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Truly romantic: the world-famous ruins

Heidelberg Palace

Blick auf Schloss Heidelberg mit der Alten Brücke im Vordergrund; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Günther Bayerl
A representative residence in the Electoral Palatinate

The palace and

the garden

Heidelberg Palace is probably the world's most famous ruins. This palace 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 Palace with the Hortus Palatinus, Jacques Fouquières, oil on canvas, 1620. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Lutz Hecker

Heidelberg Palace 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 palace. Today, Heidelberg Palace, with its Renaissance palaces, 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" palace garden in the early 17th century.

View of the powder tower at Heidelberg Palace; view of the powder tower at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende

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 palace in the 18th century and moved their residence to Mannheim. The provisionally repaired palace buildings fell visibly into ruin and were burned out in two lightning strikes in 1764.

Lithograph of Heidelberg Palace, by Deroy based on a drawing by Bachelier, 1844. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Atmospheric ambiance as inspiration.

Heidelberg Palace: a symbol for Romanticism

For travelers, painters and poets, the picturesque remnants of Heidelberg Palace 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 palace 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 Building at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende

The restored Friedrich Building.

Reconstruction of the ruins as a fairytale palace?

Around 1900, a "monumental dispute" arose: Experts heatedly discussed the possible reconstruction of Heidelberg Palace. The idea of a stately palace, 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 palace would be "preserved" as a ruin. Only the Friedrich Building was completed in the Historicism style and refurnished.

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