The Altes Museum is located on Berlin’s Lustgarten, right next to the Berlin Cathedral. The building belongs to the architectural ensemble of the Museum Island and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
I took a little discovery tour and am thrilled with this interesting museum.
History of the Museum
At the beginning of the 19th century, the idea began to take hold that art treasures should be made publicly available to all citizens. Everyone should be entitled to cultural education.
The Prussian king of the time, Frederick William III, was a great sympathizer of this movement and developed the first ideas on how to implement it. He commissioned Karl Friedrich Schinkel to plan a new building for the royal art collection. The king entrusted Wilhelm von Humboldt with the responsibility of deciding which art should be shown.
Schinkel, who had previously studied major museums in London and Paris, began planning. He also took into account the ideas that the Crown Prince had for the Museum Island and tried to develop a visually suitable building ensemble.
Before the construction work could even begin, however, complicated foundation work had to be carried out. Around 3000 pine wood piles were driven into the ground and construction work on the building began in 1825. In 1830, the “Royal Museum” opened. At first, the works of art of the picture gallery were shown here.
During National Socialism, the government used the building of the Old Museum for propaganda activities. Marches and events were held in the museum and in front of it.
During World War II, the building was hit by bombs and burned down in 1945 after an explosion of an ammunition truck standing by the building.
In 1951, the museum building began to be rebuilt almost true to the original, and even the rotunda was redesigned in 1982 according to Schinkel’s designs.
Alte Museum Berlina – view to the building
Standing in front of the Altes Museum Berlin, one could almost believe to be standing in front of an ancient temple in Greece. Everything is built as you know it from temples of Greek antiquity.
The entire building stands on a pedestal and thus rises above the Lustgarten. The cubic building is about 87 meters long. Climbing the stairs, one stands in a vestibule under a roof supported by 18 Ionic columns. On the roof, just above each column, sits an eagle made of sandstone.
At the corners of the building there are two groups of figures by Friedrich Tieck – the Rossbändigergruppen – and by Hagen and Schievelbein two groups of figures – the Pegasusgruppen. Above the entrance there is the inscription :
FRIDERICVS GVILHELMVS III. STVDIO ANTIQVITATIS OMNIGENAE ET ARTIVM LIBERALIVM MVSEVM CONSTITVIT MDCCCXXVIII
This means something like “Frederick William III for the study of antiquities of every kind as well as the liberal arts founded this museum in 1828”.
I am particularly impressed by the two large equestrian statues next to the grand staircase. On the right side is a work of art by August Kiß from 1842, showing an Amazon on horseback trying to fend off the attack of a panther with a lance. On the opposite side is the statue of the lion fighters, here a rider pierces a lion with his lance. Even if both works show quite brutal scenes, I like the detailed work very much.
What can you discover in the Altes Museum?
In the center of the Altes Museum is the Rotunda. It is 23 meters high and is surrounded by a gallery ring. 20 Corinthian columns support the gallery. This area of the interior in the Altes Museum Berlin was the only part of the reconstruction that was built true to the original. Originally, the large granite bowl that now stands in front of the building was to be located here. The area in the rotunda is now used as an exhibition area for larger sculptures. The model for the Rotunda in Berlin is the Pantheon in Rome.
Want a little tour? The video gives a great insight
The exhibition rooms are arranged around two courtyards. Originally, the Berlin collections of high art were to be shown here. In 1904, the collection of antiquities was initially housed in the Altes Museum Berlin. In 1942, the works of art were removed from storage and the rooms were used to store furniture. Today, the Etruscan and Roman collections can be admired on the upper floor. The rooms on the main floor house the Greek antiquities collection. The Altes Museum also houses the Coin Cabinet.
Tuesday-Sunday: 10-18 h
Monday, 24.12. and 31.12. closed
Holidays (1.1., 8.3., 1.5., 3.10., 25.12., 26.12.) : 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Discounts are offered.
Buy the tickets online in advance.