Mystery Bridge Nr. 58: Bridges And Lions

Photos taken by the author in July 2015
Photos taken by the author in July 2015

We have read in the news recently of the senseless killing of a popular lion in Zimbabwe and the government’s attempts to seek an extradition of the now defamed poacher- a dentist in Minnesota. And while this heinous criminal act will put a cherry on a cake of a tall pile of convictions of illegal hunting and harassment charges, thus keeping even the US presidential candidate Jeb Bush and his family of Bushes from imposing the American Exceptionalism immunity rule, another story worth looking at but has been ignored up to now is unfolding in the German capital of Berlin. This time it has to do with lions and bridges.

Located over a small pond at Tiergarten, near the Siegesäule Tower, the origin of this suspension bridge comes from St. Petersburg in Russia, where architect Christian Friedrich Tieck was impressed with the construction of the bridge: wire-cables suspanded by the towers whose finials featured statues of lions. Tieck decided to replicate the bridge in Berlin. Together with engineer Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse and artist Christian Daniel Rauch, Tieck constructed the bridge in 1838. The bridge features four lions, one on each end facing the opposite river bank, holding the main wire cables, whose vertical suspenders support the wooden deck. For over 160 years, this bridge used to serve pedestrians and cyclists going through the park.

Until most recently, that is…..

During my trip to Berlin recently, I took an opportunity to visit the Tiergarten and find some historic bridges in the area. Covering over 210 hectares of space from Brandenburg Gate to the main rail line going through Berlin Zoo Garden Station- about the same size as Central Park in New York City, the park features a palace (Bellevue), one of the largest and most popular zoos in Germany, a gallery of vintage gas-powered lanterns (a separate article through the Flensburg Files is in the making), and many 19th century iron bridges scattered all over the park. One of the bridges on my list of places to visit was this bridge, carrying the official name of The Bridge of Lions.  After spending over a hour looking for it, I finally found the bridge- or what is left of it. 🙁

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As you can see in the photos and the YouTube video (click here), the towers are still standing, the lion still has the cable anchor in his mouth, but the wire cables and the decking are gone- completely! What exactly happened to the bridge?  Two theories come to mind: Either someone set fire to the deck or vandalized it to a point where it was irreparable or the deck was willfully removed by the City because of its condition. In either case, there is a reason for the bridge not existing anymore which has not been fully clarified as of present. The one variable that appears to be clear is this: With permanent railings on both sides of the bridge’s portals, there are no plans to rebuild the bridge. It is such a shame, given the fact that the bridge is considered a National Landmark by the German Heritage Office (Denkmalschutzamt). Yet with as little money as Berlin seems to have available- as 90% of it is being diverted to the infamous project to construct the Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport, the airport that should have opened in 2009 but will not open officially before 2020- restoration projects like this one are being put to the wayside indefinitely, causing many to wonder what priorities the City has exactly.

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This means that the Bridge of Lions will still hold the wireless anchors for a very long time, while there is no way to meet in the middle, but see each other from the banks of the pond. But why? Why this senseless removal? And are there any plans to restore it in the near future?

Post your comments here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page, and we’ll see if there is enough support to at least save the dignity of these lions. After all, lions are the king of the animal kingdom and they deserve to be treated with as much dignity and respect as the one that was senselessly slaughtered by a poacher whose excuses will never compensate for what had happened.

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