The Pergamon Museum in Berlin's Mitte district is part of the
building ensemble of the Museum Island and is therefore a UNESCO World
Heritage Site. Planned by Alfred Messel in neoclassical style from 1907
to 1909 on behalf of Kaiser Wilhelm II, it was executed in a simplified
form by Ludwig Hoffmann from 1910 to 1930. It is currently home to the
antiquities collection with the famous Pergamon Altar, the Near Eastern
Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art. As part of the Museum Island
master plan, the Pergamon Museum will be renovated by 2023 and will be
In 2019, the Pergamon Museum recorded around 804,000 visitors.
The first Pergamon Museum was built by Fritz Wolff in 1897-1899 and opened on December 18, 1901 by Kaiser Wilhelm II. The portrait of Carl Humann created by Adolf Brütt was unveiled. The atrium of the museum building at that time already contained other architecture from Pergamon, Priene and Magnesia.
After the demolition of the first Pergamon Museum in 1908, the Pergamon images were housed in the eastern columned hall of the New Museum until the successor building was completed.
Since the monumental objects found during the excavations in Babylon, Uruk, Assur and Egypt could not be adequately displayed in the first building and this soon showed damage (the foundation had sagged, but could have been repaired with the right political will), there have been works since 1906 Planning by Wilhelm von Bode, the director general of the then royal museums who had been appointed in 1905 and since 1918 the state museums, for a new building on the same site. In addition to the antique architecture in the north wing, the German art of post-antiquity in the Deutsches Museum was to be accommodated in this, in the south wing the Near East department and (planned since 1927) the Islamic art department.
Starting in 1907, Alfred Messel planned the monumental three-winged building in strict neoclassical forms based on a concept by Wilhelm von Bode. After his death in 1909, his closest friend, the Berlin building councilor Ludwig Hoffmann, took over the execution of the building. In addition, the architects were Wilhelm Wille, Walter Andrae for the furnishing of the Near Eastern department, today's Near Eastern Museum with Hittite, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian works of art, and German Bestelmeyer for the furnishing of the north wing with the collection of German art of the painting and sculpture gallery (the so-called "German Museum") and Ernst Kühnel, who together with Hoffmann developed the Islamic Art Department, today's Museum for Islamic Art with the Mshatta facade, were involved in the project. Together with Theodor Wiegand, Ludwig Hoffmann developed the concept for the halls with the column structures from Priene, Magnesia, Miletus and Pergamon as well as the hall for the Pergamon Altar discovered by Carl Humann and the market gate of Miletus. Construction work began in 1910, delayed by the First World War, the November Revolution of 1918 and the inflation of 1922/1923. It was not until 1930 that the construction of the three-wing complex was essentially completed and the four museums in it were opened. The portico in the inner courtyard originally planned by Messel and Hoffmann, the colonnade on the Kupfergraben and the fourth wing for the Egyptian Museum to the south between the Neues Museum and the Kupfergraben remained unfinished.
The building presents itself as a deep three-wing complex oriented to the southwest towards the Spree. The high central building at the end of the long forecourt has no windows. The side wings each carry a row of twelve colossal Doric pilasters above the base. The end faces of the side wings are widened, with a slightly protruding windowless wall to the forecourt. Its viewing sides towards the Spree are occupied by a row of half-columns each consisting of six (also Doric) half-columns, protruding somewhat; The gables on both side wings rise above this and the surrounding roof cornice.
The outer facade consists of Franconian and Oberdorlaer shell limestone from Thuringia (Triassic), Lusatian granodiorite (Precambrian) and Beucha granite porphyry (Permian) from Saxony and Bale limestone (chalk) from Croatia. In contrast to the front sides, which are set in solid natural stone slabs, the less representative facades – north facade (towards the Bodemuseum), east facade (towards Hackescher Markt) and south facade (towards the Neues Museum) – are made of stone plaster imitating natural stone. This dark gray plaster, cement-bonded with natural stone granules, has been modeled with dummy joints and a stonemason-like finish corresponding to the natural stone blocks.
During the current general refurbishment of the Pergamon Museum, an examination of the historical building construction was carried out, which documents the engineering achievements of the responsible city planning officer Wilhelm Wille and the civil engineer Otto Leitholf, who reacted to the spongy building ground with numerous special constructions.
The Pergamon Museum was badly hit during the air raids on Berlin in
World War II. Many exhibits have been relocated to safe locations, and
some of the monumental pieces have been walled in. In 1945, a large part
of the exhibits were transported by the Red Army to Moscow and Leningrad
for a large Stalin Victory Museum. In 1954, the Miletus Hall, the first
hall in the Department of Antiquities, was reopened, and in 1955 the
Hellenistic Hall, modified by Elisabeth Rohde by transferring the
Hephaestion mosaic, among other things. In 1957 and 1958 the Soviet
Union returned a large part of the holdings to the GDR. The Pergamon
Altar was largely rebuilt by Carl Blümel and Elisabeth Rohde in the 1930
staging, but the Deutsches Museum was not restored. The collections that
were once on show were mostly in the picture gallery and in the
sculpture collection in West Berlin in the Museumszentrum Berlin-Dahlem.
Other holdings were burned in the Friedrichshain anti-aircraft bunker or
are still in the depots of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the
Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, in violation of international law. The
return of these items, including the famous treasure of Priam, was
contractually agreed between the Federal Republic and Russia in 1990,
but has so far been prevented by the Russian Parliament and museum
directors in Moscow. The Pergamon Museum housed the antiquities
collection, the Near Eastern Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art, the East
Asian Department newly established in the GDR, and the Museum of German
Folklore; the latter two moved out again in the early 1990s and were
merged with their sister departments in Dahlem.
Each of the departments was originally designated independently. Only since 1958 has the entire building been called the "Pergamon Museum", which until then had been reserved for the rooms of the antiquities collection in the east wing.
The Pergamon Museum contains collections from three museums: the
Antiquities Collection, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Museum of
the Ancient Near East. The museum shows various pieces of ancient
monumental architecture, among the most important and well-known
the Pergamon Altar
the market gate of Miletus
the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way of Babylon
the Mshatta facade
In 2007, the Pergamon Museum was the most visited Berlin museum and the best visited German art museum with around 1,135,000 visitors. Apart from 2004, it has been the most visited Berlin museum since 1999.
The antiquities collection is housed in three locations: in the Pergamon Museum, with the majority of the collection in the Old Museum, and with pieces such as the Cyprus Collection in the New Museum. The part of the collection in the Pergamon Museum shows works of art of Greek and Roman architecture in the three central main halls at the top of the building and a few works of other art movements. After the Second World War until 2010, the north wing of the museum also housed the holdings of the East Berlin Collection of Antiquities, after the reunification of the Collection of Antiquities at the beginning of the 1990s and the move of the West Berlin collection back to the Altes Museum, mainly works from the Sculpture Collection displayed.
Near Eastern Museum
The Museum of the Near East shows exhibits from archaeological excavations by German scientists, including the German Orient Society, which were excavated in the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian advanced civilizations. These include many monumental architectural monuments, reliefs and also smaller cult, decorative and everyday objects.
Particular attractions are the Babylonian Ishtar Gate, a part of the processional street in front of it and the throne room facade of Nebuchadnezzar II.
As part of the Berlin Museum Island master plan, the Pergamon Museum
is to be connected to the Bode Museum, the New Museum and the Old Museum
by an archaeological promenade. As the new entrance building, the
James-Simon-Galerie offers one of the entrances to the main tour in the
In 2000, an architectural competition was announced for the conversion work, which the Cologne architect Oswald Mathias Ungers won. Among other things, "a main tour is to be created with an additional fourth wing, which combines the monumental architecture of the Egyptian and Near Eastern Museums, the Antiquities Collection and the Museum of Islamic Art into an overall picture." The Museum of Islamic Art will move to the north wing, in which the German Museum was housed until the Second World War.
On May 3, 2019, the topping-out ceremony for the first construction phase of the basic repair and extension of the Pergamon Museum took place. The first phase of construction will cost around 477 million euros and will last until 2025.
Despite the renovation, the house recorded a total of around 804,000 visitors in 2019 and was thus able to increase the previous year's figure by around 24,000 visitors.
In the 2021 German science fiction film Ich bin dein Mensch by director Maria Schrader, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin is a central setting of the plot.