Learn more about Quadriga

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Image:Brandenburg gate sunset quadriga.jpg
Quadriga, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
Image:Quadriga london.jpg
Quadriga, Wellington Arch, London
Image:Quadriga paris.jpg
Quadriga, Arc du Triomphe du Carrousel, Paris
The Triumphal Quadriga in Venice, the only surviving ancient quadriga
The monument of Victor Emmanuel II

A quadriga (from the Latin language quadri-, four, and jungere, to yoke) is a four-horse chariot, raced in the Olympic Games and other sacred games, and represented in profile as the usual chariot of gods and heroes on Greek vases and bas-reliefs. The quadriga was adopted in ancient Roman chariot racing. Quadrigas became a natural emblem of triumph, victory or fame, often depicted as a triumphant woman guiding a quadriga. In classical mythology, quadrigas were the vehicles of the gods; Apollo was often depicted driving his quadriga across the heavens, bringing daylight with him and dispersing the darkness of night.

All modern quadrigas are based on the Triumphal Quadriga, a Roman or Greek sculpture which is the only surviving ancient quadriga. It was originally erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, possibly on a triumphal arch, and is now in St Mark's Basilica in Venice. It was looted by Venetian Crusaders in the Fourth Crusade of 1204 and placed on the terrace of the basilica. In 1797, Napoleon carried the quadriga off to Paris but in 1815 the horses were returned to Venice. Due to the effects of atmospheric pollution, the original quadriga was retired to a museum and replaced with a replica in the 1980s.

Some of the most significant full-size free-standing sculptures of quadrigas include:

  • The Berlin Quadriga is probably the most famous in the world. It was designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow in 1793 as the Quadriga of Victory, as a symbol of peace (represented by the olive wreath carried by Victory). Located atop the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, it was looted by Napoleon in 1806, and returned to Berlin by Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher in 1814. Her olive wreath was subsequently replaced by an Iron Cross. The statue suffered severe damage during the Second World War and the association of the Iron Cross with Prussian militarism convinced the Communist government of East Germany to remove this aspect of the statue after the war. The quadriga was not restored to its original state until German reunification in 1990.
  • The Wellington Arch Quadriga is situated atop the Wellington Arch in London, England. It was designed by Adrian Jones in 1912. The sculpture shows a small boy (actually the son of Lord Michelham, the man who funded the sculpture) leading the quadriga, with Peace descending upon it from heaven.
  • Atop the Arch at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, NY lady Columbia, an allegorical representation of the United States, rides in a chariot drawn by two horses. Two winged Victory figures, each leading a horse, trumpets Columbia's arrival.

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