The Augustusburg palace in Brühl between Cologne and Bonn is a masterpiece of the rococo style in Germany. A former royal residence, the palace with its baroque garden is a major draw for visitors coming to the area.
The Augustusburg palace in Brühl has a colorful history -- and garden
The site of the palace was originally that of a manor house founded by Archbishop Philipp von Heinsberg of Cologne in 1180. It was built as a seat of local power from which the local estates were managed.
The manor, which gradually grew to the status of castle, served as a residence for the Archbishops of Cologne for nearly five centuries until it was blown up by foreign troops in 1689 during a battle which almost completely destroyed the town of Brühl.
Within 50 years, however, the town had recovered and in 1725, Elector Clemens August ordered the palace Augustusburg to be built on the ruins of the castle.
Augustusburg in Brühl
At the time of August's death in 1761, the castle was still incomplete and the construction was taken over by his successor, Elector Max Friedrich von Königsegg. In 1769, the new Augustusburg palace was completed after more than 40 years of construction.
Napoleon lamented "lack of wheels"
The palace's colorful history was again molded by violence when the palace was taken by French troops in the aftermath of the French Revolution who pillaged all of its remaining furniture. When Napoleon Bonaparte saw the palace in 1804 he is supposed to have regretted the fact that it had no wheels. The emperor then gave it to his Marshal Davoust, whose neglect allowed Augustusburg to fall into disrepair and eventually dilapidation.
However, almost a decade later the palace came under Prussian ownership and the building was saved from collapse by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Renovation of the palace began in 1842 and it became a seat of power once more in 1876/77 when Emperor Wilhelm I took up residence while taking part in maneuvers in the nearby Eifel region.
Again, war was to shape the history of the palace when it was severely damaged during World War II. It suffered aerial bombardment in 1944 and an artillery barrage when allied troops advanced through Germany in 1945. Repairs began soon after the end of the war and the palace was eventually fully restored.
Palace honored by UNESCO's heritage trust
Augustusburg in winter
Today the rococo masterpiece stands out as one of the finest examples of the style still standing and the palace is regarded as one of the most significant architectural monuments in Germany. It has also been recognized by UNESCO's world cultural heritage program.
Despite all the destruction and neglect the palace has suffered in its history, one of its most famous and beautiful aspects remains as eye-catching as it was on its completion: the impressive Balthasar Neumann stairwell, a perfectly composed symphony of stucco and decorated columns, topped with an enormous ceiling fresco by Carlo Carlone.
Today the palace belongs to the government of North Rhine-Westphalia and has been used for official functions hosted by the German president. It also plays host to one of the areas most celebrated cultural festivals.
Music and art sit side by side at the seat of power
The Palace Concerts are an annual series presenting works by the world's best composers which take place every other weekend from May to July. The concerts feature a number of ensembles from Cologne, Düsseldorf and other cities in the Rhineland and explore the music of Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Telemann and others.
Want to go for a swim?
For those strolling in the area around the palace from September 2005 onwards a new attraction will be open which will compliment the palace's splendor. While the palace itself contains many works by the celebrated Brühl artist Max Ernst, a new museum featuring an extensive collection and exhibit marking Ernst's life opened on Saturday.