Europe's Largest Quadriga
The quadriga atop the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin may be the most famous, but the one on the portico of the palace in Braunschweig is the largest in Europe. The present one has been standing there but a year, but its history goes further back.
The neo-Classicistic facade is in fact hiding a modern shopping mall. Of course, the shopping centre is larger than the former palace, but the modern part with its glass facades is so well integrated that you don't see it when approaching the palace from the direction of the castle square.
Front of the Palace in Braunschweig, with the quadriga on top
The original palace, residency of Duke Wilhelm of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, had been built in 1833-41 to the plans of Carl Theodor Ottmer. The quadriga was part of the original plans but was left out - together with other expensive statues and colonnades - because the duke wanted to save money.
In 1856 Duke Wilhelm celebrated 25 years of government, and the citizens of Braunschweig gifted him with the quadriga. Sculpturer Ernst Rietschel from Dresden designed the model; the quadriga was then crafted in copper repoussé technique by Georg Ferdinand Howaldt, a coppersmith from Braunschweig. Closeup against the sky
A fire destroyed part of the palace in 1865, and the quadriga became its victim as well except for the head of the charioteer - or charioteeress, the allegoric town goddess of Braunschweig, Brunonia. Howaldt made a second, somewhat smaller version that was installed on the restored palace portico where it remained until the end´of WW2.
Much of Braunschweig itself and parts of the palace were destroyed by bombs during the war, but the quadriga survived only to fall victim to metal thieves after the war - copper was much sought after. The remains of the destroyed palace were further dismantled and for many years a park marked the fomer residency of the Dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg; a line of the House Welfen and thus related to the Import Kings of England George I - III.Seen from the side, with a furtive ray of sunshine tinting the bronze golden
During the last years, the palace has been reconstructed using old plans and photos, as well as about 600 original pieces salvaged from the WW2 debris. The mall hiding behind the palace facade opened in 2007, and in October 2008 the new quadriga was installed on the portico. It is based on the original 1:3 gypsum model by Ernst Rietschel which still stands in the Albertinum in Dresden (a sculpture museum), but this time it was made of silicium bronze which is cheaper than copper. Duke Wilhelm of Braunschweig-Lüneburg wasn't the only one who had to look at his budget. Though they did go back to the larger version.Seen from the other side, with a good view of Brunonia
The entire group is about 9 metres high, 9.5 m long, 7.5 m wide, and weighs 25.8 tons. Brunonia alone stands at 5.30 metres; her head was modeled after the original that had been saved from the fire in 1865. The bronze has its original, red golden colour now but it will develop the typical green patina over time.
The platform on which the quadriga stands can be visited at certain times, but that's an endeavour for sunnier weather than we had.