Monument back on Münsterplatz Beethoven's return was precision work

Bonn · The famous Beethoven statue is back in the heart of Bonn's city centre. After six months of restoration, the monument has been serving as a meeting place and popular photo motif again since Tuesday morning. The assembly was precision work.

  He is back...

He is back...

Foto: Meike Böschemeyer

Hardly anyone noticed the return of the Beethoven statue on Tuesday morning. At 7.07 a.m. the low-loader reached Münsterplatz, carefully and slowly the driver brought the precious object to its usual place. The monument and its pedestal were tightly lashed and well secured.

For six months, citizens of Bonn, tourists and even the odd city pigeon had to do without the famous Beethoven statue on Münsterplatz. Normally, the monument designed by Ernst Julius Hähnel and created by sculptor and ore caster Jacob Daniel Burgschmiet is a popular meeting place.

Corrosion damage had to be repaired

An inspection of the statue in autumn 2020 revealed corrosion damage. Dirt and water had penetrated unhindered and had also caused corrosion inside the hollow statue. The damage was hardly visible to passers-by, but it had to be repaired urgently. Therefore, on 5 January, the statue, which weighs around 3.2 tonnes, was painstakingly and extremely carefully dismantled, lifted with a crane and loaded onto a low-loader. The 3.4-tonne pedestal - the base - was also restored. Inside the statue and the (postament???) base, a new "stainless steel skeleton" was installed in close consultation with the Lower Monuments Authority and the LVR Office for the Preservation of Monuments in the Rhineland, so that both would stand securely in the decades to come.

(Postament) pedestal had to be screwed down first

"First the (postament) pedestal is lifted onto the base with a truck-mounted crane, then we mark out the fastening points, the (postament) pedestal is lifted down again, the holes are drilled and the anchors set. Only when the pedestal is screwed down is the Beethoven statue placed on top," says Hermann Krause, project manager of the municipal building management, about the construction procedure.

The marking and (screwing) fixing work was extremely demanding. Because the foundation, which weighs several tonnes, had to be aligned very precisely and, in addition, the bolting could only be done from inside the base. Master locksmith Florian Kurscheid therefore climbed in and marked the appropriate places. The pedestal was lifted again and stonemason Michael Pitack drilled the holes. Then it was put back in place and screwed down.

Statue looks "brand new“

During the work, the Beethoven statue stood on the low-loader and was photographed by Bonn residents on their way to work. Michael Denhoff observed the return of the monument with particular interest: "It was a painful gap that it had not stood here for half a year. But it was a foreseeable time. Within half a year, it was also really a short renovation period." The composer and cellist was delighted with the result. "It looks brand new. Quite wonderful.“

Above all, the bronze statue now shines like it hasn't in a long time. This is due to a microcrystalline wax coating that has been applied. "So that the corrosion that is on the material - the green patina is also called corrosion - does not progress any further, you apply a wax," explained Betina Roß from the Schleswig-Holstein restoration company Recovis. Dirt and rain can now roll off very well as a result and do not stick. "I think it looks quite good again," Roß said.

Restoration costs have doubled

Before the statue was lifted back onto its pedestal, Bonn's Lord Mayor Katja Dörner (Greens) also commented on the return of the portrayal of Bonn's most famous son. "It is a great and important day for the people of Bonn - many have sorely missed it," Dörner said. She also touched on the massive increase in costs. The restoration has now cost 120,000 euros, the estimate was 60,000 euros. "The plinth was much more damaged than expected. Therefore, a steel construction had to be made," said the Lord Mayor.

The municipal press office also referred to the "currently very tense situation on the commodities market". "However, I believe that the money is very well invested," Dörner said. The German Foundation for Monument Protection had doubled its funding and supported the measure with 30,000 euros, and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia provided 15,000 euros as part of the monument promotion programme. However, not only the monument was overhauled, but also the associated plant bed, the bordering and the lighting. Beethoven is now illuminated by economical LED technology.

Beethoven stands crooked

When the truck-mounted crane lifted the statue, Beethoven floated across Münsterplatz facing the post office. Only when it reached the pedestal did the staff turn it into the right position. Even before the monument was in the air, whispering started at the pedestal. "Isn't it crooked?" was heard again and again. Project manager Krause was able to give the all-clear: "Beethoven is crooked, yes. But it has always been crooked. We noticed that even back then. It's probably more noticeable now, because you can see it freshly restored. In fact, it has always stood there like that." He says he has now really got to know the monument through his work. "We have found projectile remains in the folds of Beethoven. But we have also discovered old damaged areas that date back to the Second World War. Among them a shell impact that caused massive damage to the monument - perhaps this was also the reason why Beethoven is now leaning. We don't know," says Krause.

Original text: Maximilian Mühlens

Translation: Mareike Graepel