The Schwerin Castle was for centuries the residence of the Mecklenburg dukes and grand dukes and is now the seat of the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern . The building, located on the Schlossinsel in the city center of Schwerin , is the most famous and most magnificent of the more than two thousand castles and mansions in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and is considered one of the most important examples of Romantic Historicism in Europe. Together with the former ducal castles of Güstrow , Ludwigslust and Neustrelitz it is one of the main residences in Mecklenburg.
The castle is a building that has grown historically in a millennial process. Its ring-shaped shape goes back to a rampart of a Slavic castle , which was built in 941/42 or shortly thereafter on a small island near the shore in Lake Schwerin . The redesign phases of this building complex over the centuries are comprehensively documented from around 1500 by a wealth of written and visual evidence.
Today's palace was created through extensive renovation and new construction of the old palace between 1845 and 1857 according to plans by four important architects: Georg Adolf Demmler , Gottfried Semper , Friedrich August Stüler and Ernst Friedrich Zwirner . French Renaissance castles, among others, served as models for the predominantly neo-renaissance architecture . Various details are inspired by the Chambord Castle on the Loire . But regional Mecklenburg motifs such as the Johann Albrecht style also played a major role.
Because of its romantic appearance and the comparable magnetic effect for visitors, Schwerin Castle is also known as the “ Neuschwanstein of the North”, “ Cinderella Castle” and “Fairytale Castle”. As part of the Schwerin Residence Ensemble - Cultural Landscape of Romantic Historicism, it is a German candidate for UNESCO World Heritage .
History of the Schwerin Castle
The construction of the island with a castle complex began in winter 941/942 or shortly afterwards. A castle wall of around 45 m was built on a massive wooden grate. However, within only 20 years it became dilapidated and overturned inwards, including the outer facade. In 963/965 or shortly afterwards a new, stronger one was built over the collapsed first wall.
Ibrahim Ibn Jakub , a merchant from Arab Andalusia , who traveled from Magdeburg to Weligrad Castle ( Mecklenburg Castle ) in 965, reported on a castle that was apparently still under construction near the shore of a freshwater lake in records from 973 about his journey to the Slavic region east of the Lower Elbe . His description of the island castle probably means the Obotritische border castle on today's castle island. The existence of such a complex was substantiated by excavations of parts of the old Slavic castle ramparts in 1987. During excavations in the courtyard of the castle in 2014, remains of the first castle building, apparently mentioned by Ibrahim Ibn Jakub, were found, which initially suggests a smaller castle complex than initially assumed. The datable timbers examined in the scientific laboratories of the German Archaeological Institute using dendrochronology could be dated to those years of construction - 962, 964, 965 and 974. Apparently the size of the present-day castle was only reached by a fortified rampart built later.
In the year 1160, in connection with the eastward expansion efforts of German feudal lords, the Schwerin Castle was the target of a campaign of conquest led by Henry the Lion (1129–1195). The Obotritischen defenders under the Wende prince Niklot destroyed it and left it in the face of the hostile superiority. But the German conquerors also recognized the excellent strategic location and rebuilt a fortress. The city of Schwerin was founded in the same year. It gained special importance through the establishment of a bishopric within its walls. In 1167 Heinrich the Lion enfeoffed his vassal Gunzelin von Hagen with formerly obotritic territories from Niklot's son Pribislaw .
In 1358 the county came into the possession of Duke Albrecht II , a descendant of King Niklots, through purchase . Albrecht II moved the residence from Wismar to the inland Schwerin Castle Island. When, in the late Gothic period, the princely seats were adapted to the increased living demands and the growing need for representation and the building of the castle type came about, this development was also reflected in the building activity on Schwerin Castle Island. Of the buildings erected at that time, the so-called bishop's house still stands on the lake side
Early modern age
However , it did not receive its facade decoration made of red terracotta panels until the New Long House adjoining to the north was redesigned from 1553 to 1555 under Duke Johann Albrecht I (1525–1576). Both buildings are real castle buildings, because in favor of a design that meets the highest living standards, any consideration of any defensive functions has been omitted. The use of terracottas in building sculpture was dominant in Germany during the Renaissance period , particularly in the North German architecture of the brick Renaissance , for example at the Fürstenhof in Wismar and at Gadebusch Castle . The material was supplied by the workshop of the master Statius von Düren from Lübeck (mentioned 1551–1566). A few years later, Duke Johann Albrecht I arranged for the palace chapel to be rebuilt . This first Protestant church building in Mecklenburg was added at right angles to the New Long House under master builder Christoph Haubitz (mentioned 1549–1587). From 1560 to 1563, the chapel room was a rectangular plan and galleries on the longitudinal and narrow sides along the lines of just a few years ago built the castle chapel in Torgau and Dresden . The sandstone portal on the courtyard side with the relief of the carrying of the cross in the gable field, in the form of the Venetian early Renaissance , comes from the workshop of the Dresden sculptor Hans Walther (1526–1586). Alabaster reliefs with biblical representations are embedded in the window niches of the northern gallery. Five of them were created by the Dutchman Willem van den Broeck (1530–1580), known as Paludanus, who was well known in his day . Schwerin owns a rare treasure with the "Exaltation of the Bronze Snake" signed by him. Since the castle needed additional defenses despite its island location , the bastions in the northwest, southeast and west were built around the middle of the 16th century, probably by those Italian fortress builders who worked under Francesco a Bornau in Dömitz , which were later changed several times were, but have survived to this day.
Before the outbreak of the Thirty Years War , the builder Gerhart Evert Pilooth († 1629), who entered Mecklenburg service in 1612 , worked out plans for a completely new construction of the Schwerin Palace in the form of a Dutch-influenced Renaissance. In fact, work began under his leadership in 1617, but it soon had to be stopped due to the war. According to Piloot's plans, between 1635 and 1643 the house above the castle kitchen and the house above the castle church were extended and facades were given in the style of the Dutch Renaissance .
Remodeling between 1700 and 1850
In the 18th century, a half-timbered building for the ducal painting collection was built in front of the west side of the chapel wing, and the tea pavilion on the north-eastern bastion, for whose outside staircase the sculptor Johann Christoph Lücke (1703–1780) created four putti in 1742. In 1764, under the government of Duke Friedrich the Pious , the court left Schwerin and moved to the newly emerging Ludwigslust Palace .
When the residence was moved back to Schwerin in 1835, the castle buildings were in a poor structural condition. In addition, the individual buildings from different stylistic epochs and the farm buildings assigned to them did not correspond to the sovereign's ideas of his future residence. The Grand Duke Paul Friedrich I (1800–1842) therefore decided to have a new palace built in the Old Garden , on the site of today's museum. The construction, which began according to plans by the court architect Georg Adolf Demmler (1804–1886), was discontinued after a few months because the successor to the Grand Duke, who suddenly died in 1842, the only 19-year-old Friedrich Franz II (1823–1883), refrained from the new building and decided on a profound redesign of the historical complex on the castle island.
According to the Grand Duke, this renovation should initially extend to the entire complex. Later, at Demmler's instigation, the decision was made to preserve the four historic castle buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries on the lake side. Another requirement of the client was the creation of a representative entrance front in the axis of the Schloßstraße (Schwerin) , which has already been significantly upgraded by several new buildings and which leads from the city to the castle . Demmler was not enthusiastic about the task of redesigning the castle in an older style. His related designs in the Windsor Castle style and in the style of Pilooth were also inadequate and were rejected. Therefore, the Dresden architect Gottfried Semper (1803–1879) was commissioned in 1843 with a competing design, which received the highest praise, but was not accepted. At the same time, Demmler made a new design. After a long study trip, including to France, Demmler made a final draft with the inclusion of ideas from Hermann Willebrand, who was accompanying him , which contained elements of Semper's proposals, but represented an independent concept. In his basic stance he was clearly oriented towards French Renaissance castles, especially Chambord Castle .
Demmler was in charge of the palace construction, including the construction of the new palace bridge, from the beginning of the demolition work in 1843 to the beginning of 1851. During this time, the builder also tried to alleviate social hardship for the many workers employed in the palace building by establishing an accident and health insurance scheme, and several times he campaigned for fair wages for employees.
1850 to 1990
After Demmler's dismissal from the Mecklenburg civil service in 1851, the Berlin master builder Stüler took over the management of the palace. He changed the design of his predecessor decisively on the city-side front by enriching the facade with plastic elements and the large Niklot equestrian statue. To top it off, he put a monumental ornate dome in place of the lantern that Demmler had intended. He secured the collaboration of Heinrich Strack (1805–1880) from Berlin on some interior design designs . Schwerin and Berlin workshops supplied most of the plastic jewelry and interior fittings. Particularly noteworthy sculptors are: Christian Genschow , Gustav Willgohs , Heinrich Petters and Georg Wiese , Albert Wolff also provided designs .
The festive inauguration of the castle took place on May 26, 1857. The composer Friedrich von Flotow (1821–1883) created his opera Johann Albrecht based on a libretto by Eduard Hobein especially for this occasion . Those involved in the construction were honored with the castle medal.
On the night of December 14th to 15th, 1913, a devastating fire of unknown cause destroyed about a third of the building. The castle lake wing burned to the ground, the south-facing castle garden wing on its upper floors. The magnificent Golden Hall and the richly designed main staircase were completely destroyed. The latter was replaced in 1926–1931 by the red marble staircase based on a design by Paul Ehmig .
When the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin abdicated in 1918 as a result of the events of the November Revolution, the external restoration of the palace was only complete. In 1919 the castle became the property of the state, from 1921 historical rooms were made accessible to the public as museums : castle museum , farm museum , hygiene museum , exhibition of the archaeological collection. There was also a radio studio and various offices. In the time of National Socialism, a kindergarten of the NS-Volkswohlfahrt also moved in . Towards the end of the Second World War a hospital was set up in the castle. After the war, the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD) occupied the building. The plenary hall with the corresponding adjoining rooms for the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was built in 1948 according to designs by the architect Friedrich Schmidt, in 1972 a ballroom in the style of the time was set up in the area of the former Golden Hall. From 1952 to 1981 a pedagogical school used most of the castle to train kindergarten teachers. The Museum of Prehistory and Early History was established in the Burgseeflügel until 1993. A polytechnic museum existed in the orangery from 1961 to 1994 . In 1974, when the restoration of valuable interiors began, the Schwerin Palace was reused as an art museum .
With the fall of the Wall in the GDR, extensive work on the castle renovation began again. At the end of 1989 about 25 companies from Kiel and the surrounding area founded a development association that supported immediate measures with 500,000 DM to stop the historical building from falling into disrepair. In April 1990 the first delivery of urgently needed materials and equipment for building projects on the castle arrived from Raisdorf in Schleswig-Holstein .
The Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state parliament has had its seat in Schwerin Castle since autumn 1990 . The part used as a museum belongs to the Schwerin State Museum . In the area of the former 283 m² Golden Hall in the palace garden wing, later the GDR ballroom, the new plenary hall of the state parliament has been under construction since January 2014 . A total of 26 million euros is estimated to be invested in the palace garden wing, of which seven million will go to the plenary hall itself. The renovation according to the plans of the architectural office Dannheimer & Joos was finally completed in September 2017 following the election of the Landtag in autumn 2016 .
Large parts of the palace park were redesigned or restored for the 2009 Federal Garden Show . In 2007 the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania decided to apply for the title of UNESCO World Heritage ; In 2010 the city of Schwerin and the state government also committed to support this project. In June 2012, the application for inclusion on the German list of proposals under the title “Schwerin Residence Ensemble - Cultural Landscape of Romantic Historicism” was submitted to the Conference of Ministers of Education . The application was confirmed on June 12, 2014; Schwerin Castle is thus one of nine new candidates in Germany for the UNESCO World Heritage List .
Schwerin Castle at night (bank view from the Burgsee )
The Schwerin Castle is surrounded by various, representatively designed gardens. These were reconstructed or newly laid out for the Federal Horticultural Show in 2009 .
The palace garden stretches from the Schweriner and Burgsee lakes in the north to the Faulen See in the south. Centrally located is the cross canal in a line of sight to the castle. In the greenhouse garden, once designed by Peter Joseph Lenné in the style of an English landscape park , horticultural art from several centuries was shown at BUGA 2009. The theme of grave design and memorials, a hedge garden and a children's playground based on historical models were also on offer.
The castle garden is located directly on the castle island, which is connected to the old town and the castle garden by two bridges. The design was based on the status of 1857. The central focus was the orangery of the castle. In addition, elements of English landscape gardens, Italian terrace gardens in the Renaissance style and rose gardens were on display.
21st century garden
The garden of the 21st century comprised the area around the Burgsee and was the entrance and reception area of the Federal Horticultural Show. The lake was widened from April to August 2007 by dredging in a southerly direction. The main attraction was a seemingly "floating meadow" due to its location between a lake and a ditch and the rectangular shape with the straight bank edges. This is connected by a bridge to the square on the bank, which is geometrically planted with robinia .
On the south bank of the lake there is also a tram turning loop set up especially for the garden show, service facilities and a pillared hall.
Schwerin Castle as a place of action
The castle served as a film set in several film productions. For example, the castle u. a. in the DEFA film adaptation of the fairy tale Die Gänsehirtin am Brunnen from 1979 as a backdrop. In the 2017 film Kingsman: The Golden Circle , the castle was used as a film set. In the film, the castle served as the seat of the Swedish royal couple, the parents of Princess Tilde, played by Hanna Alström .
Template for manga
The graphic artist Jennifer "Nashi" Hess trained in Schwerin draws mangas in which Schwerin Castle plays a central role. Schwerin is the location of the action in the manga "Sometimes she's the light", in which June Sommer, a 14-year-old girl with blonde hair and a beautiful dress, stands in front of the state capital's castle. Readers of the manga are said to have only visited Schwerin because of the sight of the castle in Hess' Manga. Jennifer Hess claims to have 120,000 followers on Facebook.
Castle spirit "Weever"
The fictional character weever is the ghost of the Schwerin Castle. Several legends handed down over generations deal with him. At today's events, people disguised as weever appear as a kind of mascot. A weever sculpture by the Schwerin sculptor Heinrich Petters is located in the courtyard facade of the palace.
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