection of a glorious column to celebrate the Prussian armies. Successes over Austria in 1866 and France in 1870 added to their military prestige. At the top of the column is a huge gilded bronze statue of a goddess personifying victorious Prussia. On its completion in 1873, the monument became the symbol of German unification - cultural, military and territorial.


Initially located on the royal square near today's Reichstag Palace, the column was relocated in 1938 by National Socialist architects as part of the major urban planning projects for the construction of Germania. It then moved to the Big Star Square in the heart of Tiergarten Park. Spared during the Second World War, the Victory Column is now an emblematic monument of the capital and a tourist attraction.

View of the Victory Column from the Allee du 17 juin 1953 in Berlin.

A Noisy, Dilapidated Environment


The Victory Column is located on the median strip of a huge traffic circle. The only way to cross the wide traffic lanes is through a tunnel. Poor signage leads many visitors to circle the Big Star Square to finally find a way through. On the way, you'll see monuments to victorious soldiers and the more imposing one to Bismarck. Car traffic is not very heavy, but it does detract from the immersion.


The Victory Column median is freely accessible, allowing visitors to admire the reliefs below. The scenes of the wars of unification are heroic and part of the national narrative of the time. A paying entrance leads to the interior of the column, which is divided into three parts. The first displays models of emblematic monuments of the world's nations: the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum and the Parthenon. The whole is a little old-fashioned, but still interesting.


The next sections are outdoors. On the column's base, colorful frescoes can be admired along a circular walkway offering a beautiful view of the park. They celebrate the founding of the new German Empire. A slow ascent then begins, with narrow spiral staircases and 285 steps. At the top, efforts are not rewarded. The view is obstructed by thick, high security barriers, while tourists crowd into a space that can hold a dozen people at best.

Perspective from the top of the Victory Column in Berlin.

Discovering the Victory Column From the Outside


Visiting conditions at the Victory Column fall far short of today's standards in terms of guidance, education and promotion of historical heritage. Overcrowding exacerbates the cramped conditions inside the building, making visiting conditions extremely unpleasant. Unfortunately, the absence or inadequacy of measures aimed at effectively curbing this phenomenon poses a number of crippling problems.


Firstly, dissatisfaction: it's difficult to take full advantage of the panoramic view from the summit. Then there's discomfort: the very rudimentary appearance of the interiors does nothing to enhance the premises, and calls for urgent embellishment and even renovation work. On the other hand, criticism of the lack of an elevator is unfounded. Finally, insecurity: crossing paths on the staircases is never easy, leading to mood swings. No member of staff regulates or directs visitors.


The statue of the Goddess of Victory illuminates the Tiergarten, but paradoxically it is at the top of the column that she is least appreciated. Perhaps it should never have been turned into an observation point. Pending an unlikely but necessary change of use of the site, the best option for a visit will be to enjoy the lovely views from the park's walkways, and why not admire the reliefs on the terreplein.

View of the Victory Column from Tiergarten Park, Berlin.

Pro

  • Interesting views from the park

  • Heroic frescoes and reliefs

  • A nice little exhibition

Contra

  • Limited accessibility

  • Outdated premises

  • Overcrowding

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