The story that Weilburg Palace and Palace Garden tell its visitors could almost be a fairytale: The young count of a dwarf state on the Lahn, John Ernest zu Nassau-Weilburg (1664-1719), arrives at the magnificent court of the French Sun King Louis XIV in Versailles on his cavalier tour – the educational trip for young men of noble status. Like all the guests, he is overwhelmed by the lavish architecture of the palace and the splendour of the huge park. It is here that his vision is born, the realisation of which he begins in 1702.
Through his services to the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and the Elector Palatine, John Ernest is financially well off and so he commissions his architect Julius Ludwig Rothweil to give the small residential town a major makeover. In the years to come, the medieval town, scarred by the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War, is transformed into a flourishing residential town. Since then, it has been referred to as a “pearl on the Lahn”.
Palace Expansion in the Spirit of the Baroque
The palace, situated on a high mountain spur, is the focus of all building activity. John Ernest’s predecessors had extended the 10th-century castle into a four-winged complex in the Renaissance style. Now the spirit of the Baroque is moving in. This epoch, between the late 16th century and around 1770, is characterised by a joyful and lustful display of splendour.
The richly furnished interiors of Weilburg Palace, which can be visited on a guided tour, bear witness to this. A special eye-catcher is certainly the huge black marble bathtub, which could be filled with running hot and cold water. While such baths in other castles were usually only used for representation and the court society otherwise preferred perfume and dry cloths for body cleansing, John Ernest used his bathtub regularly.
In the palace courtyard, the coats of arms above the portals provide information about the various builders and construction phases of the palace. In summer, the annual Weilburg Palace Concerts invite visitors to enjoy music under the evening sky.
The Palace Park Continues Architecture in Nature
In the Baroque period, the palace park, designed according to formal principles, was an essential part of the overall architectural concept. The more splendid it was, the greater the reputation of the sovereign – who thus not only showed that he ruled over the land and his subjects, but also governed nature. In the garden, court society indulged in elegant amusement with games, music, dancing and fine festivities.
Garden Art at the Highest Level
The Weilburg Palace Garden is divided into the Upper Garden and the Lower Garden, which in turn extends over three terraces with very different designs. These include two orangeries, where the valuable citrus plants used to overwinter, which no Baroque garden could be without. In the cold season they are still housed there. In summer, they are among the jewels of the elegant grounds, which give their visitors a sense of times long past.
A walk through the shady linden bosquet leads to the garden’s balustrade decorated with large green and gold vases. The south-facing terrace is also the roof of the Lower Orangery. To the right and left, large staircases lead down to the lower ground floor, where it is wonderful to stroll along the white paths and linger by the statues, fountain and sundial.