Truly romantic: the world-famous ruins

Heidelberg Palace

Salomon de Caus; Foto: Wikimedia commons, gemeinfrei
A genius for royal employment

Salomon 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 as the King of Bohemia in a painting by Gerard van Honthorst, circa 1620

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 Schloss Heidelberg, by Theodor Verhas, circa 1860. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

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 Palace. 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. Image: Wikipedia, public

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 Palace'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.

Entwurf von Salomon de Caus für den Hortus Palatinus mit Säulenbrunnen, Foto: Medienzentrum Heidelberg
Entwurf von Salomon de Caus für Brunnenfiguren, Foto: Medienzentrum Heidelberg
Entwurf von Salomon de Caus für das Pomeranzenfeld, Foto: Medienzentrum Heidelberg

Salomon de Caus' garden designs have been preserved.

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