Monument to Kaiser Wilhelm I (Emperor William) at the Deutsche Ecke, Koblenz
|RIVER CRUISE GUIDE|
Archbishop Diether von Trier donated a small part of the landed estates of St Castor Monastery to the Knights of the German Order in 1216. The Knights’ Barracks were established here immediately after the donation and the spot of land precisely at the junction of the Moselle and the Rhein was called ‘German place‘ or ‘German corner‘ – Deutscher Ordt (Ort) or Deutsche Ecke – reminding everyone of the new proprietors – the Knights of the German Order.
The name stuck and the place became well-known throughout the German Empire. Few weeks after the death of William I, in 1888 the Prussian administrator of Coblenz came up with the idea that a special monument should be built to express general gratitude and admiration the nation felt towards William I.
The final decision for this particular location was made by the young Emperor William II. A small natural island at the very confluence of the Moselle into the Rhein was connected with the bank and the small harbour was filled in, thus creating the construction site for this monumental equestrian statue. Today, you would never guess that the island had ever existed separately from the mainland. There is now a spacious area in front of the huge monument that could be used as a parade ground, although perhaps it would be more pleasant if it was grassed over and made into a small park.
An impressive amount of 1 million marks was raised and the construction started in 1893. The project by Hundrieser and Schmitz was completed in 1897 to the admiration of the general public. The total height of the monument of 37 m/121 ft was just 1 m/3’3" higher than the Niederwald Monument in Rüdesheim (‘Germania’) and 2,900 m3/102,412 ft of granite and 17,500 kg/19.2 US tons of copper were used for its construction.
The verse of the poet Max von Schenkendorf saying ‘The Empire will never be destroyed, for as long as you stand united and loyal to each other’ ("Nimmer wird das Reich zerstört, wenn Ihr einig seid and treu!") was engraved upon it.
The monument was unveiled in the presence of William II, the grandson of William I on August 31, 1897. The semi-circular pediment with its 10 m/33 ft high hall of columns survived the last world war.
The 14 m/46 ft high equestrian statue of Emperor William I in his parade uniform, followed by the female allegory of the Empire carrying the imperial crown of Germany on a velvet cushion, was destroyed in March 1945 by an artillery shell.
In 1953 the monument was declared the Memorial to German unity by German president Theodor Heuss. The Germans remember the date since they sung their national anthem here for the first time on that occasion after the defeat in WW II. But the people of Coblenz wanted their ‘old Emperor William’ back. This was made possible by a generous private donation of 3 million marks (EUR1.53 million/$1.9 million) and a local fundraising effort in Coblenz which brought in 350,000 DM (EUR180,000/$225,000). The heavy statue of 63.5 tons/69.4 US tons was unveiled to the public on 25 September 1993.
See also: Coblenz (Koblenz)
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