The Belvedere on the Pfingstberg

Using his own plans, Frederick William IV had the Belvedere on the Pfingstberg constructed on account of its beautiful views. He received architectural stimulation for this building during his trip to Rome in 1828. Consequently, numerous Roman buildings, like the Villa Medici, the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, as well as the Casino of the Villa Farnese in Caprarola, were inspirations for this structure. Ludwig Persius was first entrusted with its construction, followed by the architects Friedrich Stüler and Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse after his death.

Construction of the Belvedere began in 1847. The two towers were created first, containing a Roman and a Moorish Gallery respectively, as well as the connecting northern gallery. This was followed by the first inner courtyard, enclosed by lateral arcades topped with colonnades. The second inner courtyard was intended to be framed by wing walls and crowning towers facing south. Construction was interrupted in 1852 for the benefit of the Orangery at Sanssouci. After the illness and death of Frederick William IV, his brother William I finally brought the building to completion in a limited manner in 1863. A smaller, triple-arched entrance hall with an open staircase, based on the model of the Casino Caprarola, now completes the building complex that was originally planned to have tremendous cascades and a fountain. A water basin that is fed by the pumping station of the dairy in the New Garden was laid out in the interior of the first courtyard and serves as a reservoir for the fountains situated below the New Garden.

Just a few decades after the building’s completion, towards the end of the 19th century, the Belvedere was no longer reserved only for members of the royal family and its visitors, but was also made accessible to a wide public. Nevertheless, strict rules had to be observed. Smoking tobacco was prohibited, for example, as was bringing dogs. The Belvedere enjoyed increasing popularity, as proven by numerous postcards from the period around 1900. After 1918, a visit to the Pfingstberg was only possible in a limited manner, because of questions of ownership. It was renovated for the Olympic Games in 1936. The move of Soviet intelligence into the exclusive residential district between the Pfingstberg and the New Garden in the 1950s, the nearby Soviet barracks in the north of Potsdam, and the proximity to the inner German border, caused the buildings on the Pfingstberg to fall into a long slumber. Visits were undesirable, because of the view towards West Berlin over the nearby border. The view was completely obstructed after construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Following the death of the last castellan the building rapidly dilapidated.

Attention was first directed to the Pfingstberg again in 1988, on account of the activities of a group called the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft (AG) Pfingstberg” affiliated with the Potsdam Cultural Association of the GDR. The Temple of Pomona and the Belvedere were freed from ivy and brushwood, and the eastern section of lawn was exposed. After German Reunification the fundraising efforts of the Förderverein Pfingstberg in Potsdam e.V., established in the interim, succeeded in the procuring numerous donations for the building’s reconstruction and renovation. In 1996, the owner of the Pfingstberg, the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG), was able to initiate the first efforts for the renovation of the building. The western observation tower was reopened in April 2001. The eastern tower, the eastern colonnade and the northern arcade were also completed in July 2003. In May 2005, with the completion of the exterior wing walls, the renovation of the historical building on the Pfingstberg came to an end. In addition to the many thousand individual donations, the complete restoration of the Belvedere was primarily made possible by large donations from Prof. Dr. Werner Otto and the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung.

The romantically beautiful ruin brought about by decline that was set in a fairytale-like, overgrown park during the late 1980s has been transformed into a majestic manifestation, which has truly earned the name “crown above the city.” Today, the Belvedere is available for diverse cultural uses, as well as private occasions, parties and public receptions.