Wednesday, 1 September 2010

What to see: The Antique Temple, Potsdam

Three years after leaving her home at the New Palace in Potsdam to join her husband, Wilhelm II, in exile in the Netherlands, the last German Empress, Auguste Viktoria, was repatriated to Germany to be buried in the Antique Temple in Potsdam’s Sanssouci Park. Other members of the imperial family have since also found their final resting place in the temple, but the Emperor himself is still missing.
The Antique Temple was built by Carl von Gontard in 1768 to house parts of King Friedrich II’s collection of antiques. It can be found behind some trees on the garden side of the New Palace and forms a pendant to the Temple of Friendship on the other side of the Main Alley.
King Friedrich Wilhelm III later moved his uncle’s collection to the then newly-completed Old Museum in Berlin. Several generations later Emperor Wilhelm II and Empress Auguste Viktoria decided to have the temple reconstructed as a future mausoleum for themselves, but work had not yet started when revolution swept away the German monarchies in 1918.
Great respect and affection was shown towards the former Empress when her body returned to Potsdam in 1921 to be laid to rest in the temple. There she was joined by her son Prince Joachim, who had committed suicide in 1920, and later by another son, Prince Eitel Friedrich, as well as Prince Wilhelm, the eldest son of ex-Crown Prince Wilhelm, who was killed in action during Nazi Germany’s invasion of France in 1940.
Ex-Emperor Wilhelm II himself died in exile in Doorn in 1941 and was laid to rest in a mausoleum in the park of the estate where he had spent the last two decades. That mausoleum has room for two sarcophagi and his second wife, Hermine, whom he married in 1922, had wanted to be buried with him. At the time of her death in Soviet captivity in Frankfurt am Oder 1947, it was deemed too complicated to have her remains transferred to the Netherlands and she was therefore also laid to rest in the Antique Temple.
Thus both Wilhelm II’s wives now rest in the Antique Temple. Wilhelm II has decreed that he too will eventually be buried there, but only when the monarchy has been reintroduced in Germany. It might in other words be a while before his body is repatriated.
Closed off and in a derelict state, the Antique Temple has meanwhile been covered in graffiti, including the words “Revolution!” carved into the façade.

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