The hidden secrets of a Kreuzberg monument

The secrets of Berlin's Schinkel monument in Viktoriapark

It's one of Kreuzberg's best-loved sights: a gloriously elaborate cast-iron spire crowning the summit of hilly Viktoria Park.

Designed by 19th century starchitect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the 1821 monument to victory in the Prussian Liberation Wars is a well-known look-out point and centrepiece of a picturesque setting complete with tumbling waterfall.

Yet it also harbours an extraordinary secret.

Hidden interior of the Schinkel Denkmal, Viktoriapark, Berlin Kreuzberg

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A secret in a Berlin monument: the hidden interior of the Schinkel Denkmal, Viktoriapark, Berlin

Concealed inside the tower's base is a cathedral-like network of lofty brick vaults, and hidden inside them are a series of stunningly detailed sculptures.

A plaster statue sculpted for the Schinkel monument - Kreuzberg, Berlin

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Berlin's hidden treasures - statues in a Kreuzberg monument

If the works seem familiar, that's because they're the original plaster models for the twelve figures adorning the monument itself.

Created by three of Germany's leading 19th century sculptors, fascinatingly, the maquettes differ slightly from their eventual transformation into the iron effigies on view literally just above them.

Exterior of Schinkel's monument in Viktoriapark, Berlin, showing the cast-iron figures

But they're not the only treasures hidden inside this secret, sepulchral space.

Fragments of elaborate reliefs rescued from the celebrated Palais Thiele-Winckler, a stately home demolished in the 1930s, are stored in the vaults along with an original frieze from the 18th century Berlin Mint.

Also here are carefully wrapped copies of the Brandenburg Gate's famous Quadriga, which were used to help restore the ensemble following wartime damage.

Yet the real star of this clandestine art show is, of course, the venue itself - a soaring, 1500 sqm cavern that few realise even exists.

Admittedly, access isn't especially easy (partly because Berlin's bats roost in the brickwork and can't be disturbed during their winter hibernation).

But from April to October, guided tours provide an opportunity to witness one of Berlin's most monumental hidden spaces. Details below, because you know you want to see it.

See also:
Berlin's bat caves
Europe's greatest plaster cast workshop

A garden courtyard
Schinkel's door

Schinkel monument (Prussian National Monument for the Liberation Wars) Viktoriapark, 10965 Berlin

2015 dates for tours of the base:

24.04.2015 - 5pm; 29.05.2015 - 5.30pm; 19.06.2015 - 5.30pm; 03.07.2015 - 5.30pm; 28.08.2015 - 5pm; 18.09.2015 - 5pm; 02.10.2015 - 4.30pm

Organised by the District Authority of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Call 030/90298-2624 to reserve and for ticket collection details. There is a small charge for the tour.

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