Heidelberg Palace

Each year, Heidelberg Palace attracts around a million visitors from all over the world. Since the early 19th century, these impressive ruins have been synonymous with Romanticism.

It would be hard to imagine a more striking location: set against the deep green forests on the north flank of Königstuhl hill, the red sandstone ruins tower majestically over the Neckar valley. From its lofty position, the palace’s silhouette dominates the old town centre of Heidelberg.
The rich and eventful history of Heidelberg Palace began when the counts palatine of the Rhine, – later prince electors – established their residence at Heidelberg. First mentioned in 1225, this was destined to become one of the grandest palaces of the Renaissance.

Heidelberg Palace, the façade of Friedrichsbau

The ancestors of the palatine prince electors look down from the façade of Friedrichsbau.

Architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance

Until the Thirty Years’ War, Heidelberg Palace boasted one of the most notable ensembles of buildings in the Holy Roman Empire. In brisk succession, the prince electors commissioned a series of imposing constructions: Gläserner Saalbau, Ottheinrichsbau, Friedrichsbau and Englischer Bau. Each one is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Their magnificent façades create a resplendent frame for the courtyard.

Heidelberg Palace

Heidelberg Palace.

The ravages of war and the forces of nature

In the late 17th century, the palace was repeatedly attacked and ultimately destroyed by the French in the War of the Grand Alliance. These catastrophic events are commemorated in a spectacular fireworks display, held several times each year. In 1764, after some makeshift repairs, the battered palace was heavily damaged again: this time by the forces of Nature, in the form of two devastating lightning strikes. The once-proud residence caught fire – and was left in ruins.

The palace and garden – myths and legends

The 19th century brought a new wave of admiration: a sight both terrible and beautiful, the ruins epitomised the spirit of the Romantic movement. Heidelberg Palace was elevated to a national monument. The imposing edifice and its famous garden, the Hortus Palatinus, became shrouded in myth. The garden, the last work commissioned by the prince electors, was never completed. Some remaining landscaped terraces and other vestiges hint at the awe-inspiring scale of this ambitious project. In the 17th century, it was celebrated as the “eighth wonder of the world”. While time has taken its toll, Heidelberg Palace’s fame lives on to this day.

In the 19 th century: Friedrichsbau with plasterwork ceilings as well as wooden and sandstone portals and archways

In the 19 th century: Friedrichsbau with plasterwork ceilings as well as wooden and sandstone portals and archways.

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