Germany’s 7 Most Important Historical Landmarks

Germany, as any school child over the age of eleven can tell you, has left a major imprint on history. Naturally, this has resulted in a plethora of remarkable landmarks.

Jun 13, 2024By Daniel Parker, BA Journalism

germany most important historical landmarks

 

Germany’s more recent history obviously plays a significant role in shaping this list. It was, after all, immensely impactful to the entire world. With that being said, key dates on the nation’s historical timeline didn’t begin in 1914. The European country had played host to Roman emperors, the Thirty-Years’ War, and the Battle of the Nations, all before our planet had even made it to the 20th century. Germany is steeped in history, and subsequently, there are many landmarks to corroborate this. Here are the seven we deem to be the most substantial.

 

7. Luther Memorials

Photograph by Immanuel Giel

 

The noble monk situated centrally on the highest pedestal in the above photo is Martin Luther. This monument stands tall in Worms. He’s also highly appreciated in the town of Wittenberg, where another statue of him can be found. In 1517, Luther published a document entitled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” This thesis had a massive impact on how society viewed the teachings of the church and, in the view of many, started the Protestant Reformation.

 

Luther had taken exception to the idea that a person should essentially pay the church money to buy forgiveness from God and believed that salvation wasn’t something that could merely be purchased or sold by humans. Luther was exiled for his disruptions but didn’t waver in his views and protests. After determining that the only source considered viable when practicing Christianity was the Bible, he opted to spend his time in hiding, translating the Holy Scriptures to enable more people the opportunity to read them.

 

6. Cologne Cathedral

Photograph by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

 

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In 1248, construction began on Cologne Cathedral, and in 1880, the project was completed. Don’t worry; you didn’t misread those dates. Cologne Cathedral, or Kölner Dom as the locals call it, did indeed take a staggering 632 years to build. This is partially because cathedrals typically demand a meticulous, complex design and partially because there was an awful lot of fighting occurring across Europe. The project was stalled by both the Thirty Years’ War and the French Revolution. The French even transformed the space into a stable for their horses between 1794 and 1814 when they occupied Cologne.

 

Despite the many delays and excessive wait, Cologne Cathedral was generally considered a masterpiece when finished. It stands at 157 meters tall, which, at the time, made it the tallest structure in the world. To this day, it remains the largest Gothic church in northern Europe and was officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The building was bombed in World War II, and as a consequence, much of the interior varies in age. The choir stalls situated behind the altar, for instance, were carved in the early stages of the 14th century, while the bronze altar that stands before them is only around 60 years old. There’s also a fabulous gold shrine dedicated to the Three Kings on display.

 

5. The Trier Imperial Baths

Source: Flickr, Photograph by Glass Angel

 

There was a period of time when the Romans were rather keen on inserting their dominance and marking their territory whenever they liked the look of a new location, and Trier in Western Germany was a city to which both Emperor Maximianus and Constantine the Great took a particular shine. In fact, the area was eventually transformed to such an extent that it was generally referred to as “Second Rome.” Constantine the Great was particularly enamored with Trier… until he wasn’t. He would eventually turn his attention to Constantinople, leaving many of the projects he’d been working on in the German city unfinished, including the Trier Imperial Baths.

 

Public bathing was, of course, a huge aspect of Ancient Roman culture. However, Flavius Gratianus, the next emperor to be placed in charge of the project, determined the grounds would be of better use if they served as a barrack for his soldiers and their horses. Since then, the monument has also been converted into a monastery, a castle, and a city wall. The site is a monumental part of European history and certainly worth visiting, especially considering the magnitude of work required to construct the landmark. These baths were created for the benefit of 80,000 people and are believed to be the largest of their kind outside of Rome.

 

4. The East Side Gallery 

Photograph by Guy Percival

 

From August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989, Berlin was a capital divided not just politically but also physically. Due to the division of Germany that had followed World War II, the Berlin Wall, which was 96 miles in length and 13 feet in height, had been inserted to block all movement between the two sections of Germany. The West was functioning by democratic laws, and the East was within the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. Many East Germans saw a brighter future in the West, which didn’t sit well with the communist government of East Germany, who retaliated by closing the borders to prevent any further travel.

 

Berlin Wall’s East Side Gallery. Source: Shutterstock

 

In 1989, the announcement came that the gates at the wall had been opened, enabling all locals to pass through freely. More than two million people from both sides of the border were quick to gather at the wall and joyously celebrate the news. Soon enough, the jubilant crowds began dismantling the wall.

 

Alongside the Spree River, 1.3 kilometers of the wall had remained intact. This prompted talented artists from all quarters to make their way to Berlin to add color, character, and life to the once-dreary wall. This resulted in the beautiful East Side Gallery, the longest permanent open-air art gallery in the world!

 

3. Monument to the Battle of the Nations

Photograph by Toby 87

 

Prior to World War I, the Battle of the Nations was the largest war in European history. The monumental battle took place in Leipzig in 1813 and saw the Sixth Coalition, a team largely made up of Austrian, Russian, Prussian, and Swedish soldiers, defeat a French army led by Napoleon. The loss was extremely damaging to Napoleon’s reputation and ultimately led to his downfall. The battle, which lasted four days, resulted in over 100,000 casualties. Sadly, further tragedy was on the horizon, too. Ensuing the war, a vicious typhus outbreak spread across Leipzig and killed 10% of the city’s population.

 

In 1913, exactly 100 years after this hugely significant historical war, a stunning monument was built in Leipzig as a memorial to those who lost their lives as a consequence of this famous battle. A carefully crafted towering Saint Michael stands valiantly and stern-faced at the entrance. Once inside the landmark, you’re greeted by an outer circle of mournful, downward-looking statues of soldiers, while the hypnotic, domed ceiling displays rings of mighty soldiers on horses. The Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal in German) is brimming with powerful imagery, and it’s a landmark highly recommended to any history buff to visit should the opportunity arise.

 

2. Brandenburg Gate

Photograph by Guy Percival

 

Much like the East Side Gallery, Brandenburg Gate also had a monumental role in Germany’s recent divided period and now serves as an iconic landmark where people gather around to celebrate the reunification of the two sides of the country. Since the Brandenburg Gate happened to be situated between East and West Germany, it automatically became a part of the Berlin Wall. During this period, residents on both sides were no longer permitted access to the monument. Therefore, when the Berlin Wall eventually collapsed, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of freedom, with over 100,000 people turning up to watch the gate’s official reopening.

 

The gate was constructed between 1788 and 1791 and designed to replicate Propylaea in Athens. Situated centrally at the top of the gate is “Quadriga,” a courageous statue of a goddess riding a chariot with the aid of four horses. However, this iconic statue hasn’t always remained at the top of the Brandenburg Gate. In the heat of battle, Napoleon ordered his soldiers to capture the statue and take it back to Paris to display as a trophy of sorts. The Prussian army would later retrieve the monument before returning it to Germany and, subsequently, the top of the Brandenburg Gate, where it’s remained ever since.

 

1. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Source: Foundation Memorial

 

Six million Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust. Almost 80 years have passed since the infamous genocide occurred, and this shockingly devastating, callous act of cruelty still remains both impossible to fathom and traumatically heartbreaking. There was an outcry for a respectful landmark to be installed in the country’s capital in the 1980s, a demand the government agreed was necessary. However, they necessitated a lengthy period to establish the specifics of a design worthy of acknowledging such a sensitive topic. In 1999, the German parliament finally announced its intentions to create a memorial site commemorating those who tragically fell victim to the Holocaust.

 

Peter Eisenman, an architect from New York, was assigned the task of creating a tribute that could be deemed touching and poignant. Eisenman was provided an area of 19,000 square feet, which he filled with 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights. He left pathways between each slab, enabling visitors to walk around the landmark at their own pace. The project was finished and opened to the public in 2005. There’s also an information center beneath the memorial, which is divided into four rooms and exhibits victims’ biographies, diary entries, and farewell letters.

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By Daniel ParkerBA JournalismSince graduating from Leeds University with a degree in journalism, Daniel has divided his time between teaching English and contributing articles for a variety of companies. He’s previously written for History Magazine, The Comics Journal, Storgy Magazine and Michael Terence Publishing among other publications.