German architecture is a mixed bag with masterpieces belonging to a number of styles of European architecture. This country’s reputation as an engineering genius is well-known worldwide. Right from the elaborate Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque structures to the modern-day sleek and utilitarian designs, German architecture is a marvel in itself.
It is noteworthy how the structures in this country had been affected severely during World War II and the genius ways in which they have been renovated and restored. Here are 6 examples of the masterpieces this country’s architectural brilliance that has stood the test of time to tell us numerous stories from the past.
Die Rakotzbrücke Bridge
This bridge is one of the most picturesque pieces of architecture in the world. It is situated in the heart of the Kromlauer Park in Saxony, Germany. The Rakotzbrücke Bridge was commissioned in 1860 by a local Knight of Kromlau. It is an arch bridge that is built over the lake Rakotzee.
This stone bridge is a major tourist attraction, especially during road trips from Berlin. The unique structure of this perfectly semicircular bridge casts a perfect shadow on the waters of the lake below. This makes it look like a circular stone portal that can lead to a magical world beyond it. The bridge also has rock spires on both the ends of the arch that resemble the natural basalt columns that are commonly found in this country.
The Rakotzbrücke Bridge is also called the Devil’s bridge as it has a legend revolving around its construction. It is said that the Knight who had commissioned the bridge was not able to finish its construction before the given deadline. Fearing that he might have to face the consequences, he made a deal with the devil to finish the work. In return, the Devil had asked for the soul of the first living being that crosses the bridge to be offered to him.
Margravial Opera House
Built between 1745 and 1750, the Margravial Opera House is an exquisite example of the Baroque theatre architecture. This beautiful piece of architecture in Bayreuth was built by Margravine Wilhelmine of Brandenburg. She was an older sister of Frederick the Great from Prussia. It was designed by one of the most famous theatre architects of all time Giuseppe Galli Bibiena. It was built as an opera house for the court in a public space. This makes it an extremely important architecture as it represents the development of opera houses, which were previously made within palaces only.
This opera house has a bell-shaped auditorium with tiered loges made of wood. It is lined with beautiful and ornate painted canvases. The facade of this magnificent structure is made of sandstone.
The Margravial Opera House is the only surviving example of an opera house where one can have an arithmetic experience of the Baroque court opera culture. The acoustics too are well preserved and it lets the audience travel back in time to when this form of art was in its full glory. This theatre can still accommodate 500 audiences. The opera house was under restoration for 6 years and it reopened its regal gates in April 2018.
The Cologne Cathedral is the largest Gothic Church in Northern Europe. This style of architecture flourished in Europe during the high and late middle ages. The most striking features of these type of structures are the pointed arches, rib vaults and flying buttresses. They also have beautiful stained-glass windows and elaborate tracery.
This Roman Catholic cathedral church is situated in the city of Cologne in Germany. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1996. The site where the church stands today is said to have been occupied by Christian Churches since the 4th century. The present structure was preceded by another cathedral that was destroyed by fire in 1248.
Even though the construction work for the succeeding cathedral started in 1322, it took centuries to complete. The project was finally completed in 1880 during the reign of King Frederich William IV of Prussia. At this time, the Cologne Cathedral was supposed to be the world’s tallest structure. It remained so till 1884 when the construction work for the Washington Monument ended.
The Cologne Cathedral is a treasure trove of art. It has numerous spectacular pieces like the massive shrine of the Three Kings in gold, beautiful stained-glass windows and a triptych called ‘The Adoration of the Magi’.
The Vischering Castle or the Burg Vischering is the perfect example of Münsterland moated castle. The main castle is a rounded building that sits in the middle of a water body, giving it a pristine look. This castle was not heard about till the 14th century even though there is evidence that it had been there even around 1271.
The then Bishop of Münster, Gerhard von der Mark had entrusted this castle to the Knight Albert von Wulfheim. He, along with a small troop, defended the castle and held it available for the Bishop.
The exact time of origin of this castle is not clearly known. Latest studies say that there was a predecessor building that was built possibly around the 12th century. This was a medieval mighty tower-house, which is now where the castle courtyard exists.
The Butchering Castle sits on the lowland of the river Stever. This beautiful and powerful structure still gives off a well-fortified impression. A large fire in 1521 destroyed a part of this castle. During the renovation, higher living quarters and stairwell towers were constructed. It was further damaged during World War II and renovated again soon after.
The Münsterland Museum was opened here in 1972. It was then expanded in 1984. It is presently referred to as the “Portal of Castles and palaces in the Münsterland” which lets tourists know about the attractions in the area.
Sitting in the heart of the Dresden Theaterplatz, the Semperoper or the Semper Opera House is an excellent example of Renaissance Architecture. It is a place of pilgrimage for theater-goers, musicians and scholars of culture and history.
This magnificent structure was reconstructed on several occasions of which, a fire in the 19th century and World War II were the most extensive ones. The primary building of this Opera House was initially built in Baroque style in 1841 by the renowned German architect Gottfried Semper. This structure got its name from him as well. This structure is an amalgamation of various architectural styles as it also contains Corinthian style pillars that were typical of classic Greek architecture.
Dresden was in ruins following World War II. But the opera house was of too great cultural and social significance to the people of Germany to let it go. It took 40 years to restore and reopen this enormous building. The 13th of February,1985, witnessed a crowd of about 200,000 who braved the Frosty weather to celebrate the restoration of their culture and heritage through the reopening of this opera house.
Apart from its architecture and the valuable collection of art and sculpture it houses, the Semperoper was famous for the concerts it hosted. There was a time when most of Richard Strauss’s work was staged here. Presently the performance by the Saxon State Opera orchestra and chorus are the star attractions of this opera house.
Duchess Anna Amalia Library, Weimar
The Duchess Anna Amalia Library is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This breathtaking library is situated in Weimar, a city in the federal state of Thuringia in Germany. It was founded in 1969 by Duke Wilhelm Earnest and has since been one of the most famous libraries. This library is named after the German princess and composer Duchess Anna Amalia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. It is presently a research center for European culture and literary history of the period around 1800. Its valuable collections include preserved rare literary records from the 9th to the 21st century. There is a total of 1 million units of such possessions under the holding of this library.
Of all the resources available in this library, those dating in between 1750 and 1850, in particular, are extensive and hence relevant for the study of that century. The major focus of the library’s works is from the epoch from Enlightenment to Late Romanticism.
The main building of this library, which is called the Green Castle, was the Duchess’ residence from between 1562 and 1565. It was designed by architect Nikolaus Gromann. The widowed Duchess had her residence converted into the library in 1761.
Among the library’s elaborate collection of books, few notable ones are an important Shakespearian collection of 10,000 volumes and a 16th century Bible which has a traceable connection to Martin Luther.
On the 2nd of September 2004, a part of this building was completely destroyed in a raging fire. The two upper stories were severely damaged and about 50,000 valuable pieces of literature and history were lost. It has reopened after this terrible incident in 2007. There is a limit to the maximum number of people who can visit the library in a day. One needs to book in advance to be among the 290 visitors in a day when visiting this library.