When a national symbol is shown over and over again on stamps, the challenge becomes how not to be repetitive. So this one is about it’s builder Carl Langhans. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
The Brandenburg Gate was constructed as a symbol of peace. As with the Arc de Triumph in Paris, previous centuries had a different idea of peace. Don’t think peaceniks, but rather the celebration the successful completion of a war. Thus when there is an unsuccessful war outcome it becomes a symbol of taunting. Napoleon marched under the Brandenburg Gate when he conquered Prussia. He even removed the Quadriga statue relocating it to Paris. Prussia later occupied Paris and took it back. The Soviet Union flew it’s flag from the gate for 12 years after the war until finally yielding to the East German flag. When American President Kennedy taunted the Soviets for walling off Berlin and closing the gate, he was greeted by a giant Red Banner covering it. The opening of the wall in 1989 was centered at opening the Brandenburg Gate with lots of flag waving.
Todays stamp is issue A1259, a 55 Euro cent stamp issued by Germany on December 27th, 2007. It was a single stamp issue. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 80 cents used. Being so modern there is also a self adhesive version, that inexplicably does not effect the value.
The site of the Brandenburg gate was already a gate as part of an earlier customs wall. Prussian King Frederick William II commissioned the Gate in the late 1770s. Carl Gotthard Langhans the Royal Court superintendent of buildings, was in charge. He had started his career in Silesia. Langhans was ethnically German but most of his life and buildings are today found in Poland, a reflection that war isn’t always victorious and reflective of the German peoples shift westward. Like the English architect Inigo Jones, the subject of the first stamp we covered at The Philatelist, seehttp://the-philatelist.com/2017/10/02/remembering-inigo-jones/ Langhans was the recipient of much Royal largesse that allowed him to study the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. This inspiration allowed him to construct buildings in the neoclassic style. This was much desired by the Royals of the day. The Peace Gate, as it was then called was in the style of the Propylaea, the ancient gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. The Quadriga statue on the German gate was Victoria, the Roman God of Victory on her 4 horse chariot. At first, only Royals were allowed to pass through the center columns but this was a special honor granted the family of Ernst von Pfuel, who had seen to the Quadriga statue’s return from Paris.
Despite the devastation of the bombing and the Battle of Berlin in 1945, the Brandenburg Gate survived mostly intact. The devastation around it and the division of Berlin limited the amount of Allied victory parades around it then. The Gate was closed in 1962 upon the construction of the Berlin wall and lay in East Berlin. The East German government saw to it’s refurbishment, perhaps surprisingly still in the Imperial style. It was a fixture on many East German stamps. The opening of the gate was symbolic in 1989 when the West and East German Chancellors were the first to cross and shake hands. Today you will see much new construction around it as it is a favored view of important embassies relocated to Berlin. Unfortunately the new construction is somewhat less than neoclassic architecture. At least the area is now a pedestrian street.
Well my drink is empty and so I will pour another to toast Carl Langhans. If peace had been as long lived as was then hoped, the Royal Building superintendent would have seen the buildings around his gate were still neo classical and perhaps even Prussia and Silesia not now be Poland. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.