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The Victory Column (Siegessäule), Berlin, Germany

January 31st, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

The Victory Column (German: Siegessäule) is one of the more famous sights of Berlin. Designed by Heinrich Strack after 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war, by the time it was inaugurated on 2 September 1873 Prussia had also defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War and France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870/1871), giving the statue a new purpose. Different from the original plans, these later victories inspired the addition of the bronze sculpture of Victoria, 8.3 meters high and weighing 35 tonnes, designed by Friedrich Drake. Berliners, with their fondness for disrespectful names of famous buildings, call the statue Goldelse, meaning something like "golden Lizzy".

Anchored on a solid fundament of polished red granite, the column sits on a hall of pillars with a glass mosaic designed by Anton von Werner. The column itself consists of three solid blocks of sandstone, which are decorated by cannon pipes captured from the enemies of the aforementioned three wars. A relief decoration on the foundation, which had to be removed on request of the victorious allied forces in 1945, was restored in the 1980s.

Surrounded by a street circle with heavy car traffic, pedestrians can reach the column through four tunnels, built in 1941 to plans by Johannes Huntenmueller. Via a steep spiral staircase of 285 steps, the physically fit may climb up almost to the top of the pillar, to right underneath the statue, for a small fee and a spectacular view over the Tiergarten.

Even many Berliners do not know that originally the column was erected with a height of merely 50.66 meters opposite the Reichstag building. In preparation of executing the monumental plans to redesign Berlin into Welthauptstadt Germania, in 1939, the Nazis relocated the pillar to its present location at the Großer Stern (Great Star), a large intersection on the visual city axis that leads from the former Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) through the Brandenburg Gate to the western parts of Berlin. At the same time, the pillar was augmented by another 7.5 meters, giving it its present height of 66.89 meters. The monument survived World War II without much damage. The relocation of the monument probably saved it from destruction, as its old site in front of the Reichstag was destroyed in the war.

The column is featured in Wim Wenders' film Wings of Desire as being a place where angels congregate. The golden statue atop the column was featured in the music video to U2's "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" and inspired Paul van Dyk's 1998 trance music hit, "For an Angel". "El Ángel" in Mexico City bears a more than passing resemblance to the Berlin victory column, while both echo the earlier examples of the victory column crowned by an angel, notably the Alexander Column in Saint Petersburg.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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