The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is a monument in Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 to the 1813 Battle of Leipzig
Battle of Leipzig
The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations, on 16–19 October 1813, was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine...

, also known as the Battle of the Nations. Paid for mostly by donations and by the city of Leipzig, it was completed in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the battle, at a cost of 6,000,000 Goldmark
German gold mark
The Goldmark was the currency used in the German Empire from 1873 to 1914.-History:Before unification, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16⅔ grams of pure silver...


The monument commemorates Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig, a crucial step towards the end of hostilities in the War of the Sixth Coalition
War of the Sixth Coalition
In the War of the Sixth Coalition , a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and a number of German States finally defeated France and drove Napoleon Bonaparte into exile on Elba. After Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, the continental powers...

, which was seen as a victory for the German people, although Germany as we know it did not exist at that time. There were German-speakers fighting on both sides, as Napoleon's troops also included conscripted Germans from the French-occupied left bank of the Rhine as well as from the Confederation of the Rhine
Confederation of the Rhine
The Confederation of the Rhine was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from 16 German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria's Francis II and Russia's Alexander I in the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the...


The structure is 91 metres tall. It contains over 500 steps to a viewing platform at the top, from which there are spectacular views across the city and environs. The structure makes extensive use of concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

, although the facings are of granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

. The monument is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Wilhelmine
Wilhelmine is a term for the period of German history, also known as the German Empire. The term Wilhelmine Germany refers to the period running from the proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Kaiser at Versailles in 1871 to the abdication of his grandson Wilhelm II in 1918.Although the father of...

 architecture. It is said to stand on the spot of some of the bloodiest fighting, from where Napoleon ordered the retreat of his army.



Between 16–19 October 1813, the Battle of the Nations was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon aided by Polish and Italian troops as well as German-speakers from the Confederation of the Rhine. Napoleon's army was defeated and compelled to return to France while the Allies invaded France early the next year. Napoleon was forced to abdicate, and was exiled to Elba that spring.


In 1814 proposals to build a monument to commemorate the battle were made (by whom?). Among the supporters of the project, author Ernst Moritz Arndt
Ernst Moritz Arndt
Ernst Moritz Arndt was a German nationalistic and antisemitic author and poet. Early in his life, he fought for the abolition of serfdom, later against Napoleonic dominance over Germany, and had to flee to Sweden for some time due to his anti-French positions...

 called for the construction of a "a large and magnificent (monument), like a colossus, a pyramid, or the cathedral of Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

". Architect Friedrich Weinbrenner
Friedrich Weinbrenner
Friedrich Weinbrenner was a German architect and city planner admired for his mastery of classical style.- Birth and education :...

 created a design for the monument that ultimately was not used.

In 1863, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the battle, a foundation stone was placed, but the memorial was not built. Clemens Thieme, a member of the Verein fur die Geschichte Leipzigs (Association for the History of Leipzig) learned during a meeting of the association about the past plans to build a monument. Interested in resuming the project, Thieme, who was also a member of the Apollo masonic lodge
Masonic Lodge
This article is about the Masonic term for a membership group. For buildings named Masonic Lodge, see Masonic Lodge A Masonic Lodge, often termed a Private Lodge or Constituent Lodge, is the basic organisation of Freemasonry...

, proposed the project during a meeting and gained the support of his fellow masons. In 1894, he founded the Deustche Patriotenbund (Association of German Patriots) which raised, by means of donations and a lottery, the funds necessary to construct the monument for the 100th anniversary . The following year, the city of Leipzig donated a 40000 acres (161.9 km²) site for the construction. The project was commissioned to Bruno Schmitz
Bruno Schmitz
Bruno Schmitz , was a German architect best known for his monuments in the early 1900s, working closely with sculptors such as Emil Hundrieser, Nikolaus Geiger and Franz Metzner for integrated architectural and sculptural effect...

, due to his previous works at the Kyffhäuser
The Kyffhäuser is a range of hills located on the border of the German state of Thuringia with Saxony-Anhalt. It stands on the southern edge of the Harz. The range has a length of and a width of . It reaches its highest point at the Kulpenberg , situated in Thuringia...

. The construction began in 1898. The chosen construction site was the spot where Napoleon ordered the retreat of his army. Thieme financed part of the construction as well, and for his complete dedication to the project, he was named an Honorary Citizen of Leipzig.
In 1898, the construction started. 82000 cubic metres (2,895,802.6 cu ft) of land were moved; 26,500 granite blocks were used and the project resulted in a total cost of 6,000,000
German gold mark
The Goldmark was the currency used in the German Empire from 1873 to 1914.-History:Before unification, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16⅔ grams of pure silver...

 (€ in ), the monument was finished in 1913.

Design & concept

Inspired by Weinbrenner's early project, Schmitz constructed the monument over an artificial hill, and selected a pyramidal shape for a clear view of the surroundings. The base is 124 metres (406.8 ft) large and 124 metres (406.8 ft) wide. The main structure, at 91 metres (298.6 ft), is one of the tallest monuments in Europe. It is composed of two storys. On the first story, a crypt is adorned by eight large statues of fallen warriors, each one next to smaller statues called the Totenwächter (Guards of the Dead). On the second story, the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) features four statues, each 9.5 metres tall, representing the four legendary historic qualities ascribed to the German people: bravery, faith, sacrifice and fertility. The statues of the monument were sculpted by Christian Behrens and his apprentice Franz Metzner
Franz Metzner
Franz Metzner was an influential German sculptor, particularly his sculptural figures integrated into the architecture of Central European public buildings in the Art Nouveau / Jugendstil / Vienna Secession period...

, who finished the remaining statues after Behrens's death in 1905. Metzner worked on the sculptures at the top and inside the memorial.

The memorial is constructed in granite and sandstone. The cupola
In architecture, a cupola is a small, most-often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome....

 is decorated with primitive Germanic shapes, inspired by Egyptian and Assyrian
-In antiquity:*ancient Assyria**the Old Assyrian period **the Middle Assyrian period **the Neo-Assyrian period *Either of two provinces of the Persian Empire:**Achaemenid Assyria...

 sculpture. Schmitz also planned to create an accompanying complex for ceremonies that would include a court, a stadium and parade grounds. However, only a reflecting pool and two processional avenues were ultimately completed. Surrounding the monument are oaks, a symbol of masculine strength and endurance to the Germanic people of antiquity. The oaks are complemented by evergreens, symbolising feminine fecundity, and they are located in a subordinate position to the oaks. The 12 metres (39.4 ft) main figure on the front of the memorial represents the archangel Michael
Michael (archangel)
Michael , Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; , Mikhaḗl; or Míchaël; , Mīkhā'īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans refer to him as Saint Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael...

, considered the "War god of Germans".

The design of the monument was intended to commemorate the spirit of the German folk. Unlike previous monuments that commemorated the achievements of the monarchy, this one was created to commemorate the end of the battle in 1813, the establishment of a German community, and the maturation of the Germans as an organised ethnic group.

Third Reich, Soviet occupation, present

During the Third Reich, Hitler frequently used the monument as a venue for his meetings in Leipzig. During the period of Communist rule in East Germany, the government of the GDR was unsure whether it should allow the monument to stand, since it was considered to represent the staunch nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 of the period of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. Eventually, it was decided that the monument be allowed to remain, since it represented a battle in which Russian and German soldiers had fought together against a common enemy, and was therefore representative of "Russo-German brotherhood-in-arms" (German: Deutsch-russische Waffenbrüderschaft).
In 1956, the opening ceremony of the Gymnastics and Sports Festival took place in the memorial complex, the authorities stated that the monument could be interpreted as a symbol of "long-standing German-Russian friendship" The festival planners focused the spirit of the celebrations on German history, and the ceremony as a symbol of the desired German union.

, the monument is under restoration, with work scheduled to be finished by 2013, the year of the two-hundredth anniversary. The Monument of the Battle of Nations is located in the south-east of Leipzig and can be reached by tram lines 15 and 2 (stop: Völkerschlachtdenkmal).

External links

Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig (City-Historical Museum Leipzig) Homepage of the monument's supporters Homepage of the annual bathtub races Homepage of the choir of the Monument
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