In 1700, a few years after construction had started on a hunting palace at Rastatt, Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden-Baden decided that it should be expanded. Envisioning a grand residence modelled on Versailles, he commissioned an Italian architect, Domenico Egidio Rossi, who had previously worked for the Viennese nobility. After the margrave’s early death in 1707, his young widow Sibylla Augusta took over the reins of government. During her 20 years in power, she oversaw the completion of the palace complex and its sumptuous interiors.
The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine Rastatt Residential Palace
Rastatt Residential Palace is the oldest Baroque residence in the Upper Rhine Valley. The palace, gardens and town were planned as a whole, to create an impression of elegant, perfectly-proportioned uniformity – with the palace commanding pride of place at the centre.
Rastatt Residential Palace is the epitome of a Baroque residence designed to display the might of an absolutist monarch: the visitor must first cross an expansive cour d’honneur, or grand courtyard, surrounded by an imposing three-wing complex. The roof of the main building, the corps de logis, is surmounted by a golden statue of Jupiter brandishing a thunderbolt. Decorated with plasterwork, the two staircases at the rear of the court d’honneur lead to the centrepiece of the extensive main building: the Festsaal (banqueting hall). On either side of the banqueting hall, overlooking the gardens, are the state rooms, which are lavishly embellished with plasterwork and frescoes.
Türkenlouis’ ancestral hall
The largest and most magnificent room is the Ahnensaal (ancestral hall). The many frescoes depict not only the margrave’s ancestors, but also a host of captured Ottomans – commemorating the margrave’s victories in the wars against the Ottoman Empire, which had also earned him the nickname Türkenlouis (Louis of the Turks – Louis being the French version of Ludwig). Rastatt Residential Palace offers fascinating insights into the portrayal of absolutist rulers and courtly pomp and circumstance.
The Baroque complex has withstood the test of time almost unscathed. Today, the palace gardens are open to the public, with a modern slant on Baroque garden design. The palace and gardens, the Military History Museum and the commemorative site for freedom movements in German history, which are both located in the palace, all make Rastatt Residential Palace well worth a visit.