In the dark ages a Slavic settlement known as Spandowe grew up on a small island at the confluence of the Spree and Havel rivers. This settlement came under German rule in the 12th century when Albert the Bear invaded the land to the north of central Germany, expelling the native Wends.
This resulted in the creation of the March of Brandenburg, which included the town of Spandau. During the first half of the 13th century the island's wooden stockade was replaced by a stone wall with several towers, including the Juliusturm (which has survived to this day).
Spandau fell under the control of the Bavarians until 1415, when the Holy Roman Emporer created the Electorate of Brandenburg. In 1559 it was decided to improve Spandau's fortifications, to protect against artillery. The Italian engineer Chiaramella de Gandino designed a bastioned'square citadel'on the island, which incorperated the medieval Juliusturm (Julian Tower). By this stage the town itself was now on the west bank of the Havel and surrounded by medieval walls.
200 Italian engineers were brought in to supervise the construction, which began in 1560. In 1594, after 34 years of construction, the citadel was finally finished. Although it would undergo many alterations in the years to come, it now had essentially the form that can be seen today.
The design of the fortifications was typical of the Italian school of fortification in the 16th century. There were 4 arrow-headed bastions'at the corners of the citadel, providing flanking fire along the adjacent curtain wall and the faces of the neighbouring bastions.
The retired flanks of the bastions are very strong, each having two levels of embrasures'for guns that were protected from enemy fire. Casemates'for guns were added along the faces and in the flanks of the bastions throughout the citadel's life, giving it a large amount of firepower but weakening the walls by removing some of the earth from behind them.
The whole is fronted by a flooded ditch, which is formed naturally by water from the Spandauer See, the lake that surrounds the island. In the middle of the ditch there was an earthwork covered way, which saw various changes over the years but originally only protected the southern and western approaches.
In the early 17th century, conflict was brewing between Catholic and Protestant regimes following the reforms introduced by Martin Luther. In the 1618 the storm-clouds gathered over central Europe and the Thirty Years' War'had begun. Spandau was an important Brandenburg town with a modern citadel, but its medieval walls would have been woefully inadequate when faced with artillery.
For this reason during the 1620s the fortifications round the town were augmented with the construction of some bastions and a demi-lune. In 1626 two companies of 200 men were stationed in Spandau and the town was briefly garrisoned by Swedish troops in 1631 during the siege of Magdeburg.
The southern bastions König and Königin were strengthened in 1634 - these bastions covered the most likely attack approach, since the lake is to the north. In 1691 the powder magazine'in the Bastion Kronprinz exploded, killing 21 people and even damaging some houses in the town. From 1692-1700 a strong cavalier'was built on the bastion to replace the destroyed powder magazine.
In 1704 a demi-lune called the Ravelin Schweinekopf (pig's head demi-lune) was built on the western front of the citadel, between the Bastion Kronprinz and the Bastion König. This outwork served to strengthen the western approaches to the citadel as well as linking its defences with those of the town on the opposite bank of the Havel.
Due to the flooded ditch around the citadel, the troops from the garrison could only get to the new outwork and the covered way via the main gate. To make it easier to move troops around the defences a small harbour was built behind the right flank of the Bastion Kronprinz, accessed via the Wassertor (Water Gate). This allowed for a more active defence, since the demi-lune or the covered way could be quickly reinforced if they were attacked.
As the Electorate of Brandenburg gave way to the Kingdom of Prussia, Spandau came to be considered one of the strongest fortified places of the region and was maintained as a refuge for the King and Queen in times of crisis, such as during the 7 Years' War (1756–1763).
The Napoleonic Wars saw another enemy invade Prussian territory: the French. In 1806 Maréchal Lannes marched on Spandau, expecting to have to undergo tough siege operations against the strong fortress, but the garrison's commander surrendered just a few hours after the arrival of the French. They captured 80 cannons and 4,000 horses at Spandau, in addition to weaponry and supplies.
In 1813, Russian and Prussian troops laid siege to Spandau, which was held by the French. The siege was cut short by a large explosion in the powder magazine in the Bastion Königin, which put an end to the garrison's defence. After the war the citadel's gatehouse was rebuilt with a new decorative facade.
The rest of the 19th century saw vast military projects at Spandau; powder works, munitions factories and cannon foundries were built there, and the fortifications were massively expanded. A more regular trace had been built to protect the town, and now another fortified area the same size as the town containing military buildings was constructed to the east of the citadel.
This period also saw extensive work at the citadel, where various new barrack buildings, stores and the new commandant's quarters were put up to accommadate the increasingly large garrison. As fortification theory shifted from emphasising the protection of towns by walls to more in-depth defences, a series of advanced redoubts'and lunettes'were built around Spandau. By 1871 there were at least 14 of these outworks in addition to the bastioned traces around the town, the munitions works to the east and south and the citadel itself.
Spandau lost its status as a fortress in 1903 and the defences were gradually demolished to make way for urban expansion, but the munitions production continued through the First World War until 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles prohibited it. The citadel was still occupied by the army, so it was safe from demolition.
In 1945 the Soviet Army approached the citadel, which was held by the Nazis, but it was surrendered without a fight. After the war it was briefly occupied by the British army, before restoration work started in the 1960s.
Today, the citadel is in excellent condition, having seen extensive restoration work over the second half of the last century. Much of the brickwork on the walls has been redone, and the harbour behind the Bastion Kronprinz has also been restored.
A small section of the town wall to the west also survives. Entrance to the citadel itself is free, but there is a fee for the various museums and the Juliusturm, which offers panoramic views over the old town.
Spandau has become a suburb of Berlin, so it is within easy reach of the centre. The "Zitadelle" station on U-Bahn line U7 is virtually outside the main entrance to the citadel. Alternatively, S9 and S75 trains will take you to Spandau and a short walk through the old town brings you to the citadel.
zitadelle-spandau.net - A worthy site