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Home Towns - Potsdam, Germany

Rise & Fall of the City Palace

This site is part of our Potsdam, Germany site. Click the left turn sign to get back to the Potsdam Start Site.

Since 1751, the Potsdam City Palace was the official winter residence of the Prussian Kings, and, starting in 1871, the German Emperors (Kaiser), making it Potsdam's oldest castle. Unfortunately, there is not much left of it.

Ascanian Fortress 1220

Renaissance Castle 1345

Remains of Katharina's Castle
The location has been the site of several fortresses and castles since the times of the Roman Empire. Slavonic tribes that lived in the area until the mid of the 12th century built a fortress here in 993 to guard a nearby river passage.
City Palace in 1691

Two pictures taken in 1828:
Palace with Pleasure Garden in front
Saint Nicholas Church in the back

Aerial view of the Palace and
St. Nicholas Church in the 1930s

After the bombings of April 1945

Construction Site in 2009

The Palace in 1751

Fortuna Portal and Inner Court,
seen from Saint Nicholas Church.

Queen Luise's Quarters,
restored in 1938

Remains before demolition in 1959

Model: Rebuilt Palace in 2012

In 1157, the Ascanians conquered the area and built a fortress a little bit west of the old the ring-fort. In about 1220, a watch tower and palisades were added to the fortress. In the 1300s, the old Ascanian fortress was replaced by a renaissance castle.

In 1598, Electress Katharina had the old building completely rebuilt in only eight months. But the electress died only four years later and the new owner, Squire Wolf Dietrich von Hacke turned the fortress into a sheep barn.

In 1660, Frederick William, duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg ordered architects Memhardt, Nering and Chiese to start a massive reconstruction of the castle. In 1671, the Great Elector moved his entire court into the new building.

The castle got it's final shape by King Frederick II and Architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff in 1751 and until the end of the German Empire in 1918, the German Emperors resided here at least for parts of the year.

After 1918, the building was turned into a museum and later also hosted offices of the city administration. During an allied bombing attack on 14th April 1945 the City Palace was burned out and in 1959, the remains were pulled down. Most sources today simply state that Communism and Castles just don't mix and that the East German communist government ordered the destruction of the castle for ideological reasons. We think, the story is a little bit more complex:

Prussia, and especially Potsdam was considered to be the cradle of German Militarism. Dismantling a place that in a sense was the starting point of two World Wars was supposed to send a signal to the world that post-war Germany had honestly broken with its past.

But no matter how we look at it, the crown jewel of Frederician Rococo is lost. Currently, the only remaining original parts are the royal stables, now hosting the Film Museum and one single sculpture group in the former Pleasure Garden.

However, in 2007, city and state decided to rebuild the palace and to make it the furture site of the state's parliament. Currently, downtown Potsdam is a giant construction site but in 2012 the castle will be back in all its glory.

Long before plans to rebuild the entire palace were finalized, al little part of it was brought back to Potsdam. Based on original photographs and financed entirely through donations, the Fortuna Portal (picture left), once gate to the palace's courtyard was rebuilt in 2001.

The only remaining original parts of the castle are the Wrestler's Colonnade (above) and the Royal Stables (below). Further down, we provided a table with links to both places.

Royal Stables

Built in 1685 as an arboretum, the Royal Stables are the oldest building complex in town and
the only original remains of the City Palace. Today, they host Germany's oldest Film Museum.

Click here to see Potsdam's oldest building and one of its most interesting museums.

Pleasure Garden

A park with 300 years of history, during which it was built, decommisioned, rebuilt, bombed, demolished, buried, forgotten, accidentally unearthed and finally restored. It was once part of the
City Palace and contains some of the few original remnants of the castle.

Click here to visit Potsdam's oldest park.

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