Schwetzingen Castle

Schwetzingen Castle




Location: Schwetzingen, Baden-Württemberg Map

Constructed: 18th century by Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz


Description of Schwetzingen Castle

Schwetzingen Castle is located in Schwetzingen, Baden-Württemberg region of Germany. The construction of the Royal residence of Schwetzingen Castle started in 18th century during reign of Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz. The estate replaced much older medieval castle that once stood here. Schwetzingen Castle became the official summer residence during reign of Electors Palatine Karl III Philip and Charles Theodore. Schwetzingen palace and surrounding gardens are open to the public. Each year Schwetzingen Festival of opera and classical music is celebrated on the location.


Schwetzingen Castle was first mentioned as a festival in 1350. It was a medieval moated castle. In 1427 it came into the possession of Elector Ludwig III. In the following years it was rebuilt several times, served as a hunting lodge and was destroyed towards the end of the Thirty Years War. Elector Karl Ludwig had the Schwetzingen Palace rebuilt for his lover Luise von Degenfeld. During a visit in August 1656, he had already ordered the residents of Schwetzingen to clear away all the rubble, while the rubble, such as stones, wood and “old ironwork”, could be left with the subjects for their own use. In the Palatinate War of Succession, the castle was destroyed again, but the foundation walls remained. The palace was given its present form on the orders of Elector Johann Wilhelm, who ruled in Düsseldorf. He had it rebuilt under the direction of Count Matteo Alberti - the builder of Bensberg Castle - by the Heidelberg master builder Johann Adam Breunig and significantly enlarged by adding two wings. The structure was erected and expanded in several construction phases from 1697. In 1752, the garden was expanded on what was then around 70 hectares. The palace theater was opened in the same year. Although the palace has hardly been used since the residence of Elector Karl Theodor was moved from Mannheim to Munich in 1778, work on the garden continued in the period that followed.

Schwetzingen was the summer residence under Karl Theodor: During the warmer months, the court was relocated from Mannheim Palace to Schwetzingen Palace. The simplicity of the apartments of the elector couple and the greater informality of the manners were an expression of an allegedly simpler, carefree “life in the country”.

Almost all of the artists employed at the court in Mannheim were involved in the artistic design of the palace and garden. These included Alessandro Galli da Bibiena and Peter Anton von Verschaffelt. Nicolas de Pigage from Lorraine was director of the gardens and water arts and the decisive architect in the time of Karl Theodor. Pigage expanded the garden in all the style changes of the time. The Zweibrücken court gardener Johann Ludwig Petri planned the main parterre and the circle of the French garden. The first court gardener, van Wynder, was appointed to Schwetzingen from Kassel.

The second court gardener was Johann Wilhelm Sckell, one of Pigage's main collaborators. His son Friedrich Ludwig Sckell was called to Munich in 1804, where he laid out the English Garden. The first horticultural director in Baden was Johann Michael Zeyher, who introduced the lilac to Schwetzingen.

Schwetzingen Palace is one of the state's own monuments and is looked after by the State Palaces and Gardens of Baden-Württemberg. The garden is open to the public for a fee, the palace and theater can be visited on guided tours.

World Heritage
In September 1999 Germany registered Schwetzingen in the so-called tentative list kept by UNESCO as a potential world heritage site. An entry there is the prerequisite for an application to be awarded a corresponding title, in this case a World Heritage Site, at a later date. This also happened in 2007. The application included a core area of ​​the palace and palace gardens, the upstream palace square, the Ysenburg Palace and the visual axes of Carl-Theodor- and Lindenstraße. There was also an additional buffer zone that included other parts of the city.


In June 2009 the application was withdrawn due to a negative vote by ICOMOS and consequently revised in the course of the following autumn. The original approach of emphasizing the Masonic and Enlightenment work of Carl Theodor was scaled back, instead the artistic and musical importance of the castle and town was emphasized. In addition, the core area was slightly expanded. The new application was submitted in January 2010. In March 2010, the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs put Schwetzingen on the German nomination list again, this time for 2011. However, the ICOMOS evaluation report from May 2012, which served as a basis for decision-making, again recommended not including the system. In particular, it was rated negatively that there are already eleven of these types of palaces and gardens, for example in Dessau, in Brühl or in Potsdam and Berlin, and thus actually enough of them on the World Heritage List. Schwetzingen's special position could not be recognized. The World Heritage Committee did not agree with the majority of the ICOSMOS vote, but did not deal with the Schwetzingen application either, but instead recommended submitting a new, again revised draft. It is questionable whether this will happen. Nothing was known about a new attempt.

A journey from Heidelberg is on the straight connection from Königstuhl to Schwetzingen. From an elevated position, the route can still be easily recognized in the landscape, but it is not always passable. Seen from the Königstuhl, this line continues towards the Kalmit behind the castle.

From Schwetzingen Palace Square you can get to the Ehrenhof. In the two former guard houses at the castle gate there is now a museum shop and a café. The courtyard is flanked left and right by symmetrical farm buildings. In the middle, on the west side, is the Corps de Logis, the residential building of the castle.

Inside rooms
In a lengthy restoration between 1975 and 1991, the interior of the castle was restored and furnished with authentic furniture from the 18th century. On the bel étage, the social rooms, the apartment of the Elector and the apartment of the Electress illustrate the functional profile of the palace in the Karl Theodor period as part of a palace museum.

The rooms of Countess Luise Karoline von Hochberg's apartment on the second floor, which was redesigned in Baden times from 1803 onwards, are of particular art historical importance due to the excellently preserved hand-printed wallpapers (1804) by the Zuber et Cie company in Rixheim (company room with Alpine panorama "Vues de Suisse", bedroom , Grand Cabinet).

Circular constructions
The circular buildings are two single-storey stone buildings with direct access to the garden thanks to high French doors, which form a semicircle on the sides of the castle and encompass the circular garden ground floor together with the semicircle of the lathed walkways. The northern circular building was built by Alessandro Galli da Bibiena in 1748/1749, the southern one in 1753 by Franz Wilhelm Rabaliatti. The circular buildings were used for court societies (dining table, games and concerts, balls). Such additional, representative rooms were indispensable in view of the cramped conditions in the old residential building of the castle. Today the circular buildings are used as a palace restaurant, café and theater foyer as well as for concerts and exhibitions.

The electoral court theater in the early classical style (often wrongly called "Rococo Theater") was opened on June 15, 1753 with the opera Il figlio delle selve ("The Son of the Forests") by Ignaz Holzbauer. Singers, instrumentalists and composers of international standing worked here, including representatives of the Mannheim School. After Karl Theodor moved his residence to Munich, only occasional performances took place in Schwetzingen when the elector was visiting. Even in the time of Baden, the theater was rarely used. It fell into disrepair and could no longer be used. In 1936/37 and 2002/03 the theater was completely renovated. The parapets of the slightly rising box tiers have the shape of a lyre in plan. The pillars are richly decorated and bridged by basket arches that deepen the effect of the room.

Use by Schwetzingen University of Applied Sciences
The Schwetzingen University of Applied Sciences and its predecessor institutions have been housed in the southern wing of the palace since it was founded in 1953. Due to extensive reconstruction and renovation work, the study operations were relocated to an alternative location in Mannheim-Wohlhotels since September 2009.


The Schwetzingen palace garden is divided into a French garden and an English garden. In the art-historical interpretation of the garden, a distinction is also made between the “garden of allegories”, i.e. that part of the garden in which allegorical figures stand without any deeper meaning, and the “garden of reason”. The "Garden of Reason" includes the Temple of Minerva, the Temple of Mercury, the mosque, the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Botany, the Roman water fort and the arboretum, i.e. those parts of the garden in which reason is celebrated according to enlightenment thinking. With the exception of the area around the bathhouse, the Schwetzingen palace garden was already accessible to the entire population in the time of the electoral prince, at that time without an entrance fee. Park rules regulated the appropriate behavior of the visitors.

French garden
Along the main axis of the garden you can see the Königstuhl in the Odenwald to the east and the Kalmit in the Palatinate Forest to the west.

The baroque garden is laid out in strict geometric shapes in the French style. The most important elements are the main axis, the transverse axis and the circle. The front part of the garden shows parterres and bosket. On the palace terrace there are urns that represent the four world ages (Golden, Silver, Brazen and Iron Ages). In addition, there are two gold-plated atalants that come from the previous garden. A special feature of the French garden is the circular layout of the central part around the Arion Fountain, the so-called district parterre.

The central Arion Fountain of Guibal is based on an incident from ancient mythology: Arion (Arion of Lesbos) is a famous singer. After a competition, he was given a lot of presents and was harassed by the shipmen at sea. He asks to be allowed to sing one last time. Dolphins appear while he is singing. The singer plunges into the water and a dolphin brings him to the coast so that he can continue on his way to Corinth. In some traditions, the constellation dolphin is interpreted as Arion on the dolphin, raptured into the sky by the gods.

The French garden is completed by the depiction of a deer hunt by Verschaffelt. The four elements are represented as sculptures in the immediate vicinity.

English garden
The western and northwestern parts of the garden were designed as an English landscape garden. In contrast to the French garden, the paths and shorelines are slightly curved here. Almost nothing has been changed in the irregular forest area.

An arboretum is a collection of often exotic trees. The horticultural master Zeyher laid out this garden in 1802 with exotic pictures from all over the world. The wrought-iron, partially gold-plated gate by Rabaliatti is particularly artistic. A pheasantry with animal enclosures was previously located on the same area.

As soon as entering the palace garden, the visitor can see the large lake that closes the garden. At the place of the lake there was originally a walled basin, which, at the suggestion of Zeyher, was expanded in 1823 on the order of Grand Duke Ludwig von Baden and converted into a lake with a natural bank formation. Two sculptures (copies) by Verschaffelt rest on the long side facing the castle on both sides of the visual axis: the river gods Rhine and Danube. The originals can be viewed in the orangery.

Since Pigage, the lake and all other bodies of water have been filled by two waterworks that used the Leimbach to drive the mill wheels of the pumps. This already enclosed the original castle complex and flows from the Kraichgau towards the Rhine. Clean groundwater was used for the fountains. These pumps were located in the northern wing of the castle (upper waterworks with elevated tank in today's tax office). A second pumping station with an elevated tank, which ensured a constant pressure, was hidden behind the aqueduct at the end of the park (lower waterworks).


Pigage bought a garden phaeton with a lackey drive for Karl-Theodor in London in 1775, for which all main paths were laid out as pots and even ancient burial mounds were removed. This enabled the elector to drive around the park without horse excrement polluting the garden paths. The muscle car, now in Nymphenburg Palace, inspired the Heidelberg student Karl Drais to later invent the original bicycle before 1803.

In addition to numerous statues, there are also some buildings in the Schwetzingen Palace Park. The building program shows a philosophical and architectural reference to classical antiquity and, in the case of the mosque complex, to Islam and oriental wisdom. More recent research wants to recognize a Masonic program in the Schwetzingen Garden, in which Christian ideas would be integrated. Horticultural structures, paths, gates and bridges should not only divide the park into individual rooms, but make it appear larger. The bath house, which was previously only accessible at the invitation or order of the elector, offers its own complex, a small pleasure house with its own garden and the “Perspective”.

According to Richard Benz, the experience of the "artificial ruins" in Schwetzingen Castle Park led the poets of the 18th century to occupy themselves with the real ruins of Heidelberg Castle and thus to the "rediscovery" of Heidelberg that began in the late 18th century.

Mercury temple
In the "Parties sauvages", the south-western parts of the landscape in the Schwetzingen Gardens, a "monument" was planned opposite the mosque as early as 1784. The ruins of Pigages were built in 1787/88 and were assigned to the Roman god Mercury for the first time in 1791. Its basement-like substructure made of large sandstone blocks appears as the remains of an older predecessor. The three-storey, tower-like temple of Mercury made of tuff has a hexagonal main storey, above it an attic storey and a final lantern. Reliefs made of stucco marble above the entrances to the three facades of the same type refer to Mercury.

The interpretation of the park ruins is controversial: According to the traditional reading, it stands for the overcoming of secret doctrines through reason. This reading indicates that the temple has the shape of a Roman tomb. Through three reliefs, which show exclusively negative episodes from the life of Mercury, Mercury is equated with the ancient Hermes Trismegistus, a symbol of magic. So, in a sense, superstition has been buried in its own temple. In this context it is also emphasized that one looks from the mosque over a pond to the temple of Mercury. If one understands the mosque as a symbol of wisdom, this means: The wise man does not have to fear death and superstition. A new Masonic interpretation, however, sees hidden references to the Solomonic Temple and its architect Hiram Abif.

The temple of Mercury has the function of a lookout point, the upper floor allows a view over the lake and the mosque.

Minerva Temple
The Roman goddess Minerva is depicted several times in the palace garden. Symmetrical to the Minerva temple, a temple of Cupid was planned as a counterpart, which was never implemented.

The temple designed by Pigage was completed in 1769. Its four-pillar front Corinthian column order is inspired by an ancient Roman model, the entrance building to the portico of Octavia. The reversal of the relationship between the portico and the cella is unique: the temple cella is reinterpreted as a space that is open to nature and within which the position of the pillars is continued.

Minerva, goddess of wisdom, appears in front of the back wall in a remodeled statue by Gabriel Grupello. According to the gable panel, she is the goddess of the peaceful arts and sciences, especially of gardening. The cella, equipped with marble benches, serves as a relaxation room for park visitors, but can also be understood as an imaginary meeting place for those who have acquired wisdom.

Below the temple there is a rectangular room with niches and round window openings. This room is accessible from the outside and shows the characteristics of a secret meeting place. He is ruled by Pan, as indicated by a mask over the door. The Minerva Temple, which rises above this irrational sphere, thus becomes an enlightening monument of creative reason and human civilization.

Temple of Apollo

In 1762 a belvedere was planned at this point. According to the design by Nicolas de Pigage, a high, terraced substructure was created, on the topmost platform of which a monopteros, a round temple with twelve columns Ionic column order without a cella rises. The temple is dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. The statue of Apollo was made by the sculptor Anton von Verschaffelt. It shows the god playing the lyre left-handed, which earned the artist some scorn. In an exchange of letters between Gleim, Wilhelm Heinse and Johannes von Müller it is said that he is indeed "holy" on a hill, "only the god on the left has a pathetic butt in it."

The Apollo Temple crowns a complex that faces two sides: From the entrance on the west side, the visitor climbs up through rocky, dark and confusing corridors to the light-flooded platform with the classic Monopteros. From the perspective of the audience in the eastern hedge theater, the temple crowns the stage prospect. Apollo appears as god of the arts and leader of the muses on Mount Helikon, where the hoofbeats of Pegasus hit the spring Hippocrene, whose water is passed on to the people by the naiads via the cascade.

Forest Botanical Temple
The temple of forest botany - “Botanicae Silvestris” - designed by Pigage was planned as early as 1777. The dedicatory inscription gives the date 1778, but the building was not finished until 1780. It forms the end of the “Arboretum Theodoricum”, the tree collection in the so-called meadow valley. The raised, cylindrical structure has rough plaster on the outside in the manner of oak bark. A flight of stairs with sphinxes on the cheeks leads to the front door. Inside, a round opening about 20 cm in diameter in the middle of the floor leads to a dark vault below. The pictorial program is about the growth, maturation and death of nature. Four large relief fields show symbols of the four seasons in connection with an ancient tripod. The natural rhythms are linked with modern natural science: portrait medallions of the older authorities Theophrastus of Eresus and Pliny contrast with those of the modern naturalists Joseph Pitton de Tournefort and Carl von Linné. Linnaeus' revolutionary book on the plant systematics formed the now-vanished attribute of a statue of the goddess Ceres in the central apse.

Bath house
The bath house built by Pigage is a small pleasure house in the style of an Italian villa. While the rest of the palace garden was open to the public under Karl Theodor, the bathhouse area, which has its own garden, was only allowed to be entered upon invitation or with the permission of the elector. Here Karl Theodor could live like a private man and indulge his musical inclinations. From the Apollo district, the bath house is entered through an exedra with a semicircular floor plan, an identically formed exedra is at the rear. Through both entrance areas, the visitor enters the oval hall with the aurora as a ceiling painting and four ears as gilded sculptures, which forms the center of the castle. From the oval hall to the west and east, hall-like anteroom with finely inlaid parquet made of three woods. Via it, the visitor gets to the Elector's bedroom (south-west side, with separate toilet) and the bathroom (north-west side) with a recessed marble basin (about 1.2 m deep) with two benches in an elliptical niche. The water pipes are worked out as crowned snakes. On the northeast side is the Chinese room with Chinese paper wallpaper, on the southeast side is the writing room with landscape paintings by Ferdinand Kobell.

The kettle for heating the bath water was located in the bath house kitchen near the bath house. It is noteworthy that the bathhouse is located in relation to the main palace in the same position as its model, the Grand Trianon, in the palace gardens of Versailles.

Water-breathing birds
One of the attractions of the Badhausgarten is the fountain of the water-spouting birds (all made of sheet iron). In the middle of the basin, an eagle owl sits in an attacking position with its wings spread. On top of the laths that surround the facility, sit twenty other birds that spit on the eagle owl (with water). The theme of the fountain goes back to a fable by Aesop about the wrath of the good birds over the bad eagle owl. The Schwetzingen figures come from the Lorraine castle La Malgrange of the Polish ex-king Stanislaus I. Leszczyński. Four aviaries with live, chirping birds add to the illusion. The complex includes two other small buildings, the so-called agate houses.


The "Perspective" - ​​an arcade that allows a view of the "end of the world" - was designed by Nicolas de Pigage. It closes off the main axis of the Badhausgarten to the north. A river landscape can be seen at the far end of the treble. This is a copy of a painting by Ferdinand Kobell, which was applied as a fresco on a wall. The picture appears realistic through cleverly used incidence of light. The interplay between the corridor leading to the picture and an architectural frame placed in front of the wall creates a strong sense of depth. A pavilion with two side rooms adjoins the arcade, the main room of which is designed as a grotto open to the picture and clad with tuff stone.

From the 16th century, collections of oranges and other citrus trees came into fashion at European royal courts. These overwintered in buildings that could be cut off and were built around the plants only for the cold season. In the late 17th and 18th centuries, the plants were kept in planters and pots, which wintered in a permanent building and were placed outdoors in an orangery parterre during the warm months.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the need for premises for courtly festivities in Schwetzingen could not even come close. An orangery with a large ballroom to the west of the palace should help. At least that was the decision made by Elector Karl Philipp, who in 1716 succeeded Elector Johann Wilhelm, who predominantly resided in Düsseldorf.

The Schwetzingen Orangery with its facade paintings, built under Karl Theodor, was designed by Nicolas de Pigage. The paintings simulate natural stone as a material where there are only simple brick walls. In front of it is the orangery ground floor, which is lowered compared to the other garden areas in favor of an internal climate and is oriented towards the warm south side. At the corners of the parterre there are statues of three seasons, the fourth is missing. In the middle are the orange and lemon trees in pots on a rectangular island.

In the rear (southern) area, the Turkish Garden, is the Red Mosque of Pigage, built from 1778 to 1785. The building has no liturgical function, it is rather a garden folly with exclusively aesthetic significance. The Schwetzingen mosque is the first and largest building of its kind in a German park. The late baroque building is decorated with numerous oriental elements. The mosque courtyard was occasionally used for open-air performances of operas. The mosque was temporarily used by Muslims in the 20th century.

In front of the mosque is the former princely orchard, behind it a tree nursery and the palace gardening.

Roman aqueduct
In the summer of 1779, the artificial ruin on the northern edge of the garden was started based on a design by Nicolas de Pigage. A gateway, on which a tower tower seems to have been preserved, is reminiscent of a Roman triumphal arch. A waterfall rushes in its central arcade. The remains of an aqueduct extend from this gateway on three sides, with the eastern arm behind an open space on which an obelisk rises.

Pigage was able to fall back on his own studies of antiquity during his trip to Italy in 1767/68. The connection between the archway and the aqueduct meets at the Roman Porta Maggiore and at the aqueduct of the Acqua Vergine. The tower's free floor could be inspired by medieval fortifications on Roman bridges. The models can be found in vedutas by Piranesi. The name of the Roman water fort did not appear until 1828.

Palladio Bridge ("Chinese Bridge")
The bridge in the rear, north-western area of ​​the garden, often referred to as “Chinese”, connects the French with the English part of the garden. The building actually goes back to a bridge design by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, who worked in Veneto. The bridge has the popular nickname "Bridge of Lies", because anyone who stumbles on its irregular steps is said to have cheated before.

Fountains and sculptures
In the palace garden there are more than 60 statues, busts and fountains from the 18th century. Most of the sculptures are copies, some of the originals are exhibited in the lapidarium of the orangery and in the southern circular building. Only some of the sculptures were created especially for Schwetzingen. In particular that of Peter Anton von Verschaffelt. Some statues, such as those by Gabriel de Grupello and Paul Egell, come from Mannheim, the Arion fountain originally stood in Lunéville. The statues and fountains were arranged more or less symmetrically, with a few deviations, especially in the district ground floor, at the mirror basin and at the Great Pond.


Climate change and lowering of the groundwater
The straightening of the Rhine in the 19th century lowered the groundwater level by six meters compared to the time when the palace gardens were built. As a result, the trees in the palace gardens are no longer adequately supplied with groundwater, they are dependent on surface water. In connection with the high temperatures and decreasing precipitation, the State Palaces and Gardens see the structure of the Schwetzingen Palace Garden as a massive threat and have declared the park a climate emergency. In the case of the old beech trees, which are the characteristic trees in the landscape garden at an age of 100 to 200 years, around 50% of the damage was so severe that they no longer or not completely sprout and branches shed. The original tree population of the garden is lost. As a solution, some tree species are to be replaced by species from the Mediterranean area when new plants are planted. Attempts are being made in its own nursery to grow drought-accustomed seedlings from old stock.

Landscape protection area
As early as August 8, 1952, the Mannheim district office at that time designated the palace garden as a landscape conservation area under the name Schwetzinger Schlossgarten and its surroundings. The area with the number 2.26.013 currently has a size of around 190 hectares and includes the historical park from the time of the electorate as well as the western fore and the historical hunting grounds on the Stern.

Famous visitors to Schwetzingen Castle
Voltaire came to Schwetzingen for the first time in 1753 and was the guest of the Elector, who was his friend, for 14 days. In the summer of 1758 Voltaire came again for a short stay in Schwetzingen. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart took part in a court concert on July 18, 1763 with his father and sister. The composer Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was the Elector's guest in 1774. In Schwetzingen, Friedrich Schiller found inspiration for the opposing “Aranjuez moods” in Don Karlos' first act. In a letter dated November 26, 1779, the actor August Wilhelm Iffland described a hunt near Schwetzingen that had cost 50,000 guilders and in which spectator scaffolds were set up for 9,000 people. Emperor Joseph II stayed in Schwetzingen in 1781 under the name of Count von Falkenstein.

See also
Benrath Palace - built by Pigage from 1755 to 1773 on behalf of Elector Karl Theodor at the transition from Rococo to Classicism. The garden is a geometrically axially symmetrical Baroque complex based on the French model; the Elector's private garden was landscaped in the 19th century. The museum for European garden art is located in the outbuilding of the palace.
Mulberry tree avenue to Heidelberg - in connection with silkworm breeding.