Leipzig October 1813. More than 600.000 soldiers from almost all the corners of Europe are about to clash in one of the bloodiest battles in history. 100,000 killed and a century later after the massacre, a massive landmark was erected on the battle field, not far from the place where Napoleon once issued his orders. The famous French Emperor suffered here a severe defeat that had to change the fate of the continent, forcing him to abandon his control over Germany.
The colossal structure of concrete and granite is 300 feet high (91 meters). In German it received the long and intimidating name of Völkerschlachtdenkmal, but it's also known as the Monument to the Battle of the Nations. At first it was designed as a memorial to commemorate the end of the battle, viewed also as a victory of Germanic people. This was part of the process that had to help creating the spirit of the country, to establish the future state of Germany.
But the winds of the times were blowing in a slightly different direction. The temptation was too obvious, and when they emerged, the Nazis put their hands on the pantheon. The monument soon became the meeting point for Hitler's rallies in Saxony:
Völkerschlachtdenkmal (or Völki for the friends) is not an Icelandic volcano, but an imposing landmark of European history. Image by Westend
There is a fantastic view over the city and its surroundings from the monument's platform in the top. At the bottom there is also a pavilion with a museum about the Battle of Leipzig. Weapons, uniforms, equipments and more illustrate the war time situation, and gives an idea of a soldier's life during that period. Image by Sandeepsreevalsan
To be honest, it looks to me like a jumbo upset vacuum cleaner.
Image by Snoopsmaus
Who's moving up there? Compare the size of this impressive circle of gigantic knights in the top with a man; I was lucky to catch what it seems an employee doing some maintenance works.
A bit more of history: in 1813 the French army together with regiments from Poland, Italy and some Germanic states (the Confederation of the Rhine), were facing a larger coalition led by Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden. It was the decisive encounter of the War of the Sixth Coalition. Lithograph by the French painter Carle Vernet
- Paris, we've got a problem.
Images from the historical reenactment to commemorate the 200th anniversary of The Battle of Nations in 2013.
Photos by Bobertson and Westend
The facade of the main door is carved with a sculpture of 39 feet (12 m) representing the archangel Michael, that according to the source in Wikipedia is considered as the War god of Germans. Image by Snoopsmaus
After the disaster in 1812 in Russia, Napoleon was not invincible anymore. Leipzig in 1813 was his first defeat in the battle field, Waterloo in 1815 would be the second and the last. Image by Elena
Inside the crypt, the herculean proportion of four enormous statues sparks your imagination. They can make you feel inside one of those mythical fortress or dungeons from fantasy literature, like the world of Lord of the Rings.
The nearly 33 feet (10 meters) figures represent bravery, faith, sacrifice, and fertility, that are the supposedly qualities of German people from those romantic times. Image by Stefano Corso
The passages and corridors inside the pyramid also have their charm. They can be a bit claustrophobic if there are too many people going up and down. To avoid these situations, an electronic system lets you know when the corridor is free.
The dome is often used for concerts and other performances because of its excellent acoustics.
Image by Crosa
In 1945, with the fall of Nazi Germany, the monument was the last stronghold in the city for 150 stubborn SS troops. They were entrenched with ammo and food foodstuffs to last three months. At the end, these fanatics had to be convinced to surrender with the help of heavy artillery.
Nowadays, civic movements like the satiric Front Deutscher Äpfel (Front of German Apples), are the city's response to neo-Nazis, that may try to use the memorial for their demonstrations. Images by ¡0-8-15! and Daniel Arnold
Apparently, during the communist era, it helped the monument to survive the fact that at the end, it was commemorating a war when Russians and Germans fought together against a common enemy. Image by Philipp
If you walk to Völkerschlachtdenkmal from the city center, crossing Friedenspark, you may find a very unusual place for these latitudes: the Russian Orthodox architecture of St Alexei's church, build to the memory of the most than 20,000 soldiers from the Tsar's army that died in the conflict. Image by MOdmate
This last image is from the celebrations Leipzig 1813-1913-2013, when a spectacular show was organized for the double anniversary of 200 years of the Battle of the Nations. Image by Westend