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Blücher’s ghost does not just live on in the minds of the people of Rostock and history enthusiasts. Personified in bronze, there is still a relief sculpture of him on the Blücher memorial, which was built in 1819 on the Blücherplatz - now called the Universitätsplatz.
On 16th December 1742, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher was born in Rostock in the Altbettelmönchstraße, number 23 (changed to Blücherstraße in 1863 and Rungestraße in 1947). He spent the first 14 years of his life in the city. Because his tomb in Krieblowitz (Silesia, now Poland) was plundered after 1945 and his coffin was taken, you can see the beginning and end of the famous general’s life at the monument in his birthplace, Rostock.
The inauguration of the memorial in Blücher’s place of birth on 26th August 1819 and his death in Krieblowicz on 12th September 1819 are so close to one another, that one would be inclined to think of the memorial as a “replacement”. For 17 days the two Blücher “lived” next to each other – then Rostock’s bronze field marshal had to honour the memory throughout all later conflicts and wars by himself and still does to this day.
It almost seems as though the monument came about because of a student prank – which is, next to the location of the monument in front of the main university building, Blücher’s only link to the university: in a Hamburg newspaper on July 1814, the fictitious message appeared stating that Rostock’s merchants had put together the sum of 2,500 Thalers for a Blücher monument. This message,
that was written in many newspapers, reached Blücher, who wrote a letter of thanks to the city one month later. Under pressure, the nobility in Mecklenburg, the city and the dukes of both regions decided to construct a monument for the legendary general of the Prussian military. However, it was another five years until the monument was inaugurated. Blücher visited Rostock for the last time in August 1816.
Around the Blücher monument, which was erected on the Universitätsplatz in 1819, the classical ‘Neue Wache’ building (1822/25) emerged with its large halls and the ‘Neue Museum’ (1844) as an extension to the left of the university’s main building, which was constructed in 1867/70 after the ‘Weiße Kolleg’ was demolished.
In this almost topical backdrop, Blücher stands today in bronze on a high plinth, without his horse - this statue of him is large enough. He has only been moved once, in 1938, from the centre of the square to where he is now. The legendary pioneer of the Prussian military, at 72 years of age, rode to the rescue in 1815 to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo. Two days before he had been perilously trapped underneath his injured horse for hours at the Battle of Ligny. Field Marshal Blücher’s true saviour was his adjutant, Graf Nostiz. He quick-wittedly threw his coat over the field marshal, protecting him from French soldiers. The Prussians later rescued him from this position.
Because of such good luck, sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764-1850), who also sculpted the Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate, created a guardian angel (Genius). Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an expert in this field, placed great emphasis on the timelessness of the monument’s image and text. He did not want the adjutant to be depicted realistically. The “Guardian Spirit of Germania” became the timeless rescuer of Blücher. Nevertheless, Graf Nostiz received his own place in history; on the relief he was sculpted as the only still defending Prussian officer.
Blücher’s Ghost is still there for the people of Rostock. If a school pupil or student strokes the head of the protective spirit three times before their exams, the winged spirit will help those who seek protection. Other well-worn parts of the young man’s body prove that a lot of thought goes into the original tasks of a ‘genius’ as well. For the Romans, it was the divine embodiment of male potency.
A good viewing spot would be on the Universitätsplatz underneath the trees to the Southwest on the right-hand side of the monument.
Picture caption: Blücher underneath his horse on the Blücher monument; Sculptor: Johann Gottfried Schadow
Text, photo: Dr. Hartmut Schmied, www.hartmutschmied.com (http://www.hartmutschmied.com)
Further fables and legends about Rostock and the area can be found in: Hartmut Schmied, Geister, Götter, Teufelssteine (Ghosts, Gods, Devil’s Stones). Sagen und Legendenführer MecklenburgVorpommern (Fable and Legend Guide Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), Hinstorff Verlag, Rostock 2011 (sold at the tourist information desk) and at www.cryptoneum.de (CRYPTONEUM Legend Museum Rostock)
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