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Private Life of a Christmas Masterpiece: The Adoration of the Christ Child

   2010    Art
Painted over five centuries ago, Filippo Lippi's nativity is like none other: it shows the birth of Christ in a dark, wooded wilderness. There are no shepherds, kings, ox, ass – there is no Joseph. Its beauty inspired Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. But it also conceals a deeply personal story. It was painted for Cosimo de Medici, a wealthy banker who feared that his money was dragging him straight to hell. The artist's life was equally surprising. One of the most celebrated painters of his day, Filippo Lippi was also a Carmelite friar, but he was no stranger to the temptations of the flesh, to which he frequently yielded. Shortly before painting his Adoration, he caused uproar by seducing a twenty year-old nun. His paintings rejoice not only in divine beauty, but in the beauty of women. In later times, the Adoration's history was interwoven with that of rulers and dictators. It became a bargaining chip after Napoleon's allies seized twenty merchant ships. And in the 20th century, it was hidden by the Nazis in a potassium mine, where specialist american officers, known as Monuments Men, stumbled upon it. they were now told to get it ready to be shipped out. In an unprecedented turn of events they refused. This is the only known case in the whole of the Second World War of American officers refusing an order. It was sent to the National Gallery of Art, but in 1949 Lippi's Adoration was returned to Germany.

Caligula

   2013    History
Two thousand years ago one of history's most notorious individuals was born. Professor Mary Beard embarks on an investigative journey to explore the life and times of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - better known to us as Caligula. Caligula has now become known as Rome's most capricious tyrant, and the stories told about him are some of the most extraordinary told about any Roman emperor. He was said to have made his horse a consul, proclaimed himself a living God, and indulged in scandalous orgies - even with his own three sisters - and that's before you mention building vast bridges across land and sea, prostituting senators' wives and killing half the Roman elite seemingly on a whim. All that in just four short years in power before a violent and speedy assassination in a back alley of his own palace at just 28-years-old." But how much of his story is true? Travelling across the Roman world - from Germany and Capri in the bay of Naples to the astonishing luxury of his life in imperial Rome - Mary attempts to peel away the myths. Some stories are difficult to get to the bottom of as they were written by hacks long after his death, but there is plenty of surviving evidence where the 'real' Caligula can be glimpsed. Such as in the extraordinary luxury of his private yachts outside Rome; in the designs he chose for his coins when he became Emperor; in an eye-witness account of Caligula's withering humour written in 41AD; the trial documents covering the mysterious death of his father when he was just seven-years-old; and even in a record of his imperial slaves - from the palace spy to his personal trainer. Piecing together the evidence, Mary puts Caligula back into the context of his times to reveal an astonishing story of murder, intrigue and dynastic family power. Above all, she explains why Caligula has ended up with such a seemingly unredeemable reputation. In the process, she reveals a more intriguing portrait of not just the monster, but the man.

The Art of Germany: A Divided Land

   2010    Art
Andrew Graham-Dixon begins his exploration of German art by looking at the rich and often neglected art of the German middle ages and Renaissance. He visits the towering cathedral of Cologne, a place which encapsulates the varied and often contradictory character of German art. In Munch he gets to grips with the earliest paintings of the Northern Renaissance, the woodcuts of Albrecht Durer and the cosmic visions of the painter Albrecht Altdorfer. Andrew also embarks on a tour of the Bavarian countryside, discovering some of the little-known treasures of German limewood sculpture.
Series: The Art of Germany

Hitler and the Occult

   2007    History
How did Hitler decide he was a messiah and persuade a whole nation to follow him to damnation? This is a subject that has been mined many times in fiction - Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Constantine, Hellboy, Bulletproof Monk and English horror writer James Herbert's book The Spear - as well as documentary. Based on Ken Anderson's 1995 book of the same name, this aims to show how the Nazi party was originally made up of several occult groups that believed a messiah was on the way to save Germany.

The Crimes

   2007    History
Soldiers and officers continually came into conflict with their consciences. How much freedom did individuals have? Were they executing Hitler's criminal plans, or was it the Wehrmacht's war? There were crimes against humanity, against civilians, prisoners of war, and there was the Holocaust itself. The Trent Park records discovered and analysed by historian Sönke Neitzel, author of Tapping Hitler's Generals, show that the 84 German generals who were interned at Trent Park were aware of the severity of the war crimes they had been involved in and that some discussed them almost compulsively. They included the Commissar Order, to kill any Soviet commissar, and Rathenau's order to kill the Jews, including children.
Series: The Wehrmacht
Empire of the Tsars
Empire of the Tsars

   2017    History
Life in the Freezer
Life in the Freezer

   1993    Nature
The Big Think
The Big Think

   2017    Technology
Blood of the Vikings
Blood of the Vikings

   2001    History
Oceans
Oceans

   2009    Nature
Walking with Cavemen
Walking with Cavemen

   2003    History
Tales by Light Season 2
Tales by Light Season 2

   2017    Nature
Monster we met
Monster we met

   2006    Science