Brandenburg is full of lovely architectural and historical discoveries. While the region has a (not always unfounded) reputation for being somewhat dull and unfriendly, almost every village has something unique to see, be it a Kriegerdenkmal, Bismarckturm or in the case of Großbeeren – the Bülow Pyramide.
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Großbeeren from the 13th to the 18th Century
Like many of the small settlements in Brandenburg, Großbeeren has a spectacularly unspectacular history. Its first official mention dates back to the year 1271, earning its name from the noble family “von Berne” -(later known as von Beeren) which ruled over the area for 5 centuries between the 14th and the early 19th century. I was somewhat disappointed when I found out the origin of the name as I had initially imagined that it had something to do with berries
The small settlement didn’t see any massive growth over next few hundred years, with only a few farms being set up. Both the 30 years war (1618 – 1648) and the 7 years war (1757 – 1763) saw Großbeeren being pillaged and burt down, though it recovered relatively quickly again. The last of the von Beeren family died in 1812 which rang in a series of new owners over the next few years.
The Battle of Großbeeren
After Napoleon’s rather unsuccessful invasion of Russia in 1812, essentially every european Kingdom that had a bone to pick with the French despot thought it would be a good opportunity to rid themselves of the man. This kicked off the War of the Sixth Coalition with Prussia (and a handful of German States), the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria Spain, Sweden and Portugal driving Napoleon out of Germany and back into France.
By August 1813, Marschall Charles Nicolas Oudinot and 75,000 French and Saxon troops were marching towards Berlin with the intent of capturing the Prussian capital in hopes of eliminating one of the coalitions partners. The Prussian Troops under Command of Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow, along with the more senior ranked Jean Bernadotte -(aka Charles XIV John) crown Prince of Sweden had amassed a force of 100,000 men to push the french troops back.
Großberen was occupied by the Prussian troops by mid August, until they were driven out by french artillery fire on the 23rd of August. The Swedish Crown Prince ordered Bülow to retreat back to the Berlin Customs Wall and prepare for the defense of the capital. Bülow found this to be unacceptable and rightfully assumed that the french did not occupy Großbeeren with all their troops. Facing a potentially smaller force, and aided by a torrential rain which rendered the more advanced french flintlock muskets useless – Bülow disobeyed the Crown Prince and ordered an all out attack, including a 35,000 man strong bayonet charge. He supposedly quipped to the Crown Prince: ” Our bones shall bleach before Berlin, not behind it”.
The French and their Saxon allies were soundly defeated, suffering almost 4 times as many casualties as the Prussian Army – and saved Berlin from a second french occupation.
The Bülow Pyramide
While Großbeeren already had a monument dedicated to the Prussian victory (erected in 1817)- which was designed by none other than Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the citizens of Großbeeren decided to build another one dedicated to Bülow in 1906.
A 10 meter high fieldstone pyramid was erected on the Windmühlenhügel, one of the former Battlefields where two thirds of the french canons stood during the attack. A windmill originally stood on the “hill” as well, but after the city of Berlin acquired it, they tore it down in 1900 as it was deemed derelict und not worth saving.
The front of the pyramid has a gold lettered plaque commemorating the victorious Battle opf Großbeeren, while the reverse side has a plaque with Bülows famous quip “Our bones shall bleach before Berlin, not behind it”.
The entrance of the Bülow Pyramide gives off a tranquil atmosphere, if one can ignore the tennis court and Waterski Lift in the background. There’s also a bench and a matching trash can (a seemingly new addition) behind the pyramid, enabling you to enjoy a somewhat enjoyable nature view, but their placement somewhat ruin the optics of the pyramid. A saving grace of the bench is the engraved quote ” Glück beginnt, wo man die Zeit vergisst” (Happiness begins where you forget time).
Overall, visiting the Bülow Pyramide is a worthville outing, if combined with a visit to the Gedenkturm, Schinkelkirche and the Arbeitslager Großbeeren memorial located more centrally in Großbeeren (more on those in a seperate post).
The Büllow Pyramide From Above
We’ve added a super short (and not particularly good) video of the Bülow Pyramide from above. This was meant more as test footage from our first drone flight, but we thought we might as well add it in as it gives a nice view of the former battlefield.
Bülow Pyramide Address