Truly romantic: the world-famous ruins

Heidelberg Palace

Besucher vor dem Ottheinrichsbau; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Niels Schubert
Construction period: a proud 300 years

History of design

Almost every prince-elector added a structure of a different style to Heidelberg Palace. In the 16th century, the medieval castle was expanded into a representative Renaissance palace. These structures are some of the best examples of German Renaissance architecture. A reconstruction was attempted in the 19th century.

Model hall in the Ruprecht Building at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Ribbed vault in the Ruprecht Building.

Gothic

Secular Gothic structures generally demonstrate their stateliness through monumentality and defensibility, contrary to the delicate Gothic church structures. This is also the case with the Ruprecht Building, the oldest residential palace at Heidelberg Palace. Only its interior, with ribbed vaults and keystones, gives any indication of its status as a palace. A graceful oriel in the library hints at the elegance of Heidelberg's court life in the Late Middle Ages.

Arcades along the Hall of Glass at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Arcades along the Hall of Glass.

Renaissance

The arcades along the 1549 Hall of Glass are typical of Early Renaissance palace structures in southern Germany. The Ottheinrich Building, on which construction began in 1556, is a famous Renaissance masterpiece and is considered an ideal German Renaissance palace. The facade is stunningly decorated. Pediments, pillars and sculptures of figures from antiquity demonstrate that the architect was familiar with the great Italian archetypes, while also incorporating the current Dutch decorative fashions. The elaborate decor was a reference to the sophisticated builder, Prince-Elector Ottheinrich.

Prince-Elector Friedrich IV, head of a sandstone sculpture, Sebastian Götz, circa 1650. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Renaissance sandstone sculpture.

Late Renaissance

The Friedrich Building was constructed between 1601 and 1607 under Prince-Elector Friedrich IV. Decorative figures and adornments are typical of this period and more opulent and vivid than on the Ottheinrich Building. In 1612, Prince-Elector Friedrich V began construction on the last palace structure: the English Building. The clean design is based on work by the Italian architect, Andrea Palladio. The front of the English Building is oriented toward the town. 

Der Englische Bau von Schloss Heidelberg; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Ursula Wetzel
Der Friedrichsbau von Schloss Heidelberg; Foto: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Eberhardt Späth

The English Building, with its austere, unadorned design, next to the more sculpturally decorated Friedrich Building.

Room in the Friedrich Building at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Historic room in the Friedrich Building.

Historicism

Historic preservation began in the late 19th century, protecting and preserving ruins. As of the mid-19th century, however, Historicism also entered the scene. Structures were built in a historic style: rebuilt ruins or invented entire structures based on old designs. Both of these are present at Heidelberg Palace. The Friedrich Building is a prominent example. Reconstructed in 1900 in a style imagined to be true to the original. Its interior was decorated in the Renaissance Revival style, with elaborate wooden door jambs, precious scagliola floors, fanciful stucco, and frescoes.

TIPP

Which architectural style is used today? When visiting Heidelberg Palace, visitors enter through the new visitor center, which opened in 2012. See for yourself how contemporary architecture was blended with the dignified palace complex. 

The Visitor Center

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Stylistic eras

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