Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shades of Solitude

                                                                                                Schloß Solitude                                                   

Compared to Rosenstein Palace (see earlier post), Schloß Solitude is not that much bigger, but it does appear rather more like an actual palace in its façade than that of the less ornate Rosenstein. Despite all its grandeur, it came as a surprise to this writer that it was originally built as a hunting lodge. It's not what one usually thinks of as a hunting lodge, is it? From the outside, the round hall under the rotunda resembles more of a wedding cake than it does a place where hunters would drop their rifles, kick off their dirty riding boots, throw down their packs, and, I dare say, their kill of the day as well! But, as you can no doubt imagine, the kind of hunters who spent any time here were not the type to do that - probably.

Commissioned by Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg in 1764, the Schloß came into existence through a difficult birth. Previously, the duke had left his capital of Stuttgart following a falling out with his nobles and government there and moved to the ornate palace of Ludwigsburg, where he set up court. So, as the ruler had chosen to reside in a different place, the capital had in effect gone right along with him, and Stuttgart was not to be graced with the presence of its reigning duke for a number of years. While in Ludwigsburg, Carl Eugen chose to build a pleasure palace for himself in the form of this hunting lodge. Philippe de La Guêpière was chosen as principal architect together with a group of other advisors and of course the input of the duke himself. The location on the top of a hill west of Stuttgart and above Gerlingen was cleared of its trees and construction was begun.

One of the reasons the duke had had a falling out with his government was because he tended to be more absolutist in his style of governing than his advisors preferred. And perhaps in his way of ruling, he also felt that money was no object to get in the way of his personal desire to maintain the lifestyle which he felt, as reigning duke, that he should have. Aside from Solitude, Carl Eugen had not only built the spacious New Palace in the middle of Stuttgart and expanded the baroque residential palace of Ludwigsburg, but he also commissioned or improved on other palaces such as the smaller Mon Repos, Favorite and Hohenheim, which we will see more about in a later post. In doing so throughout his long reign, he bankrupted his properties and became dependent on loans from France in the process. Needless to say, this did not sit well with his government.

Despite its lofty location and esthetic beauty, Schloß Solitude was not used very often. Money for the upkeep was always the problem. The duke had extravagant plans, but he had a difficult time financially supporting his lifestyle. Still, the palace was completed, and its design has proven to be most interesting. A good part of the structure itself contains a warren of passageways for the servants so that they would not have to be seen any more than necessary. Wood paneling in the walls camouflaged the smaller service doors. After all, servants were not to be seen coming down the hall and through the main door. They were merely to materialize directly in the room when called and to leave the same way: through the walls. Squeezed into corner spaces, narrow staircases and connecting tunnel-like hallways were constructed for service access. Even the fireplace in the duke's rarely used bedroom had a passageway which led directly to it from a hidden corridor which allowed the charwoman to set, stoke and maintain the fire from the side without being seen. 

In the photograph above, the inner walls of the palace can be seen behind the paneling that has yet to be restored. This particular room is in the north-east corner of the palace and is normally off-limits to tours. As I am an avid admirer of Fachwerk (half-timber) structures, I was shown the room before paintings are one day put back to fill the gaps. Here, it can be seen how the finished walls were installed over the half-timbered structure itself. This includes inner walls as well as the outer. 

The room under the rotunda is grand and beautiful. However one cannot see all the way to the dome. Access to the room up there is not so easy to gain. If ever given the access, the photographs will be posted.


In a crescent just behind the palace itself can be found four sections of service buildings and dependencies. These houses and buildings have served various purposes throughout the past 250 years of its existence. As the Rococo palace was being completed, the duke probably spent his nights there in one of the larger sections close to the walkway which leads back to what used to be the formal gardens. Over time, these buildings would used as schools and lodging for guests or members of the court, depending on need. Even today, the 12 little houses that flank the buildings of the central crescent, six to one side and six to the other, are used mostly as private residences for people who in some way serve the state of Baden-Württemberg or Solitude itself. The state's minister-president (governor) also lives on the palace estate in a modest, modern home just out of sight of the 18th century complex itself. 

The name of the palace was inspired by the duke's desire to have a place away from court where he might find peace and quiet. When visiting the large grounds, any visitor can imagine how true it must have been for pleasant it must have been for him. Of course, he had a large staff in attendance and though most of the court formalities could be left down in Ludwigsburg, some still existed in that quieter surrounding nonetheless, so this writer imagines that the actual solitude he experienced must have been relative. 

Horses are still grazed and kept at the former royal stables still found up on Solitude today. No doubt there is much more solitude for them than there was for ducal gatherings.

As mentioned above, there is a system of servant's passageways. Upon visiting the palace, it was learned that some of the French doors and shutters that are seen on the outside actually cover the site of a few of these passageways that creep along the inside just along the outer walls of the palace. These doors are not even visible on the inside.  

The palace sits atop a huge foundation made of stone blocks and carvings and which also contains a number of rooms as well. The staircases leading up to the palatial dwelling on top are immense on both sides of the palace.

Although the palace is clearly rococo on its exterior, its interior is by contrast mostly classical. The central hall is a beautiful example of this design. Along with the rest of the structure, it was restored by the federal government in the late 70s and early 80s and is today open to the public. The grounds also support the Akademie Schloß Solitude, an art academy which was founded in 1990. Other schools have used the grounds and its buildings since the late 1700s, once the duke finally accepted that upkeep for such a rarely used pleasure palace was beyond reasonable for his delicate budget. The duke himself established the first academy that was to use part of its facilities.

Magnificent plans were drawn up for the creation of extensive and splendid formal gardens. The garden upkeep alone would have been exorbitant. The plans were not all completely followed through with at the time. Even so, visitors today can get an idea of the extent to which they would have been built simply by following the lane that leads away from the palace into the woods which have consumed what gardens were there. Placards depicting diagrams are posted to give an overview of the former layout.

(© Copyright 2012)

(© Copyright 2012)

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