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January 14, 2016: World's Largest Granite Bowl, Berlin, Germany


When I joined a guided walking tour of Berlin, there were many things I expected to see, but the World's Largest Granite Bowl wasn't one of them. 

On a sunny warm fall day, my guided tour walked to Museum Island.  As we explored this amazing place, we ended up in front of a magnificent old building.  Our guide told us "This is the Altes Museum.   It houses the antiquities collection of the Berlin State Museums. The museum building was built between 1823 and 1830 by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the neoclassical style to house the Prussian royal family's art collection. This historic, protected building counts among the most distinguished in neoclassicism and is a high point of Schinkel's career. Until 1845, it was called the KÖnigliches Museum (Royal Museum).  During the Hitler era, the space in front of the Museum (the Lustgarten) was used for massive rallies which Hitler loved to organize.  Along with the other museums and historic buildings on Museum Island, the Altes Museum was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999."


Then our guide pointed to a large bowl shaped object directly in front of the Altes Museum and said "And this is the World's Largest Granite Bowl made from a single stone.  Also known as the "Berlin Soup Bowl" (SuppenschÜssel), the huge bowl was ordered to be made by King Friedrich Wilhelm III, who, as a symbol of Prussian supremacy, wanted to build the biggest bowl, bigger than Nero's giant bowl kept at the Vatican Museum, which was historically used to represent kingship and majesty.

Christian Gottlieb Cantian, a German stonemason and royal builder, was entrusted with the work.  It took him about seven years to complete the work based on the designs of architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

The bowl, which weighs about 75 tons, was chiselled out of one of two huge solid granite stones in the Brandenburg region known as Mark Graf Stones. It was considered a technical marvel of that time to transport such a huge piece of stone weighing about 700-750 tons, over land and water and then cutting and polishing it. The final grinding to give it the desired shape and polish was carried out by means of steam engine and took about 2 1/2 years to finish.

The granite bowl has a diameter of 6.9 meters and a circumference of 21.7 meters. In comparison, Nero's Bowl in the Vatican Museum has a girth of about 14 meters.

Originally it was planned to keep the bowl in the rotunda of the Altes Museum, but because of its size and weight, it was finally installed in the garden in front of the Altes Museum. It is so huge that at the time of its inauguration in 1834, a breakfast was served to a group of 40 persons sitting in the bowl.

As mentioned earlier, because Hitler enjoyed organizing huge rallies in front of the Altes Museum, in 1934 the huge granite bowl was moved to the northern grounds of the nearby Berlin Cathedral.  Miraculously, the bowl survived the ravages of the Second World War, except for some bullet markings and chippings.  In 1981 it was restored back to its original (present) location. Unfortunately, during this move, due to mishandling, the giant bowl broke into two pieces and had to be cemented back into one piece."

That was a lot of information to take in from my guide.  Upon reflection, I suppose one could argue that technically speaking , because it broke, the huge granite bowl is now, no longer, the world's largest single piece granite bowl.  For myself, I'm willing to overlook this little mishap, and call it the World's Largest Granite Bowl made from a single stone.


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  • World's Largest Granite Bowl, Berlin, Germany
  • World's Largest Granite Bowl: Located in front of the Altes Museum, Berlin, Germany

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