The Monument to the Battle of the Nations (German: Völkerschlachtdenkmal) is a monument in Leipzig, Germany, to the Battle of Leipzig of 1813, also known as the Battle of the Nations. It is one of Leipzig's main landmarks and the largest monument in Europe. Paid for mostly by donations and a lottery, but partially by the city of Leipzig, it was completed in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the battle and cost around 6,000,000 Goldmark (approx. 31 million euro).
watches to protect against invaders. Within the dome, the feature is forlorn reliefs, reflecting the human cost of a war where the German lands again suffered as the staging ground (right).]] The Monument to the Battle of the Nations (German: Völkerschlachtdenkmal) is a monument in Leipzig, Germany, to the Battle of Leipzig of 1813, also known as the Battle of the Nations. It is one of Leipzig's main landmarks and the largest monument in Europe. Paid for mostly by donations and a lottery, but partially by the city of Leipzig, it was completed in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the battle and cost around 6,000,000 Goldmark (approx. 31 million euro).
There were Germans fighting on both sides, as Napoleon's troops included Germans from the French-occupied left bank of the Rhine as well as from the Confederation of the Rhine due to mandatory conscription. The monument commemorates Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig. This was a crucial step towards the end of hostilities, which was, in essence, a victory for the German people. Additionally, it mourns the dead from all the nations involved, not only the German soldiers.
The structure is 91 metres tall, making it the tallest monument in Europe. It contains over 500 steps to a viewing platform at the top, from which there are spectacular views across the city and its environs. The structure makes extensive use of concrete, although the facings are of granite.
The monument is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Wilhelmine architecture, with several features comparable to sketches of the Temple of Solomon and the work of Freemasonry. It is said to stand on the spot of the bloodiest fighting, where Napoleon saw his army destroyed. The architect of the monument was Bruno Schmitz, and the carved figures, including the 5.5 metres (18 feet) high Totenwächter ("Guards of the Dead", or "Keepers of the Vigil of the Dead") are the work of sculptors Christian Behrens and his one-time apprentice Franz Metzner. The construction work took place over a period of 15 years under the direction of Clemens Thieme.
In front of the monument there is an artificial rectangular lake intended to symbolise the blood and tears shed during the wars. The so-called Régates de Baquet (a bathtub race) has taken place in this lake every year since 1991, an attempt to "unmonopolize" the so-called ideologies inherrent in such "overtly nationalistic structures".
Some view its style as overbearing and pompous, and the statuary which dominates the entire structure is intended to evoke mythic images of Germanic heroism, of the sort propounded by Richard Wagner. If the monument has a nationalist tone, however, then it is in the sense that a nation should be united, rather than split into parts that are forced to fight each other, as Germans were obliged to in that battle.
Hitler exploited the monument to the full, and chose it as a frequent venue for his speeches when 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 represented the staunch nationalism of the period of the German Empire. Eventually, it was decided that the monument should 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).
As of 2010[update], 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).