Battle of the Nations in Leipzig
The biggest battle of the 19th century.
After Napoleon was defeated in the Russian campaign of 1812, General Yorck concluded the Convention of Tauroggen with General Diebitsch on 30 December 1812. Fighting between Prussia and Russia ground to a halt. Both countries signed an alliance agreement and then, on 16 March 1813, declared war on France. On 12 August 1813, Austria also declared war on France. One day before, the coalition's army crossed the Oder. Their goal: to fight against Napoleon's troops. Following several defeats, two months later, Napoleon retreated to unite his army around Leipzig. The allies' armies too started to make a move.
The Battle of the Nations was initiated by a cavalry fight near Liebertwolkwitz, in which over 14,000 riders participated. Napoleon insisted on a conclusive battle and fought, with his far outnumbered troops, from 16 to 19 October 1813 against the allies' army. With around 600,000 participating soldiers from a dozen different nations, this fight remained the largest battle in world history, until the beginning of the 20th century. Over 100,000 soldiers lost their lives to this battle.
Defeated, Napoleon retreated with his troops on 19 October 1813. The allies stormed Leipzig which, at the time, was home to a mere 30,000 residents. Many of the wounded 59,000, from both sides, died on the days which followed, due to the lack of available medical care. In Leipzig, a typhus epidemic broke out.
Napoleon's defeat put an end to his quest for power on German soil once and for all.
The Monument to the Battle of the Nations
Ernst Moritz Arndt was the first to promote the building of a monument in honour of the dead. The initiator of the Monument to the Battle of the Nations was Clemens Thieme, who founded the German Patriotic League in 1894 and raised the necessary funding. The memorial was erected in accordance with the plans of Bruno Schmitz. On 18 October 1913, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Nations, the grand inauguration of the largest and most monumental memorial construction in Europe took place.
Leipzig's landmark towers 91 metres high, and is located at the heart of the former battleground. There are 501 steps from the base to the lookout point. A 60-metre-long battle relief on the front of the monument and the pantheon (crypt) commemorates over 100,000 fallen soldiers.
The 10-metre-high colossal figures on the inside represent personifications of the following virtues: valour, faith, national strength and self-sacrifice. The performances of the memorial choir in the crypt make for an impressive musical experience.