Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Schloss Biebrich

Photos: Luxarazzi
Schloss Biebrich, or Biebrich Palace, owes its existence to Count Georg August Samuel of Nassau-Idstein. Upon his appointment to the official role of prince in 1688, he decided to expand his domestic situation to better reflect his new status.

Count Georg August Samuel commissioned architect Julius Ludwig Rothwell to construct his new Baroque masterpiece in Biebrich. He had originally relocated from Idstein to Wiesbaden, the modern-day capital of Hesse, but he later moved his seat of power to the nearby Biebrich, which today is a part of Wiesbaden, in the Rhine Valley.

The palace was completed in 1702, although a second structure, identical to the first, was added in 1706. The first part of the palace, known as the West Pavilion, became Count Georg August Samuel’s stomping-ground, while the East Pavilion was reserved for his wife Henriette Dorothea, born Princess of Oettingen-Oettingen.

In 1707, the count commissioned architect Johann Maximilian von Welsch to unite the West Pavilion with the East Pavilion. The result joined each pavilion with a long gallery that ended in a rotunda. Inside this rotunda was the count’s ballroom, while a private chapel lay beneath the ballroom.

The style of Schloss Biebrich, built as it was at the beginning of the eighteenth century, reflects Baroque architecture at its height. A grand staircase in the West Pavilion, with its large painting of Count Georg August Samuel and his family, still hints at the original richness of décor. Speaking of paintings, another feature of Biebrich Palace is the elaborate fresco featuring Aeneas at Mount Olympus on the ceiling of the rotunda that joins West Pavilion and East Pavilion.

Other Baroque features include the rich color that adorns the outside of the palace, as well as the general opulence inside. The count’s status called for elaborate state rooms in the new palace, another attribute of Baroque style.

Count Georg August Samuel and Henriette Dorothea had twelve children, three of them sons, but sadly none of the sons survived childhood. As a result, the count’s death from smallpox in 1721 ended his family line, and the title passed to the Dukes of Nassau-Usingen. The new successor, Prince Karl of Nassau-Usingen chose Schloss Biebrich as his primary residence, and in 1734, he commissioned architect Friedrich Joachim Michael Stengel to add two more wings to the burgeoning palace.

The main construction ended around 1750, and no further changes were made until landscape architect Friedrich Ludwig von Schell designed the gardens in 1817. Additionally, a large staircase descending to the Rhine was added in 1824.

Schloss Biebrich remained the primary residence of the Dukes of Nassau until the construction of the Wiesbaden City Palace, or Wiesbaden Stadtschloss. At that point, the Biebrich Palace became the summer residence of the Nassau-Usingen and Nassau-Weilberg dukes.

In 1890, Duke Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg became Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and at that point Schloss Biebrich passed into the history of the Luxembourg royals. The palace remained a family retreat until 1935, when Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg officially sold the palace to Prussia. It suffered damage during World War II and then fell into disrepair for several decades. The palace was not restored until the early 1980s. At that time, the State of Hesse took over renovations and made Biebrich Palace the current home of Hesse’s historic preservation agency. The palace garden is currently open to the public, and rooms within the palace itself may be rented for conferences or other events.

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