Showing posts with label Speyer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Speyer. Show all posts

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A second chance for Bruchsal

Well, I have to say that I owe Bruchsal a big apology. It isn't what I thought it was - ugly and depressing. Nope, Bruchsal, so it seems, is a very nice little town. To be honest, despite its long history, I think the baroque Schloß Bruchsal and St. Peter's church are what make it worthwhile to visit. But that's okay, because those two places alone will make your visit something to remember.

But, I am so glad I gave it a second chance because despite my personal requisites for what makes a city livable for me, it sure as heck doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed by someone else. Following this recent visit I find myself so impressed that I humbly bow in apology for having spoken ill of the place since that first visit several years ago. (Of course, I have to throw in here that the spectacular weather probably didn't hurt.) So, if historical architecture and exquisite ceiling murals are on your lists of interests, then this former residence town of 18th century prince-bishops of Speyer is a must. 

Cherry orchard behind the garden wall of one of the several 
Bruchsal Palace dependencies. Today, several of these 
dependencies are apartments.

A view of the major dependencies which are located at the garden entrance of Schloß Bruchsal.
(The train tracks - not station - is directly across the road from here. If you know when to look,
you can see it zoom past your train window.)

There is a reason I brushed off Bruchsal a few years ago as a seemingly depressing place with little more to offer except for this little palace. It was a typical, dreadfully gloomy German winter's day with a bit of fog hanging about and obviously no leaves on the trees to be found. I had been making a habit of going somewhere out of Stuttgart every other weekend so I could take pictures and simply enjoy a day trip and get to know my new country. Upon arriving at the train station, which doesn't have much to boast to those passing through its doors, I walked out onto the street and was slammed in the face with YET another view of 1960's (give or take a few years) architecture. Having heard way too often as an excuse that the bland, drab buildings of this era were due to lack of money in all the rebuilding that had to go on post war, I rolled my eyes and thought oh no, not another such rebuilt town. (By the way, lack of much money does not mean something must be ugly, as if by rule.) 

Entrance through the garden.
Few enter through these gates, however, as the other side of the palace
is on the town side where a main road goes through.

Well, I started walking through this large town of Bruchsal and although the streets did appear quite clean and tidy, it just didn't have much appeal outside of simply being a place to reside. I walked to the palace, which, by the way, is not far at all from the station, and only viewed it from the street side, not the garden side. I walked into the main entrance and did in fact like the ceilings of the ground-floor entry of the corps de logis, but as I was not interested on that drab day to go through the entire palace on a tour, I went out front and walked around. It was "okay" but I wasn't impressed. The weather was depressing me, but I realize now that I was having more than just a bad day. 
There was hardly anything going on there. I walked about town, looking for a good hot coffee which I eventually found, but the town itself seemed so dull and had nothing to offer me as far as old beautiful buildings which I had hoped to see. But, here's the clencher: I began at that time to realize something about my own health in those days which a year or so later was to surface quite clearly; I was suffering from pretty deep depression. I am now convinced (and no longer depressed) that it was for this reason that I left Bruchsal with such a bad taste in my mouth. Nothing there pleased me. I had wiped it off my list of places to see; been there, didn't buy the T-shirt. 

But, I came back last weekend which was warm and very sunny. My experience in Bruchsal is worth posting here and telling you that if you should be in the area, the baroque  Schloß Bruchsal is absolutely worth your time. But, be sure to walk all around the grounds. Pay attention to everything. Read all the little plaques on the outside of doors. Further down here, you will see an aerial view of the palace and its dependencies. Everything that was destroyed in the Second World War has been meticulously and correctly rebuilt based on original designs by Anselm Franz von Ritter zu Groenesteyn as well as Balthasar Neumann. 

Inside the walls of the cherry orchard.

In the next few photos here, you will see what happens if you don't give up halfway from the gates to the palace. Even in winter, so long as the sun is shining (warning: good luck finding that in southwestern Germany), the palace will be worth the visit both inside and out. Exotic and elegant flower gardens? Um, sorry, no. Some spring flowers? Yes. You have already seen the cherry blossoms above which are thick and abundant; however, as you will see in the photos below, the palace is so colorful - dare I say like Candyland - that carpets of tulips or daffodils or anything else would almost clash with this place.  The prince-bishops and architects who designed and built Bruchsal certainly knew how to overcome dull German winters: just paint the residence in a variety of colors.

The closer one gets, the more the unsuspecting eye begins to register the amount of
colorful artistry on the walls of the buildings.

To the left can be seen a yellow-and-green-colored structure whose twin is on the
 opposite side of the main building.

History of the Prince-bishop's palace at Bruchsal

So, let's take a look at how this palace came to be. Schloß Bruchsal is actually a small part of the long and interesting history of the city and environs of Bruchsal. Although settlement in the area dates back thousands of years and the region was also known to the Romans, excavations within the city limits near St. Peter's Catholic church have uncovered traces of settlement dating as far back as 640 A.D. I'd say that qualifies the city as being rather old. 

I took a photo of this aerial photograph that is posted outside of the
palace to show the extent of the park. As I looked at this photo, I
realized that it is not quite up-to-date. The trees in the great park have
expanded their branches to create shade over the paths since this was
taken, as can be seen in the photograph below. Still, in this
photo, one
can still see 90% of all buildings associated with the palace, minus the
chapel steeple which is attached to the west wing of the palace as well
as a major gate which goes over the street in front at the left.
Photographs of those two edifices are further down in this posting.

The connection between Bruchsal the historical Bishopric of Speyer, which is located on the western side of the Rhine River in what is today the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), dates back quite far. In 1056, Heinrich III gave the then settlement of Bruchsal to Konrad I, Prince-Bishop of Speyer. At the time, Speyer, like many ecclesiastic domains, held additional land besides that which made up their immediate parrish. Bruchsal was just one of a number of other towns under the rule of a prince-bishop. I would assume that the combination of church property or parrish, together with land or towns that I guess was not technically church/religious property, was the reason for the dual title of "prince" and "bishop". The ruler was not only a "prince" of the church, but also an "earthly" prince as well. These roles were almost always filled by the sons of nobility or younger sons of kings anyway.

Every time I look at this arrangement of buildings, I always think of a
Russian Tsarist Palace. Tsarskoye Selo?

Note that just about everything you can see in the form of decorations on the building in the
foreground is painted on. Nothing, except the half-columns, is actually three-dimensional.

In time, the city of Speyer became what was known as an Imperial City, which, as far as we are concerned here, meant that the ruler/leader of the city was not the bishop (though I must say, I cannot prove that in all cases). In time, the prince-bishop found it easier to live elsewhere, despite still being head of the cathedral there in Speyer. So, by the late 14th century, the prince-bishops had taken up residence in one of their other palaces outside of the city of Speyer.

Direct shot of the same building in the photo above this one. You can see that the figures
above the windows are in fact painted on, as is everything else.

The largest of the simple fountains at Schloß Bruchsal. The intricately painted façades
of the palace itself make too much extra in the park unnecessary and potentialy
somewhat interfering.

So how did all of this get started? In the first half of the 18th century, Prince-Bishop Damian Hugo von Schönborn commissioned a beautiful new palace to be built at Bruchsal to replace the one already there. At about the same time, he also commissioned the building of St. Peter's church which can be seen just above the city. In 1725 the construction of the exquisite palace was begun based on the initial designs of Anselm Franz von Ritter zu Groenesteyn. Beginning in 1728, the job of master architect and builder went to Balthasar Neumann, who completed the spectacular grand staircase which can be seen today. Bruchsal Palace has been restored to its original design following almost complete destruction in March of 1945 (See photos of its destruction here.)

For views of the inside of the palace and its ornate baroque artwork, click here for the official state website about Schloß Bruchsal.

Coat of arms of the Prince-Bishops of Speyer to which
Bruchsal belonged. Notice the large, almost flat,
ecclesiastical Cardinal's hat (which might remind
you of the large hats found in Asian rice fields)
hovering over the secular prince's crown. These men
were not only royal or noble, but also princes of the church. 

Bruchsal is not terribly far from the French border. Over a period of several hundred years, the city and much of the surrounding area were regularly subjected to French military dominance with  their invasions, occupations and, sadly, destruction. The last major French military activity in Bruchsal was in 1796 with the occupation of the city.

In 1803, with Napoleon's secularization of church territory with the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, the former residence city of the Prince-Bishops of Speyer was given to Margrave Karl-Friedrich of Baden-Durlach by the famous French emperor. In 1806, the emperor granted the margrave a boost in title status; quilted together a couple of other nearby territories and principalities, including Fürstenberg; and the Grand Duchy of Baden was born with the margrave as its first grand duke. 

This large building can be found across the street directly outside the main gate
of the palace. It was damaged in the war, but the main structure and interiors
of the building were left standing. Today, it is used as a government building.

Direct view of the building. The red bricks on the facade are actually all painted on.

Fortunately, this gate-like building found outside of the gates of the
palace complex is original, as it survived the war relatively unscathed.

The tower steeple of the palace chapel lost its cupola in the bombing and was burned out;
however, the rest remained and was restored in detail.

The end of hereditary monarchy in Baden, along with the hundreds of years of the rule by the House of Zähringen (of Baden), came to a close in 1918 with the end of the First World War. Some of the dependencies of Schloß Bruchsal were already being used as apartments and government offices for some time even during the grand-duchy period. Now, the beautiful main house would become  a museum for all to visit.

I found this fountain across the street from the palace a real delight.
The snails with water spouting from their antennae beneath the face
of what looks like a little child spewing water out of its mouth as well
were too good to pass up.

The original buildings here were constructed to house a hospital, built and patronized by the
prince-bishop at the time and the Duchess of Orléans in the 18th C. It is located along the
 street next to the palace and is part of the entire complex.

Some shots of other finds in the city of Bruchsal are below. I'm sure I could have added more here, but I figured I would leave something for you to discover when you go.

When walking away from the palace and simply exploring around the town, you will easily find not only a number of historical markers that you should make a point of reading, but a number of nice buildings both public and private as well.  

I left the palace and found myself heading, minus map or compass, through the pedestrian shopping district, across a very small bridge of some historical significance, and upward.

I passed the houses in the photo to the left and kept on walking, enjoying the buildings I was finding. It was becoming clear to me at that point that although the inner city had been badly damaged by the bombing, its circumference had not. It was also up here that I came across one of Germany's many beautifully manicured cemeteries with its perfectly laid-out flowers and shrubs planted directly on top of and around the graves themselves - very different from North American cemeteries and such a visual pleasure to walk through. 

St. Peter's Catholic church - built by Prince-Bishop Hugo
von Schönborn  of Speyer around the same time as Bruchsal Palace
 in the first half of the 18th century.

How to get to Bruchsal from Karlsruhe main train station: the trip is anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes depending on whether you choose a local tram or a regional train. Many people who live in Bruchsal work in Karlsruhe so a number of options are available every hour.

Via Autobahn from Karlsruhe: take the A5. Signs are everywhere for Bruchsal.

How to get there from Stuttgart main train station: there are two or three trains each hour ranging from around 25 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes depending whether you choose a regional (RE) or inter-City (IC).