Darmstadt Princely Crypt
Beneath the choir of the Protestant Darmstadt City Church lies the resting place of the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt. In addition to the 17 coffins, the two vessels with the hearts of two princes who died far from home, as well as the epitaph for Landgrave Louis V, the founder of the University of Giessen, are remarkable.
George I (1547-1596), the first Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, initiated the construction of the princely crypt under the choir of the city church. This probably was as early as around 1576, after his first-born son, Philip William, had died when he was barely five months old. The crypt initially consisted of an elongated room with an unadorned barrel vault under the northern choir wall.
A few years later, a second vault was added, extending across the entire width of the choir. George‘s second son and successor Landgrave Louis V (1577-1626) had both chambers decorated with originally coloured and gilded stucco in 1615.
The Ornamentation Tells the Christian Story of Salvation
The pictorial programme of the ceilings tells the Christian story of salvation: The front vault depicts the Entombment and Resurrection of Christ, the rear vault the Ascension and the Last Judgement. The landgravial family is also included in this scene: On the right below the judging Christ, Landgrave Louis V looks up to him as the chosen one, framed by the head of his father, Landgrave George I, and that of his wife, Landgravine Magdalene of Brandenburg.
The walls of the tombs are decorated with symbolic figures of faith and peace, as well as angels with trumpets. Louis’s brother, Landgrave Philip III of Hesse-Butzbach, was inspired by this for the design of his crypt under St Mark’s Church in Butzbach.
Louis V regarded the crypt not only as a burial place, but also as a place of memento mori for the family. This explains why he had it connected to the palace by an underground passage and commissioned an epitaph of alabaster and Rhenish marble for himself and his family.
On plaques praising his life and work in Latin, he stages himself as the founder of the “Hohe Schule in Gießen” (today: Justus Liebig University Giessen) and as the guardian of the Lutheran faith.
Two Hearts Are Also Buried in the Tomb
Today there are 17 coffins in the princely crypt, which can be reached via a stone staircase under a trapdoor set into the floor of the choir. Seven of the eight former reigning landgraves and seven landgravine ladies of Darmstadt lie in them. In addition, a son of Landgrave George I and a son of Louis V found their final resting place here, as well as a Braunschweig princess who died in Darmstadt in 1610.
A special feature are the two metal capsules hanging from the ceiling of the front vault: They contain the hearts of Princes George and Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, who died near Barcelona and in Vienna respectively.
In the vicinity
Prince George Garden DarmstadtMuseum on siteMeetings & celebrations possible
Frankenstein CastleGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possible
Lichtenberg CastleMuseum on siteMeetings & celebrations possible
Auerbach CastleEventsGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possibleGastronomy on site