The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Rastatt Residential Palace

Portrait of Margravine Sibylla Augusta. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
A STRONG WOMAN

THE "MOTHER OF HER STATE"

After Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm's death in 1707, Sibylla Augusta assumed the regency at barely 32 years of age. She ruled over the war-ravaged land for twenty years, bringing it back on its feet. Her contemporaries lauded her as a "clever and forceful sovereign."

Portrait of Margravine Sibylla Augusta as a widow. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Sibylla Augusta as a widow.

A DIFFICULT STARTING POSITION

January 1707: Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm was dead, Sibylla Augusta was regent. The War of the Spanish Succession raged. In May, French troops under Marshal Villars took Rastatt and demanded significant tributes. Sibylla Augusta left town and did not return until after the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714. The state had suffered under the 1622 occupation by Sweden during the Thirty Years' War, as well as the effects of the wars, and now needed to be rebuilt.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE MARGRAVIATE

The margraviate was ravaged, in debt and was waiting on war reparations from the emperor. But his coffers were also empty. However, in 1721, Sibylla Augusta managed to acquire from Emperor Karl VI 750,000 of the 2 million guilders to be paid. She donated personal funds and simultaneously decreased the royal household. She facilitated the reconstruction of the town and its economy, including its churches and schools. In 1715, she brought the Piarist order to Rastatt to provide free Catholic education.

Finding of the Cross by Empress Helena with the facial features of Sibylla Augusta, detail from the ceiling fresco in the palace church. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Sibylla Augusta depicted as St. Helena in the palace church.

NO TOLERANCE FOR OTHER FAITHS

Sibylla Augusta lived and acted strictly in accordance with the Catholic faith. From 1717 on, she was occasionally under Jesuit influence. In matters of religion, she became increasing intolerant. Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm had still granted his subjects religious freedom in an attempt to counteract depopulation. Sibylla Augusta, however, restricted Protestant freedoms and was even admonished by the emperor for doing so.

Außenansicht von Schloss Favorite Rastatt; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Schloss Favorite Rastatt.

SIBYLLA AUGUSTA'S LEGACY

By 1727, at the end of Sibylla Augusta's regency, the state had been financially rehabilitated and rebuilt. The margravine had expanded her residence with the Favorite Palace, the palace church and several chapels. The majority of these buildings are still in existence today and convey an authentic image of this unusual woman and her passion for collecting, her love of art and her piety. Even if she was an absolutist sovereign, Rastatt would not be what it is today without her.

Centerpiece of ivory and gold-plated silver, circa 1697. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Adi Bachinger
Butterfly from a stone inlay in the floor of the Florentine cabinet at Rastatt Favorite Palace, circa 1720. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Original table clock with ivory detail by Ignatius Elhafen, 1697. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth

Details of the former furnishings of her palaces are a demonstration of Margravine Sibylla Augusta's aesthetic sense.

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