Museum Island Overview of the Buildings
Altes Museum Neues Museum Pergamonmuseum Bode-Museum Alte Nationalgalerie James-Simon-Galerie Archäologisches Zentrum Erweiterung Bode-Museum


Museum Castle at the Tip of the Island

Like a castle set on a lake, the Bode-Museum rises above the Spree River at the northern tip of the Museum Island. This grand building was magnificently reopened in 2006 after several years of complete renovation carried out by the team of architects Heinz Tesar / Atelier Christoph Fischer.

The Bode-Museum was built between 1898 and 1904 by Ernst Eberhard von Ihne, and initially called the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum. Today, it houses the Sculpture Collection of works dating up to ca. 1800 and the Museum of Byzantine Art, as well as the Numismatic Collection.

Originally, the collection of paintings and sculptures was exhibited in the Bode-Museum and, from 1930 onward, in the north wing of the Pergamonmuseum. From the point of view of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and its Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin), a joint presentation of these two collections would be the ideal solution today as well.

© SPK / ART+COM, 2015

Virtual Flight around the Bode-Museum

The Bode-Museum looks as if it is rising out of the water at the northern tip of the island. Ernst Eberhard von Ihne created the building in the style of Wilhelmine Baroque. The palace-like edifice spreads over the triangular stretch of land north of the railroad line which went into operation in 1882. Visitors can reach the entrance of the Bode-Museum via the Monbijoubrücke. The latter links the Museum Island to the quarter around Oranienburger Strasse, and also connects the tip of the island to the western bank of the Kupfergraben.

Complete Renovation

In 1997, the team of architects Heinz Tesar / Atelier Christoph Fischer was commissioned to plan the complete renovation. The complete renovation not only included the installation of state-of-the-art building services as well as safety and sanitary technology, but also the restoration of the 100-year-old museum building in accordance with official regulations for historical monuments. Many décor elements that had been destroyed during World War II and restored in the post-war era were renovated. New exhibition rooms were created in the semi-basement. In addition, the Small Cupola Hall was lowered so as to

connect it with the Archaeological Promenade. The latter will eventually lead to an exhibition room beneath the railroad line and extend into the semi-basement of the Pergamonmuseum. The Numismatic Collection already reopened in 2004 after six years of complete renovation. Its unique vault is located in the basement of the museum wing situated on the Kupfergraben and has been an integral part of the Bode-Museum ever since it was built. The museum as a whole was reopened in October 2006.

Collections in the Bode-Museum

The Bode-Museum is the location of the Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art. In allusion to Wilhelm von Humboldt’s original exhibition concept, the presentation of the sculptures is complemented by some works from the Old Master Paintings. The Numismatic Collection is presented in its own exhibition rooms on the first floor and includes a study hall, which is open to the public, immediately next to the vault in the basement.

When the Bode-Museum was first established, it was originally devised as a museum for the exhibition of paintings and sculptures. In addition, rooms were designed for the Numismatic Collection and the Islamic Museum. In GDR times, the museum came to house numerous collections, such as the Old Master Paintings, the Sculpture Collection, the Early Christian-Byzantine Collection, the Numismatic Collection, the Children’s Museum, as well as the exhibitions of the Egyptian Museum and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History.

Wilhelm von Bode’s Collection Concept

The exhibition rooms of the Bode-Museum are lavishly decorated, inspired by Italian Renaissance and Baroque. Wilhelm von Bode, the legendary director of the museum, had devised the building, which opened in 1904 under the name of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, as a space for the Sculpture Collection and the Old Master Paintings. The ground floor, whose rooms are illuminated by incidental light from the sides, was mainly used for the presentation of sculptures and selected paintings. The impressive skylight-lit halls of the upper floor were primarily intended for the presentation of paintings. In contrast to the separation of genres that was customary at the time, sculpture and painting were combined in manifold ways in the cabinets on the Spree and Kupfergraben side of the building.

Joint Presentation of Painting and Sculpture

From the perspective of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz and its museums, a joint presentation of the Sculpture Collection and Old Master Paintings would be an ideal solution today as well. Hence, the Foundation has proposed the idea to construct an extension building on the site of the Museum Courtyards opposite the Bode-Museum. This would allow for the exhibition of works of both the Old Master Paintings and the Sculpture Collection in dialogue with each other in an appropriate space. As long as this ideal solution cannot be realized, there will be more emphasis than before on exhibiting paintings in the Bode-Museum and establishing a dialogue between paintings and sculptures. That way, there will be at least glimpses of painting as a key medium in the development of European art in the context of the Museum Island.

Bode-Museum in 1905 (photograph) Bode-Museum in 1975 (photograph)

Historical Views

The magnificent building, which was first called the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, was constructed between 1898 and 1904. In 1956 it was renamed after its founder Wilhelm von Bode. Among other things, both cupolas suffered heavy damage during World War II. By 1951, repair of the World War II damage had made enough progress that it was possible to present exhibitions again. After several years of complete renovation the Bode-Museum was reopened in 2006.


The historical entrance to the Bode-Museum is located on the northern tip of the Museum Island between Spree and Kupfergraben. The bipartite Monbijoubrücke leads to the museum’s forecourt which once featured the equestrian statue of Emperor Friedrich III. From the entrance hall beneath the large cupola, visitors reach the Kameke Hall and the so-called Basilica. In the extension of this “golden axis” of the museum is the Small Cupola Hall which will also be accessible from the Archaeological Promenade. The latter will also connect the Bode-Museum directly with the new entrance building, the James-Simon-Galerie.

Dates and Facts

  • Built: 1897-1904
  • Architect: Ernst Eberhard von Ihne
  • Opening: 1904 under the name of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum
  • World War II: heavy damage
  • From 1951 onward: restoration and renovation; until 1987 restoration of the interior rooms
  • 1956: renamed Bode-Museum
  • 1998: beginning of complete renovation, team of architects: Heinz Tesar / Atelier Christoph Fischer
  • 2000: approval of design plans and beginning of the construction work
  • 2004: partial opening of the Numismatic Collection
  • 2006: reopening of the building as a whole