View of Heidelberg Palace with the old bridge in the foreground

A representative residence in the Electoral PalatinateThe castle andthe garden

Heidelberg Castle is probably the world's most famous ruins. This castle ruin of red sandstone from the Neckar valley sits high above the valley floor, on the steep northern slope of the Königstuhl hill, surrounded by green forest. Its silhouette dominates views of Heidelberg's historic district.

Painting of Heidelberg Castle with the Hortus Palatinus, Jacques Fouquières, oil on canvas, 1620

Heidelberg Castle and garden.

The proud residence of prince-electors of the Palatinate

In the 13th century, the counts of the Palatinate along the Rhine river, and later the electoral-princes above Heidelberg, erected their first Heidelberg residence. Over the centuries, the fortified medieval castle became a representative castle. Today, Heidelberg Castle, with its Renaissance castles, is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Germany. A high point of this Electoral Palatinate architecture was the addition of the famous "Hortus Palatinus" castle garden in the early 17th century.

Heidelberg Castle, view of the powder tower

The demolished powder tower.

Destruction through war and natural disasters

In the 17th century, the Palatinate was entangled in both the Thirty Years' War and the Nine Years' War. French troops blasted the massive walls in several attacks. The prince-electors lost interest in the extremely damaged castle in the 18th century and moved their residence to Mannheim. The provisionally repaired castle buildings fell visibly into ruin and were burned out in two lightning strikes in 1764.

Lithograph of Heidelberg Castle, by Deroy based on a drawing by Bachelier, 1844

Atmospheric ambiance as inspiration.

Heidelberg Castle: a symbol for Romanticism

For travelers, painters and poets, the picturesque remnants of Heidelberg Castle on the Neckar river epitomized Romantic ruins around 1800. They immortalized the atmospheric monument in poems, songs and pictures. An awareness of the need to preserve this historic castle ruins slowly grew. The French count, Charles de Graimberg, who was living in exile in Germany, played an important role in is preservation. 

The Friedrich’s Wing at Heidelberg Palace

The restored Friedrich’s Wing.

Reconstruction of the ruins as a fairytale castle ?

Around 1900, a "monumental dispute" arose: Experts heatedly discussed the possible reconstruction of Heidelberg Castle. The idea of a stately castle, destroyed and awakened from a deep sleep to rediscover its former glory was much in the taste of the period. But historic preservation representatives finally prevailed. It was decided that the castle would be "preserved" as a ruin. Only the Friedrich’s Wing was completed in the Historicism style and refurnished.

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