Augustusburg Palace was the favourite palace of Prince Elect Clemens August I and also is one of the most important creations of the rococo period in Germany as a whole. That apart, Augustusburg Palace is a place where architecture, the sculptures in and around the palace, the painting and last but not least the gardens create a rare rococo synthesis of art. The most prominent part of Augustus Palace is the vestibule, created by the famous Balthasar Neumann, a piece of art that is known throughout the world. Little wonder that Augustusburg was admitted to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1984.
Two Alleys connect Augustusburg Palace with the nearby Falkenlust Hunting Lodge. The grand park (woods), bosquets, broderie parterre gardens, an orangerie and the palace chapel (Saint Mary of the Angels - St. Maria von den Engeln) are all part of the palace complex. For anyone touring Germany and especially the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia Augustusburg Palace should be high up on a list of must-see palaces and gardens.
In this editorial we guide you around palace, parks and gardens.
A massive palace building is what we can see when walking through the main gate. The building radiates splandour, glamour, beauty, artistic mastery and the power of the owner. Obviously, the Lord of the Palace has long gone, though, we still realise that only a powerful ruler could have built such a palace. Only the master of self-portrayal, a lover of art art and beauty could have been the instigator, the principal of such a building project of a building of such magnitude.
We are standing in front of Augustusbug Palace. The place is situated in the middle of the City of Brühl and directly bordering the much larger City of Cologne. And is was not by chance that the palace is so close to Cologne. Augustusburg Palace was one of the residences of Prince Elect and Archbishop of Cologne, Clemens August Ferdinand Maria Hyazinth, Duke of Bavaria (*16.08.1700 in Brussels, † 06.02.1761 Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Koblenz).
That very Clemens August was a very powerful man in the German Empire and in European politics. Also, he was a man of the Roman catholic church and holding an excessive number of offices leading his contemporaries to call him Lord of the five churches (Monsieur des cinq églises), a rather dubious reputation, but excactly describing him holding office as archbishop inf five catholic deoceses, which were Cologne, Paderborn, Muenster, Hildesheim and Osnabrueck. On Top of that he was Prince Elect and later was elevated to be Grand Master of Teutonic Knights. Considering that the Roman church did not allow one man to hold more than one office, Clemens August I. was extremely successful.
It is this very Clemens August who we have to thank for one of the most important baroque palace complexs and, simultaneously, for one of the most influential rococo creations in the whole of Germany.
We are not reflecting the matter of church people holding to many offices and whether they should be lovers of art and beauty. For sure, Clemens August was an art lover of great renown, and yes, he was the master of self-portrayel, the king of self-love, the lover of splendour and glamour only due to a real king, which he wasn't. But excactly these virtues made him create things of extraordinary beauty and persistence, standing the test of time and still being around for us to enjoy.
But back to Augustusburg Palace. As was the case with many baroque palaces throughout Europe, a castle complex existed prior to the palace. From 1298 a water castle was in service at the same place being the stronghold of the Cologne archbishops against the unruly population of Cologne. An animal park, woods and a farm existed in the surroundings of the water castle.
It is only under the guidance of the Wittelsbach family that would bring substantial change to the place of the water castle. The Wittelsbach family had had held the office of Prince Elect of Cologne for five generations. It was in 1672 that Prince Elect Maximilian Henry of Bavaria entered into an alliance agreement with France. His death lead to a dispute about his successor in turn leading to French troups occupying the diecese of Cologne, upon their departure the water castle was blown up.
The successor, Prince Elect and Archbishop of Cologne Joseph Clemens (1688-1723) of Baraia (Wittelsbach family) did have plans for a reconstruction of the castle which, however, never realised because building the new residence at Bonn was prioritised.
When Joseph Clemens died in 1723, his nephew took over the reign as Prince Elect and Archbishop of Cologne only aged 23. In 1725 Clemens August started with building a new palace on the ruins of the former water castle. The palace was erected using the foundation of the castle.
Guillaume Hauberat was the first architect to present blueprints to Clemens August but was rejected for his barren French classicistic approach. In fact the Prince Elect was tempted to copy the Vienna Hofburg palace of the German emperor and asked the well-known Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun to present new plans.
Clemens August insisted on using the foundations of the former water castle in order to minimise cost and planning stuck to that preference. On the foundations of the formerly four-wing building a three-wing baroque palace was to be built. However sticking to the foundations ment that options to create spacious rooms was limited extremely. Schlaun planned for a ditch and to renovate the derelict round tower of the former castle, with a chapel tower to be added to the south-western corner of the palace. Even the former outer bailey was planned to be restored to its old glory.
It happened that Schlaun's blueprints did not meet the undivided excitement of Prince Elect Karl Albrecht of Bavaria, the brother of Clemens August, who, in order to give some impetus to his brother's project, dispateched his own personnel to Bruehl to put the building site into capable hands. The Bavarian court architect Francoise de Cuvilliés and the garden architect Dominique Girard were put in charge of the operation. Schlaun was demoted to oversee the practical building works but was excluded from any planning; finally in 1728 he was dismissed.
By 1728 with construction nearly finalised interior construction started and also furnishing of the representative salons begun, which was also supervised by the Bavarian court architect. The baroque vestibule is a creation of the widely-known architect and artist Balthasar Neumann. The stairway was built between 1740 and 1746. The long building period is owed to Clemens August I. always being short of cash because he had quite a number of palatial building sites in his dominions.
Contrary to other places the main gate of Augustusburg Palace appears rather austere. The gate pillars sport a pilaster on both sides. Two wrought-iron gate wings are hinged between the gate pillars. A vase sculpture is place on top of eac pillar.
Behind the door there is a sentry box on each side with a large sculpture on top. Obviously, the sculpture programme is Roman, the woman sculpture sitting on a fasces is Minerva. Fasces were the insigna of Roman officials during the republic and in the empire period.
The male sculpture on the right sentry box is Hercules, recognisable by the club and the four-headed Hydra.
Both sculpture hold coat of arms, with are directed towards the Corps de Logis.
The driveway leading up to the Corps de Logis is a cobblestone drive measuring about 200 metres by 8 metres across. Even when standing directly at the gate, the size and vastness of the building is obvious.
The three-winged complex is open to the east. South and north wing frame the palatial forecourt and open the view toward the portal with the medium risalit which is decorated with three pilaster bearing a gable with the Prince Elect's coat of arms. South and North wing are also decorated with a, although, smaller gable.
After arriving at the forecourt the visitor can either proceed to the entrance or turn left to the gardens or the large terrace in front of the south wing. By turning right the visitor goes past the, rather plain facade of the north wing, ultimately arriving at the west wing.
The coat of arms in the gable of the east wing medium risalit testifies the power of the lord of the palace. Pictures usually speak volumes and the symbols of power are there to impress the visitor. That has always been the case up to our times and is put into practice at the palace perfectly. At the very centre of the gable we can see the Wittelsbach coat of arms. The wings of an eagle frame the coat of arms to the right and to the left; a crown with red lining and ermine strips and tops the coat of arms. Crown and ermine stripes are the symbols of a Prince Elect. As for the eagle's wings, only the emperial coat of arms would show the eagle in full. Another two symbols show and explain the powers of the Prince Elect, pastoral staff and sword cross behind the coat of arms and are the signs of worldy power (sword) and spiritual power (pastoral staff). The golden order chain of the Grand Master of Teutonic Knights is put around the coat of arms, besides the Order of the Teutonic Arms is a knights order but under the command of the pope.
On eath side of the coat of arms we find three puti with wings who busy themselves to carry the coat of arms of all dioceses.
On the gable top the left sculpture depicts the pope, holding a tiara in his hand and the sculpture on the right depicts a warrier and is to symbolise the emperor.
Centre stage on the top of the gable sits a puto bearing a golden sword in the right hand and the Teutonic Knights coat of arms in the left hand.
Augustusburg Palace was built on the foundations of the former water castle and, to safe cost, even the remnants of the old brickwork, as far as it could safely be used was integrated into the new building.
On the one hand the cos saving was an important factor and on the other hand it helped much to reduce work time. The downside of this scheme was that using the old foundations did not help much to create a symmetricaly accurate building, on the contrary. It is hard to dectect at first glance but when looking closely one will finally find out that has anothre column of windows to the left, or in other words each floor has nine windows, though, a symmetricaly accurate baroque building should have had either eight or ten windows on each floor.
The principal idea of baroque is, as far as architecture is concerned, to create symmetry, an idea that is applied to nearly everything, to buildings, parks and gardens alike. It is symmetry that creates beautiful physical appearances and the looks, the appearance is what matters.
Looking at the southern wing of Augustusburg Palace one cannot fail to notice that the looks appears rather strange. Still the medium risalit lines up with the south-north line of sight which cuts through park, cascades, ponds, garden and the building itself. From that point of the symmetry is excellent. And admittedly, the architect did his best to work with existing structures. When trying to capture the view on camera one will immediatly notice what is wrong with the sight.
However, especially the southern wing illustrates why Augustusburg Palace is a complete work of art because no one piece stands for itself; and still every piece of art we see is itself an extraordinary masterpiece.
The ground floor of the south wing is home to the Prince Elect's sommer flat which directly opens to the terrace which provides an unique view over gardens, park and surrounding landscape. Also the glance is automatically guided into the baroque line of sight, meaning one is directly looking into the park and through it into the horizon.
One can say that the south wing is the beginning and the end of a complete piece of art, which can only ever be understood by those standing down in the terrace garden or at the beginning of the cascades. The cascade ends in a large pond in the middle of the garden with the building being mirrored in the pond's water. The observer, when standing in the middle of the garden is surrounded by rows of meticulously cut trees, cascades, flowerbeds, fountin bassins and the magnificent view of the south wing. Looking at this palace complex one is tempted to say that Augustusburg Palace is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, of architectural art.
Not only shows the south wing a diverse programme of sculptures and ornaments but also expresses the special interest of Clemens August I. The south wing opens to a terrace overviewing the garden parterre and the surrounding garden and park complexes. The medium risalit of the south wing impresses the observer with six pilasters bearing Corinthian capitals, which bear architrave, moulding and gable.
The first pilaster (from the left) is followed by a window, then a double pilaster follows, after that are following two windows, again a double pilaster and finally another window and the pilaster on the right. On the first floor there is a balcony with wrought-iron railing across the width of the risalit, the railing shows hunting-related ornaments.
All capitals on the pilasters are decked with hunting symbols. The most important elements are two central frieses on the second and third floor. These two frieses are a complete composition of hunting symbolic.
The upper fries shows two puti with wings busying themselves with hunting. One puto bears a falconry gauntlet on the right hand and a falcon on the left hand. The lower fries shows feathered kill, bags, pompons and a downward pointing falconry gauntlet, with another pompon below. Ultimately the fries points to the railing ornament on the balcony depicting a stag's head. The context of the single elements becomes clear when looking at it from afar.
Prince Elect Clemens August I. shows the love of his live, hunting, represented as masterpieces of art. He dedicated himself to falconry, clearly expressed in the frieses of the medium risalit. Diversity are trumps, none of the ornaments appears more than once.
The western wing also is also equipped with a risalit, even though the western side lacks the exuberance of the southern wing. Though, even here we notice the abundance of puti on the gable fries which, as usual, busy themselves with something. The central element is a clock, carried by an angel. The fries also depicts a cock and a heron.
Puti are grouped on both sides of the clock. One puto carries a fasces, another one tools a third puto bears a torch.
The orangery is directly connected to the south wing continuous in straight line towards the former outbildings of the palace and to the oratory which in turn opens up to the palace chapel. Whereas the chapel already existed before the oratory was added by Clemens August when the former Franciscan church was transformed into a baroque palace chapel. The oratory was, apart from its religious use also necessary as the direct entrance into the chapel.
Although the first planning by architect Johann Conrad Schlaun foresaw the southern wing for servants, guests and kitchen, the later and much grander planning by Francoise de Cuvilliés dedicated the southern wing for the private use of Clemens August, which led to the erection of outbildings to the west of the coprs de logis. Through the oratory the outbildings are directly connected to the orangery and finally to the palace.
Please find some images of the orangery below:
Obviously baroque and puti are a symbiose made in heaven. What are puti or what do we have to imagine when thinking of puti? Puti are not only a stylistic medium they are the little children in art.
Puti (plural) or puto as singular, are little child figures always well fed, rather knobly who are always busy with something. They do have to do something and they also work on or with something when sleeping. We meet puti as craftsman, musicians as bacchants; puti carry something or simply hold on to something.
The thing is that puti always enjoy their task whatever that might be. At times they appear more serious but even then puti enjoy their tasks. They lack the human seriousness which we all know too well from our daily chores, our lifes. Puti are the children that never come of age.
Puti are depicted with wings, like angels but mostly without wings. They radiate some sort of divine aura maybe they are devine, at least in the perception of the art world. How else one could explain their ease of being.
Indeed, the archetype of the puti is the eternally young god which makes us looking back into antique mythology. We find what we are looking for in Greek mythology where it is Eros who usually is depicted as child and also later in Roman mythology where it is Amor or Cupido the Roman god and personification of love.
Love is inherent to angel puti. They are small spirits and the difference to the christian flocks of angels is easily obliterated when puti are the helpful beings or sidekicks to the real angels, at least in art.
We find puti in abundance around Augustusburg Palace and especially the three great facades, at the west, the east and the south.
We already reflected on the gable fries of the east wing, though, with regard to the coats of arms. Now we consider the puti in that fries. All puti are busy holding coats of arms. As we know Clemens August was also known as the Master of the five offices and the puti actually carry the coats of arms of the five dieceses where Clemens August was archbishop which are from left to right: Osnabrück, Paderborn, Köln, Hildesheim and Muenster.
As could be expected the puti are enjoy their task and also look rather cocky. On the fries of the south wing, again, there are puti being little aids at hunting game. The ease of being, the puti demonstrate while hunting appears to provide some heavenly features to the scene.
The puti in the frontispiece of the western gable are too full joy and bliss while going about their work, even if it is only bearing a torch, fasces or an owl, thereby demonstrating the features of the lord of the palace and also highlighting his power and influence.
As is the case with the palace the garden belongs to the most important garden complexes of its kind in Germany. A two-winged staircase leads downwards from the terrace to the gardens. A wide way cuts straight through the middle of the flower beds leading directly to the pond.
This pond marks the end of the cascade which comes down from the height of the park in the south. There are fountains in all ponds / bassins.
The baroque line of sight cuts straight through the middle of the garden and goes far into the woods and to the horizon.