The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Rastatt Residential Palace

Retable for a side altar in Rastatt Palace Church. Image: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Baden-Württemberg, Bernd Hausner
A DEVOUT MARGRAVINE

THE CATHOLIC

Whether Baden or Sachsen-Lauenburg, Ludwig Wilhelm's and Sibylla Augusta's families followed the Catholic faith. Pilgrimages, adoration of the Virgin Mary and church foundations came with the territory; during the Counter-Reformation, being Catholic was also a political statement.

Interior view of Rastatt Palace Church. Image: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Baden-Württemberg, Bernd Hausner

Rastatt Palace Church.

CATHOLIC SOVEREIGNS

Catholic or Protestant? Most royal houses changed their confession at any given time based on what was most advantageous. The houses of Baden-Baden and Sachsen-Lauenburg converted to Catholicism in the mid-17th century. In times of religious and political conflict, this was how they demonstrated their loyalty to the imperial house. Pilgrimages and adoration of the Virgin Mary were a tradition in both families, but Sibylla Augusta's Bohemian homeland had an especially strong influence on her.

Exterior of the Einsiedeln Chapel in Rastatt. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The Einsiedeln Chapel in Rastatt, built between 1715 and 1717.

PILGRIMAGES

Sibylla Augusta also prayed for the health and survival of her family at various Marian pilgrimages, for example to Waghäusel, Triberg and Maria Bickesheim (now Durmersheim). She visited the Chapel of St. Mary in Einsiedeln, Switzerland eight times. But were her trips fruitful? In 1708, while in Einsiedeln, the previously mute heir to the throne, Ludwig Georg, finally began to speak. Out of gratitude, Sibylla Augusta built the pilgrimage site in her native Schlackenwerth (now Ostrov). In 1715, she built the Einsiedeln Chapel.

Pendant with portrait of Ludwig Georg, a gift of supplication. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Pendant with portrait of Sibylla Augusta, a gift of supplication. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Sibylla Augusta left behind votive pendants with portraits of herself and Ludwig Georg in the Einsiedeln Chapel.

Interior of the hermitage with the altar depicting the Tomb of Jesus. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Altar with the Tomb of Jesus in the hermitage at Favorite Palace.

SIBYLLA AUGUSTA'S SACRED SITES

Between 1717 and 1723, Sibylla Augusta built several chapels in Rastatt, representing the sacred sites from the life of Jesus. In the cellar of the Einsiedeln Chapel, she installed a simplified replica of the Grotto of the Nativity. The no longer-standing Loretto Chapel represented Mary's home, the Place of Annunciation, the Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel symbolized the site of the Deposition of the Cross. The palace church contained the Holy Stairs from the praetorium of Pontius Pilate and the Favorite Palace hermitage held the Tomb of Jesus.

STRICT JESUIT INFLUENCE

The Jesuits temporarily had a strong influence over Sibylla Augusta. In 1717, a public penitents' procession took place in Rastatt under her leadership. The penitents, which included the margravine, wore crowns of thorns and flagellated themselves. Around 1720, according to one of her contemporaries, Sibylla Augusta had paintings which the Jesuits considered too "naked and provocative" burned. Works by important artists like Dürer, Cranach and Rubens were lost. Actions like these were public confessions of the Catholic faith in accordance with the Counter-Reformation.

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