Masters of Mobility


5.5 Fortifications, Infrastructure and Private Initiatives

Friedrich Wilhelm succeeded to introduce new taxes and the war finances were separated from the state household. A part of the tax incomes was invested in new fortifications. Almost everywhere in Brandenburg the old fortresses were modernized, including Berlin.1 Friedrich Wilhelm commissioned Johann Gregor Memhardt to make plans. Suburbs were partly torn down and equalized. Building lots and acres were expropriated. During the building activities, which had started March 1658, not only Memhardt was involved; among others were Tieleman Jonckbloet, Hendrik Ruse (1624-1679) [20] and Johan ten Verhuys. Electoral lock master Walther Matthias Smids – probably a brother of Michiel – is said to have worked on the canals.2

In 1672, after France had threatened the Dutch Republic, the elector chose the side of the Dutch.3 The elector went with his army to Kleve, but at that time, the Swedes – allies of France – invaded Brandenburg.4 Friedrich Wilhelm managed to surprise the Swedes and defeated them near Fehrbellin on 75. This was a reason for the emperor to grant his support to Friedrich Wilhelm, who decided to keep on fighting. He allied himself to Denmark.5 During the next three years the Swedes were chased away from Pomerania. Brandenburg had become a state of international importance. The investments and reforms of the past twenty five years started to pay off.

On the 6th of April 1672 diplomat Godard van Reede [21] wrote to Johan Maurits about his visit to Sonnenburg. He was clearly impressed by the buildings and the crops that grew in the gardens.6 Johan Maurits had managed to reorganise the belongings of Sonnenburg and to rebuild the castle but he also had mobilised people and motivated them to take over the restoration works the elector had initiated. Other followed his example. Otto von Schwerin and Jobst Gerhard von Hertefeld were prominent persons at court. Otto von Schwerin bought Altlandsberg, east of Berlin, in 1657 the renewal of the castle started. The two storey building became two side wings. In 1664 Schwerin – responsible for the education of the electoral princes – decided to enlarge the castle. It was richly decorated, with gilded leather hangings and tapestries. The protestant chapel belonging to the castle had a square ground plan, resembling the Amstel Church in Amsterdam. Philippe de Chieze (1629-1673) from Amersfoort visited Altlandsberg repeatedly and in 1671 the architect and painter Rutger van Langevelt (1635-1695) from Nijmegen, came to Altlandsberg to educate the princes in fortification sciences.7 Two sons from the elector’s second marriage were to be educated by him as well. His lessons were further attended by a son of Cornelis Ryckwaert and by a son of Johann Gregor Memhardt. Johan Maurits was another regular visitor.8

Jobst von Hertefeld came from the Kleve area, and was appointed Brandenburg-Prussian huntsman. In 1650 he leased one hundred farms to the west of the river Havel between Liebenwalde and Grüneberg. He was to cultivate the place on his own costs and two years later he obtained Liebenberg, in the middle of the Havelbruch. In 1659 and 1661 von Hertefeld signed contracts with Peter Salandt from Brabant and a certain Jan Gert, who were to colonise the later village of Neuholland near Liebenwalde.9 On the same time von Hertefeld imported Dutch cows and were Dutch vicars active in the area.10

Others, like Otto Christoph von Sparr, started restoring their estate.11 Von Sparr was one of the first to invest in the countryside, possibly on instigation of Johan Maurits, who was a personal acquaintance of his.12 For his epitaph – now the oldest marble epitaph in Berlin – Artus Quellinus I (1609-1668) from Amsterdam was hired in.13 The epitaph would be sculpted in Amsterdam and then sent to Berlin, where assistants of Quellinus would assemble it in the Maria Kirche. The work was finished in 1663 and Otto von Schwerin took the princes with him to see the magnificent epitaph [22].14 Michiel Smids was about this time to built a new spire on the Maria Kirche, probably designed by Memhardt.15

Philippe de Chieze (1629-1673) from Amersfoort was chamberlain and would become general-quartermaster of the Elector. In 1666 he was granted the general inspection over the fortress and palace building in Berlin. He regularly cooperated with Johann Gregor Memhardt and Michiel Smids.16 In 1662 the elector gave him the small castle of Caputh, probably as payment for his services.17 With the help of Dutch craftsmen, Chieze rebuilt Caputh to a modest building with an external double staircase. He had a brick plant opened and a Dutch garden with statues, vases, fruit trees and a linden avenue. In the cellar there is a ‘tile room’, with about 7,500 Delft tiles [23].18

High nobility, army generals and servants at court applied the examples, set by the elector and his wife.19 In their architectural projects, classical forms were adapted. A corps de logis with two or three storeys were the standard. The ground plan was symmetrical, the main façade often foreseen with a middle ressault, sometimes with a pediment. Especially in the higher circles the façades had pilasters, whilst also the first baroque dwelling houses in Berlin were to bear these features. A symmetrical garden granted food and income. In this way a lifestyle was copied, that was prescribed by the Brandenburg electoral court, but that leant heavily on a Dutch tradition.20

Albert Haelwegh after Karel van Mander (III)
Portrait of Henrik Ruse (1624-1679), general and engineer, 1664-1671
Whereabouts unknown

Jürgen Ovens
Portrait of Godard Adriaan van Reede (1621-1691), dated 1660
Amerongen, Stichting Kasteel Amerongen, inv./ KA 810

Artus Quellinus (I)
Tomb of Otto Christoph Freiherr von Sparr (1599-1668)
Berlin (city, Germany), St. Marien-Kirche


Tile room in Schloss Caputh
Photo: Rieke van Leeuwen, January 2017


1 Gebuhr/Theissen/Winter 2001. About Berlin’s fortress: Schierer 1939.

2 Nicolai 1786, Galland 1893, p. 214 and Mauter 1974.

3 Galland 1893, p. 192 and 214-215.

4 Beuys 1980, p. 346.

5 Joseph 1895, p. 469.

6 Blok 1935, p. 125; Van der Bijl/Quarles van Ufford 1991, p. 119.

7 He came into electoral service in 1678, the year Memhardt died. Galland 1911, p. 232; Heckmann 1998, p. 65 and 88 and Kieling 1987, p. 156.

8 Boeck 1939A, p. 363-364.

9 Lademacher 1999, 8/85.

10 Oudesluis 1994, p. 15; Schönfeld 1999, p. 40; also Küttner 2001, p. 5-7.

11 Hahn/Lorenz 2000, vol. 2, p. 605-609.

12 Halsema-Kubes 1979, p. 221.

13 Van Dillen 1974, no. 1437.

14 Galland 1911, chapter III; Glaser 1939, p. 35. Cf. Asche 1961.

15 Leh 1957, p. 21; Nicolai 1786, p. 65.

16 Mielke 1964.

17 Fiek 1911.

18 Küchler 1979, p. 456; Schurig/Sommer 1998, p. 7-9.

19 Cf. Reißmann 1937, p. 128; Hahn/Lorenz 2000, vol. 2, p. 146-147; Küchler 1979, p. 457-458; Eggers 1992, p. 1; Hahn/Lorenz 2000, vol. 2, p. 231-236; Hahn/Lorenz 2000, vol.2, p. 587; Küchler 1979, p. 457 and Hahn/Lorenz 2000, vol. 2, p. 406.

20 Hahn/Lorenz 2000, vol. 1, p. 62-63.

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