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Crowned Heads and Stately Homes

Castles and Palaces in Stuttgart and the Region

There are six palaces in Stuttgart alone, and lots more in the surrounding region. It's particularly fascinating to explore the numerous castle ruins to be found round about Stuttgart. They include the ruins of the castles of Hohenstaufen and Hohenneuffen, also known as the "Cradle of Württemberg", and the oldest ruin in the area, the Nippenburg.

The Old Palace is not to be missed – it's the oldest one in Stuttgart. The original structure, a moated castle, was built in the 10th century and later extended when the counts of Württemberg moved their family seat to Stuttgart in 1325. It was not until the middle of the 16th century that it became more of a palace than a fortress by the addition of side wings and upper storeys. The Old Palace was given an arcaded inner courtyard and a knights' staircase, allowing riders to reach the upper levels on horseback. When construction of the New Palace began in 1746, the Old Palace was no longer of interest. Following severe damage by fire and an air raid in the Second World War, it was rebuilt, and its present appearance is more or less the same as that of the royal palace in the Reformation period. Since 1948 the Old Palace has been home to the Württemberg State Museum. Its inner courtyard is the backdrop for the annual ceremonial opening of the Stuttgart Wine Village and the Christmas Market. 

The New Palace, the last of the great Baroque royal residences to be built in Germany, was commissioned by Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg (1744-1793), who was determined to make Stuttgart a second Versailles. This ruler was responsible for the building of no fewer than four palaces in Stuttgart. Construction of the New Palace (1746 – 1807) was a lengthy process, partly because of a fire, and partly because Carl Eugen moved the royal household to Ludwigsburg for a period of ten years. This is the reason why so many styles of architecture – Baroque, Classicism, Rococo and Empire – are represented here. The palace was destroyed in the Second World War and later rebuilt (1958 – 1964), but reconstruction in the original style was more or less confined to the façade. Today the New Palace, where former federal president Richard von Weizsäcker was born on 15th April 1920, houses various ministries and state reception rooms. 

Solitude Palace was the hub of court life in the 18th century. The royal household and its guests could watch ballet and theatre performances nearly every evening in the palace's own theatre. Construction of this Rococo palace with its elaborate, opulently decorated rooms began in 1763 by order of Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg for representational purposes, and the Duke himself took charge of planning his haven. The name "Solitude“ was intended to emphasise how far removed Solitude was from the pomp of the Baroque court lifestyle; it was linked to the royal residence of Ludwigsburg by a perfectly straight, 12 km-long avenue. Today the palace is home to the Solitude Palace Academy, with living quarters, workshops and exhibition rooms for scholarship art students from all over the world in the annexes where once the duke's courtiers lived. 

The history of the Bärenschlössle (1768) is overshadowed by destruction and rebuilding. The little "Bear Palace", located in the woodlands on the shores of the Bärensee lake, served Carl Eugen as a pleasure palace. After his death, however, the building in classical Roman style fell into disrepair and in 1817 King Wilhelm I ordered it to be torn down and a hunting lodge erected in its place. Other buildings followed: the Bärenschlössle twice burned to the ground and was rebuilt in the former style with the exception of the upper storey windows, which were instead replaced by casement doors. Today the Bärenschlössle and its deer park are a popular place for outings with Stuttgart's inhabitants. 

Hohenheim Palace, surrounded by botanical gardens and an English park, was Duke Carl Eugen's final project. He had his country estate, the Garbenhof, converted into a representative palace complex as a gift to his paramour Franziska von Hohenheim, who later became his second wife. The foundation stone was laid in 1785. Eight years later Carl Eugen died in the still uncompleted palace, which his successor disliked and allowed to fall into disrepair. And this is how it stayed until 1818, when King Wilhelm I decided to use it for the newly-founded agricultural college for teaching, research and demonstration purposes – the forerunner of Hohenheim University, which is still located in the palace today. 

Rosenstein Palace (1824–1929) stands on a rise near the centre of Stuttgart overlooking the River Neckar, between the Wilhelma Zoo and the Lower Palace Gardens. Since 1954 it has been home to the State Natural History Museum. Its architect, Giovanni Salucci, was commissioned by King Wilhelm I to build him a country home on the site, but in effect the monarch seldom went there. His consort, Queen Katharina, died in 1819 before the palace was completed, and the king had Salucci build a mausoleum for her on Stuttgart's Rotenberg. Following a prediction that Wilhelm himself would die at Rosenstein Palace, he set foot in the building as rarely as possible. Despite this, however, he did in fact die there in June 1864.

The Baroque city of Ludwigsburg boasts no fewer than three palaces, of which the most impressive is the Residential Palace of Ludwigsburg. With three courtyards and 452 rooms in 18 buildings, set in a park 32 hectares in size, it is one of the largest surviving Baroque palaces in Europe and was formerly the royal residence of the dukes and kings of Württemberg. The foundation stone was laid in 1704 by Duke Eberhard Ludwig of Württemberg – originally for a hunting palace, but by 1733 it had become a Baroque residence. A special attraction is that the living quarters of different rulers from different eras have been preserved and are open to the public. In the extensive park, garden design from various periods can be admired at "Baroque in Bloom". 

Within sight of Ludwigsburg there's also Favorite Palace, which has a Baroque façade but an interior in Empire style. Duke Eberhard Ludwig of Württemberg, a keen hunter, had planned a pheasant run opposite the royal palace, with a copse enclosed by a palisade where the birds would be reared. It was here that construction of the hunting and pleasure palace of Favorite began in 1717. It was used for hunting parties and as a summer villa, and it provided the backdrop for a spectacular firework display to celebrate the marriage of Duke Carl Eugen to Elisabeth Friederike of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. Both the beautiful murals and the extensive nature and wildlife park are well worth seeing. 

Ludwigsburg's Seeschloss Monrepos is a lakeside palace and Rococo masterpiece with an interior in Empire style, built in an idyllic setting during the reign of Duke Carl Eugen between 1758 and 1764. Under Duke Friedrich II it was altered and furnished in the style of Classicism. In summer romantic concerts are held here, such as the big open-air concert with a Baroque firework display which is part of the Ludwigsburg Palace Festival. 

Leonberg Palace and Dowager's Residence is somewhat smaller. Its outstanding feature is the enchanting orangery – one of Europe's few surviving terraced gardens from the High Renaissance period. 

Bebenhausen Monastery and Palace are idyllically situated in the Schönbuch nature reserve. The monastery is one of the best-preserved medieval sites in Germany. From 1190 to 1684 it was home to Cistercian monks. In the early 19th century it became the property of the royal family, and in 1868 King Friedrich I of Württemberg had the abbot's house converted into a magnificent hunting palace. From 1947 to 1952 it served as the seat of the state parliament of Württemberg-Hohenzollern. Both buildings are open to the public all year round. Of particular interest are the summer refectory and the royal apartments, which are still preserved in their original state. 

The Palace of Kirchheim under Teck lies at the foot of the Swabian Alb, surrounded by trees and a moat. The building of a fortress at Kirchheim commenced in 1538 during the reign of Duke Christoph of Württemberg as part of the regional defences and was completed by Duke Christoph in 1556. The former Renaissance hunting palace served as a residence to six of Württemberg's dowager duchesses, each of whom altered it to suit her taste. Teck Castle, 775 metres above sea level, offers a magnificent view of the Alb escarpment and the surrounding area. Up until 1381 the castle belonged to the dukes of Teck, later the castle passed into the possession of Württemberg. 

(1436 words in article)

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