Salomon de Caus

A genius for royal employmentSalomon de Caus

Salomon de Caus (1576–1626) was an architect and engineer from Normandy. Extensive travels and commissions took him all across Europe. He created his first garden art in Brussels, the progression of which later made him famous in Heidelberg.

Prince-Elector Friedrich V commissioned Salomon de Caus with creating the garden.

Why did de Caus leave London?

In 1610, Salomon de Caus was commissioned by heir to the English throne, Henry Stuart, to improve the water supply in the royal gardens. However, Henry Stuart died young just two years later. Prince-Elector Friedrich V had married Henry's sister, Elizabeth, in 1613 and wanted to provide his sophisticated wife a suitable home. Thus, Salomon de Caus found a new, enthusiastic employer. In 1614, the prince-elector hired de Caus to create an elaborate garden in Heidelberg.

Painting of the Hortus Palatinus at Heidelberg Castle, by Theodor Verhas, circa 1860

The Hortus Palatinus by Salomon de Caus.

A marvel for the Palatine court?

Salomon de Caus was tasked with creating a true marvel on the steep eastern slope of Heidelberg Castle. He designed a system of nested terraces of varying heights. Sophisticated staircases connect them. The varied terrace designs were ingenious, with groves, beds, garden alcoves and grottoes.

Fixture for two dolphins and the Galatea sculpture, drawing by Salomon de Caus

Fixture for the Galatea sculpture.

Was de Caus a genius inventor?

Salomon de Caus enthusiastically dedicated himself to constructing machines that would run on solar, wind or hydro-power. This included, for example, the invention of mechanical musical instruments. Statuary in the grottoes that seemed to move by an invisible hand, or a seemingly lifeless wooden bird that could chirp, were some of his creations. Such surprising effects were intended to entertain the court with something novel. 

What remains of the famous Hortus Palatinus?

De Caus' great artistic achievements in Heidelberg Castle's garden are now only vaguely comprehensible. It is also unclear how many of his plans were actually implemented. The terraces and staircases have survived. Some water features, such as "Father Rhine," still spurt today. Foundation walls and truncated columns from garden alcoves were able to be protected. A comprehensive copper engraving shows the planned garden decor including musical automatons, sculptures, water features and grottoes.

Design by Salomon de Caus for the Hortus Palatinus with pillared fountain
Design by Salomon de Caus for fountain figures
Design by Salomon de Caus for the orange grove

Salomon de Caus' garden designs have been preserved.

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