Augustusburg Palace (Schloss Augustusburg)
Schloss Augustusburg, the favourite palace residence of the prince-elector and archbishop of Cologne Clemens August of the House Wittelsbach (1700-1761), is one of the great masterpieces of rococo and the first important example of this style in Germany. The Schloss, together with the hunting lodge of Falkenlust and the park and garden grounds, which connect the two palaces, comprises the entire complex of an electoral residence which has been preserved with a completeness that is seldom encountered. The complex was recognized by UNESCO and added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1984.
Already by the 12th century, the Archbishop of Cologne had an established manor and game hunting grounds where the present-day palace complex stands. In the year 1284 the Archbishop Siegfried had a moated castle built as a stronghold against the city of Cologne, which was completed in 1298. The castle was fortified under Archbishop Walram. The castle stood until 1689, when it was destroyed by the French in the Palatinate War of Succession. It was on the ruins of this middle ages castle that Archbishop Clemens August ordered Schloss Augustusburg be built. In 1725 work began following plans by Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun. Since the new construction was ordered on the foundation of the old, the window axes of the side wings could not be symmetrically allocated, an atypical feature in baroque architecture.
Beginning in 1728 under François de Cuvilliés, Bavarian architect to the imperial court, Schloss Augustusburg was designed and decorated to stand as the preeminent residence of its time. Artists renowned across Europe worked on the Schloss up until its completion in 1768. Of particular note are Balthasar Neumann, who completed the design for the world-renowned staircase, and Carlo Carlone, who created the impressive ceiling frescos in the staircase and garden hall.
The baroque garden adjoining the southern wing of the Schloss was created in the French style by Domonique Girard from 1728. Thanks to proper restoration and care today, it is one of the most authentic18th century gardens found in Europe. Just off the baroque garden is a forest designed by Peter Joseph Lenné in 1840, following the example of English landscaped gardens. Also nearby is the unmissable so-called “secret garden” (“jardin secret”) found tucked under the Orangerie wing.
The hunting lodge Falkenlust was built from 1729 to 1737 by François de Cuvilliés for the then-popular pastime of falcon hunting. Similar to the Amalienburg in Munich, but nonetheless a true Cuvilliés creation, Falkenlust boasts a viewing platform on the roof from which the falcon hunt could be watched.
The palace complex today also includes the church of St Maria of the Angels (St. Maria von den Engeln, the “Schlosskirche”), consecrated in 1493, in which stands an exquisite high altarpiece by Balthasar Neumann. Before the church was remodelled as a palace chapel in 1735 and connected to the palace Orangerie via an oratorio, the church was part of the nearby community of Franciscan monasteries.
Schloss Augustusburg was badly damaged by the end of the Second World War. Nevertheless efforts to restore it to its previous splendour had already begun by 1946. Schloss Falkenlust, which had been privately owned since 1832, was purchased by North Rhine-Westphalia in 1960 and restored until 1974.
From 1949 to 1996, Schloss Augustusburg was in many decades used as an official representative palace by the state. Elaborate receptions were held by the president of Germany to greet foreign dignitaries here. Today, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the owner and steward of the grounds, ensuring that the world-renowned palace in Brühl will be conserved in perpetuity, and together with Schloss Falkenlust maintained as a museum open to the public.