Anyone who visits Bad Homburg Palace and its park takes a quick run through the centuries. In the palace district of today’s spa town in front of the Taunus Mountains in central Hesse, different layers of time come together sharply and stimulatingly. The architectural complex combines the White Tower, a remnant of the medieval "Hohenburg" and now the town's landmark, with an early Baroque palace as well as some later additions by Prussian kings and German emperors. The two-tiered palace garden has also grown over 300 years, its beginnings going back even further. The State Palaces and Gardens of Hesse have their headquarters at this place of concentrated history.
The Castle Becomes a Palace
Hesse-Homburg was a dwarf state in the Holy Roman Empire and the German Confederation. Only after the wars against Napoleon was it to gain full sovereignty in 1815. Frederick II (1633-1708) had provided a respectable seat of government by demolishing the old castle with the exception of the keep. From 1679 to 1686, master builder Paul Andrich built him a massive but sober barracks-like early Baroque palace (including a church and a burial chamber), which is adorned with pictorial portals. From one of them the builder of the “Friedrichsburg” bursts out on horseback as a fully sculptured figure. The landgrave eventually ran out of money and his successors chronically lacked it, so that the buildings do not enclose the upper of two courtyards. The gap has since offered all visitors magnificent views of nature.
Garden Art of Several Eras
The glorious and war-wounded Frederick, whom the poet Heinrich von Kleist declared the “Hero of Fehrbellin” in “Prince Frederick of Homburg” after a battle site of 1675, is essentially responsible for the architectural heritage. On the other hand, the landgravial couple Frederick V (1748-1820) and Caroline (1746-1821) and their daughter-in-law Elizabeth (1770-1840), who was born as a British royal daughter, rendered outstanding services to the art of gardening. The palace park, with its Baroque structures and orangery, was redesigned in the English garden style and a unique landscape was added: gardens and wooded areas were laid out in a straight line along a north-western axis covering 360 hectares and more than ten kilometres. The Landgravial Garden Landscape, which has already been partially reconstructed today, was a total work of art and combined philosophical ideals, aesthetics and usability. Due to numerous changes and interventions, its former dimensions can only be guessed at. Nevertheless, its design, which is still visible today, is unique in Germany and had a formative influence on the city of Bad Homburg. The horticultural heritage of the landgraves of Hesse-Homburg was included in the European Garden Heritage Network (EGHN) in 2022 in order to become much more visible nationally and internationally than before.
Widow’s Residence and Imperial Rooms
In ephemeral contrast, two sections in different wings of the palace present themselves as immortal time capsules: the widow’s residence of the English landgravine “Eliza” with Biedermeier furnishings and Classicist interior art from the first quarter of the 19th century. The centrepiece and biggest tourist attraction are the Imperial-era flats, which were particularly influential on the last German Emperor William II (1859-1941) and his wife. They are the only largely authentically furnished private and representative rooms of the Hohenzollern rulers still preserved in the Federal Republic. This place of historical remembrance in the German museum landscape also includes a piece of reconstructed garden culture as it was in the days of the emperor: Carpet beds in the upper palace park.