Schwerin Castle (Schweriner Schloss)

Schwerin Castle


Location: Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern  Map

Constructed: original castle 10th century


Description of Schwerin Castle

Schwerin Castle or Schweriner Schloss is a residence in Schwerin, capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region in Germany. The original Schwerin Castle was constructed in 973. Over times it changed hands repeatedly. Much of the modern appearance is owed to the Dukes of Mecklenburg who bought the castle in the 14th century.


Middle age
The construction of the island with a castle complex began in winter 941/942 or shortly afterwards. A castle wall of around 45 m was built on a massive wooden grate. However, within only 20 years it became dilapidated and overturned inwards, including the outer facade. In 963/965 or shortly thereafter, a new, stronger one was built over the collapsed first wall.

Ibrahim Ibn Jakub, a merchant from Arab Andalusia, who traveled from Magdeburg to Weligrad Castle (Mecklenburg Castle) in 965, reported on a castle that was apparently still under construction near a freshwater lake in records from 973 about his journey to the Slavic region east of the Lower Elbe. His description of the island castle probably means the Obotritische border castle on today's castle island. The existence of such a complex was substantiated by excavations of parts of the old Slavic castle ramparts in 1987. During excavations in the courtyard of the castle in 2014, remains of the first castle building, apparently mentioned by Ibrahim Ibn Jakub, were found, which initially suggests a smaller castle complex than initially assumed. The datable timbers examined in the scientific laboratories of the German Archaeological Institute using dendrochronology could be dated to those years of construction - 962, 964, 965 and 974. Apparently the size of today's castle was only achieved by a fortified rampart built later.

In the year 1160, in connection with the eastward expansion efforts of German feudal lords, the Schwerin Castle was the target of a campaign of conquest led by Henry the Lion (1129–1195). The Obotritischen defenders under the Wende prince Niklot destroyed and left them in the face of the hostile superiority. But the German conquerors also recognized the excellent strategic location and rebuilt a fortress. The city of Schwerin was founded in the same year. It gained special importance through the establishment of a bishopric within its walls. In 1167 Heinrich the Lion enfeoffed his vassal Gunzelin von Hagen with formerly obotritic areas from Niklot's son Pribislaw.

In 1358 the county came into the possession of Duke Albrecht II, a descendant of King Niklots, through purchase. Albrecht II moved the residence from Wismar to the inland Schwerin Castle Island. When the prince's seats were adapted to the increased living demands and the growing need for representation in the late Gothic period and the building of the castle type was developed, this development was also reflected in the building activity on Schwerin Castle Island. Of the buildings erected at that time, the so-called bishop's house still stands on the lake side

Early modern age
However, it did not receive its facade decoration made of red terracotta panels until the New Long House adjoining to the north was redesigned from 1553 to 1555 under Duke Johann Albrecht I (1525–1576). Both buildings are real palace buildings, because in favor of a design that meets the highest living standards, any consideration of any defensive functions has been omitted. The use of terracottas in building sculpture was dominant in Germany during the Renaissance period, particularly in the North German architecture of the brick Renaissance, for example at the Fürstenhof in Wismar and at Gadebusch Castle. The material was supplied by the workshop of the Lübeck master Statius von Düren (mentioned 1551–1566). A few years later, Duke Johann Albrecht I arranged for the palace chapel to be rebuilt. This first Protestant church building in Mecklenburg was added at right angles to the New Long House under master builder Christoph Haubitz (mentioned 1549–1587). From 1560 to 1563 the chapel room was built with a rectangular floor plan and galleries on the long and narrow sides based on the model of the palace chapels in Torgau and Dresden, which were built only a few years earlier. The sandstone portal on the courtyard side with the relief of the carrying of the cross in the gable, in the form of the Venetian early Renaissance, comes from the workshop of the Dresden sculptor Hans Walther (1526–1586). Alabaster reliefs with biblical representations are set into the window niches of the northern gallery. Five of them were created by the Dutchman Willem van den Broeck (1530–1580), known as Paludanus, who was well known at the time. Schwerin owns a rare treasure with the "Elevation of the Brazen Snake" signed by him. Since the castle needed additional defenses despite its island location, the bastions in the northwest, southeast and west were built around the middle of the 16th century, probably by those Italian fortress builders who worked under Francesco a Bornau in Dömitz, which were later changed several times were, but have survived to this day.


Before the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, the builder Gerhart Evert Pilooth († 1629), who entered Mecklenburg service in 1612, worked out plans for a completely new construction of the Schwerin Castle in the form of a Dutch-influenced Renaissance. In fact, work began under his leadership in 1617, but it soon had to be stopped due to the war. According to Piloot's plans, between 1635 and 1643 the house above the castle kitchen and the house above the castle church were extended and facades were given in the style of the Dutch Renaissance.

Remodeling between 1700 and 1850
In the 18th century, a half-timbered building for the ducal painting collection was built in front of the west side of the chapel wing, and the tea pavilion on the north-eastern bastion, for the staircase of which the sculptor Johann Christoph Lücke (1703–1780) created four putti in 1742. In 1764, under the government of Duke Friedrich the Pious, the court left Schwerin and moved to the newly emerging Ludwigslust Palace.

When the residence was moved back to Schwerin in 1835, the castle buildings were in a poor structural condition. In addition, the individual buildings from different stylistic epochs and the farm buildings assigned to them did not correspond to the sovereign's ideas of his future residence. The Grand Duke Paul Friedrich I (1800–1842) therefore decided to have a new palace built in the Old Garden, on the site of today's museum. The construction, which began according to the plans of the court architect Georg Adolf Demmler (1804–1886), was stopped after a few months because the successor to the Grand Duke, who died suddenly in 1842, the only 19-year-old Friedrich Franz II. (1823–1883), refrained from the new building and decided on a profound redesign of the historical complex on the castle island.

According to the Grand Duke, this conversion should initially extend to the entire complex. Later, at Demmler's instigation, the decision was made to preserve the four historic castle buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries on the lake side. Another requirement of the client was the creation of a representative entrance front in the axis of the Schloßstraße (Schwerin), which has already been significantly upgraded by several new buildings and which leads from the city to the castle. Demmler was not enthusiastic about the task of redesigning the castle in an older style. His related designs in the Windsor Castle style and in the style of Pilooths were also inadequate and were rejected. For this reason, the Dresden architect Gottfried Semper (1803–1879) was commissioned with a competing design in 1843, which received the highest praise, but was not accepted. At the same time, Demmler made a new design. After a long study trip, including to France, Demmler made a final draft with the inclusion of ideas from Hermann Willebrand, who was accompanying him, which contained elements of Semper's suggestions, but represented an independent concept. His basic attitude was clearly oriented towards French Renaissance castles, especially Chambord Castle.

Demmler was in charge of the castle construction, including the construction of the new castle bridge, from the beginning of the demolition work in 1843 to the beginning of 1851. During this time, the builder also tried to alleviate social hardship for the many workers employed in the castle construction by establishing an accident and health insurance, and several times he campaigned for fair wages for employees.

1850 to 1990
After Demmler's dismissal from the Mecklenburg state service in 1851, the Berlin master builder Stüler took over the management of the palace. He changed the design of his predecessor on the city-side front decisively by enriching the facade with plastic elements and the large Niklot equestrian statue. To top it off, he put a monumental ornate dome in place of the lantern that Demmler had intended. He secured the collaboration of Heinrich Strack (1805–1880) from Berlin on some interior design designs. Schwerin and Berlin workshops supplied most of the plastic jewelry and interior fittings. Particularly noteworthy as sculptors are: Christian Genschow, Gustav Willgohs, Heinrich Petters and Georg Wiese, Albert Wolff also provided designs.


The festive inauguration of the castle took place on May 26, 1857. The composer Friedrich von Flotow (1821–1883) created his opera Johann Albrecht based on a libretto by Eduard Hobein especially for this occasion. Those involved in the construction were honored with the castle medal.

On the night of December 14th to 15th, 1913, a devastating fire of unknown cause destroyed about a third of the building. The castle lake wing burned to the ground, the south-facing castle garden wing on its upper floors. The magnificent Golden Hall and the richly designed main staircase were completely destroyed. The latter was replaced in 1926–1931 by the red marble staircase based on a design by Paul Ehmig.

When the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin abdicated in 1918 as a result of the events of the November Revolution, the external restoration of the castle was only complete. In 1919 the castle became the property of the state, and from 1921 historical rooms were made accessible to the public as museums: castle museum, farm museum, hygiene museum, exhibition of the archaeological collection. There was also a radio studio and various offices. In the time of National Socialism, a kindergarten of the NS-Volkswohlfahrt also moved in. Towards the end of the Second World War a hospital was set up in the castle. After the war, the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD) occupied the building. The plenary hall with the corresponding adjoining rooms for the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was built in 1948 according to designs by the architect Friedrich Schmidt. From 1952 to 1981 a pedagogical school used most of the castle to train kindergarten teachers. The Museum of Prehistory and Early History was established in the Burgseeflügel until 1993. A polytechnic museum existed in the orangery from 1961 to 1994. In 1974, when the restoration of valuable interiors began, the Schwerin Palace was reused as an art museum.

With the fall of the Wall in the GDR, extensive work on the castle renovation began again. At the end of 1989 around 25 companies from Kiel and the surrounding area founded a development association that supported immediate measures with 500,000 DM to stop the historical building from falling into disrepair. In April 1990 the first delivery of urgently needed materials and equipment for building projects on the castle arrived from Raisdorf in Schleswig-Holstein.

Since 1990
The Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania State Parliament has had its seat in Schwerin Castle since autumn 1990. The part used as a museum belongs to the Schwerin State Museum. In the area of ​​the former 283 m² Golden Hall in the palace garden wing, later the GDR ballroom, the new plenary hall of the state parliament has been under construction since January 2014. A total of 26 million euros is estimated to be invested in the palace garden wing, of which seven million will go to the plenary hall itself. The renovation according to the plans of the architectural office Dannheimer & Joos was finally completed in September 2017 following the election of the Landtag in autumn 2016.

The Schwerin Castle has been featured on a special issue of the German 2 euro coin since 2007, since Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania held the Federal Council presidency in 2006/2007.

Large parts of the palace park were redesigned or restored for the 2009 Federal Horticultural Show. In 2007 the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania decided to apply for the title of UNESCO World Heritage; In 2010 the city of Schwerin and the state government also committed to support this project. In June 2012, the application for inclusion on the German list of proposals under the title “Schwerin Residence Ensemble - Cultural Landscape of Romantic Historicism” was submitted to the Conference of Ministers of Education. The application was confirmed on June 12, 2014; Schwerin Castle is thus one of nine new candidates in Germany for the UNESCO World Heritage List.