Rastatt: A Baroque Town and its Palaces

Rastatt Travel Blog

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Rastatt palace, ramp to the front yard

Before 1700, Rastatt was no more than a small village of farmers and winemakers. In 1700 the Margrave of Baden-Baden chose the place as his new residence and started building the palace and a new town. The baroque plan still forms the appearance of the town.

Rastatt is one of those baroque residence towns that were planned and built „on the green meadow“ by an absolutist Prince. These new residences consist of a palace with the garden or park on one side and the town on the other, all based on one geometrical master plan, which is still visible in town today. The old town and the palace were not much affected by World War II, most of the architecture is still original.

The baroque town plan

Rastatt was designed after the model of Versailles around 1700. Note the three radial streets that meet in front of the palace - this is the same structure as in the town plan of Versailles. So this is truly a „mini Versailles“.

Rastatt Palace

The palace with its fully furnitured state rooms is the town's main attraction. Rastatt Palace is the oldest baroque residence on the Upper Rhine. built from 1700 to 1707. Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden, the so-called „Türkenlouis“ (Turkish Louis) because he gained fame as a general in the late 17th century wars against the Turks, founded the new residence town in 1700. Since his old residence Baden-Baden had been destroyed by French troups, he decided to build a new residence on a flat terrain in the Rhine plain instead of rebuilding the hilltop palace in Baden-Baden.

Rastatt palace, festival hall
The plan of palace, garden and town is based on the model of Versailles and was designed by the Italian architect Domenico Egidio Rossi. That's how fashion goes - despite the fact that the French king Louis XIV. was the enemy who had the country devastated, his court and his architecture were taken as a model.

The palace gardens extend north of the palace. They have been redesigned to give an impression of their baroque appearance. The wrought-iron gates are preserved. To be honest, though, these are not the finest baroque gardens in the country...

There is, however, more to a prince's residence than just the main palace. At least one, often more summer palaces, maisons de plaisance and hunting lodges belong to it, as well as parks, churches and the town. In the case of Rastatt, the summer palace in the countryside, named Favorite, is as well preserved as the main residence.

Rastatt palace, gardens
Both are at least in parts originally decorated and furnitured. Then there is the tiny Pagodenburg, the Margravine's tea house on a terrace above the river Murg.

Palace Church of the Holy Cross

Rastatt's finest, most interesting and most valuable church has to be classified as Off the beaten path because it is hardly ever open to visitors. The delicate interior is in need of restoration and is thus shut away. I once had the chance to see it during a convention of art historians that took place in the palace. Apologies for the bad quality of the interior photos - it was rather dark inside and flash was forbidden altogether, only extensive photoshopping made details at least visible.

Margravine Sibylla Augusta, who had the church built, was both a lively baroque princess and a devoted catholic.

Palace chapel, ceiling fresco
From time to time she withdraw from the court for a while to undergo repentance and prayer. Her palace church, which also became her burial place, was directly connected to her living quarters.

The church was designed by court architect Johann Michael Ludwig Rohrer and built in 1720-1723. The most precious materials were used for all parts of the interior. A private chapel for sacred relics and a Scala Sancta, a sacred staircase according to the model in Rome, are connected with it. The ceiling fresco of the church depicts the legend of the Finding of the Cross by Empress Helena in the 4th century - pious Sibylla Augusta had herself portrayed as Saint Helena.

The original interior is completely preserved, including the embroidered tapestries still in situ on the walls and pillars.

Rastatt town hall
Restoration works are in progress or at least in planning, as far as I know. Let’s hope that this baroque jewel will some day be accessible to visitors.

Market Square, Parish Church and Town Hall

The centre of the town is the rectangular market square (Marktplatz) between the town hall and the church. The town hall closes the western end of the market square, opposite of the parish church. It was built by Johann Michael Ludwig Rohrer and Johann Peter Ernst Rohrer in 1750. The gable bears the coat of arms of the town, the golden Weinleiter or locally Raste, a frame that was used to carry the grape buckets during the wine harvest. The town's name is said to derive from the word Raste, but this may be a rumour that originates in younger times.

Rastatt Christmas market Glühwein cup. Even the palace looks very drunk on it...

The town's catholic parish church of St Alexander closes the eastern side of the rectangular market square. The baroque church was already planned and begun during the first planning process of palace and town in 1701/1702 but construction works were not continued until around 1740. The present church was finally completed in 1756-1765. The original interior is preserved. The church is open in the daytime.

Rastatt's Christmas market takes place here in Marktplatz in the heart of the town, between the catholic parish church and the town hall. It is not big but the atmosphere in the baroque square is cosy. The Glühwein is good, and we got excellent grilled sausages, thin, crispy and 1/2 m long. If you like hot and spicy food, try the Feuerwurst, if not, stick to Rostbratwurst.

Pagodenburg and water tower
Glühwein is cheaper than in Karlsruhe! The Christmas market opens before the first Advent weekend and closes on the fourth Advent Sunday.

Pagodenburg and Maria-Einsiedeln Chapel

The tiny little palace is located on a terrace above the river Murg. It was built in 1722-1724 outside the boundaries of the town. The architect Johann Michael Ludwig Rohrer designed it as a tea-house for Margravine Sibylla Augusta. It follows the model of the Pagodenburg in the park of Nymphenburg palace in Munich. Not much of it resembles a Chinese pagoda except the curved roof, but it was meant to be a building in Chinese, or better Chinoise, style. It is surrounded by a baroque garden on two levels. Together with the adjacent Einsiedeln chapel it makes a fine ensemble.

Maria Einsiedeln chapel

No, the huge yellow tower is not part of the palace... The water tower was erected in 1901. The concave roof adapts the form of the neighbouring Pagodenburg.

The pilgrimage chapel of Maria Einsiedeln next to Pagodenburg is a few years older. Sibylla Augusta had it built in 1715. It was designed, also by her court architect Rohrer, after the model of the chapel of mercy in Einsiedeln/Switzerland.

The interior of neither chapel nor Pagodenburg is open to visitors but the ensemble is nevertheless worth a visit.

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Rastatt palace, ramp to the front …
Rastatt palace, ramp to the front…
The baroque town plan
The baroque town plan
Rastatt palace, festival hall
Rastatt palace, festival hall
Rastatt palace, gardens
Rastatt palace, gardens
Palace chapel, ceiling fresco
Palace chapel, ceiling fresco
Rastatt town hall
Rastatt town hall
Rastatt Christmas market Glühwein…
Rastatt Christmas market Glühwei…
Pagodenburg and water tower
Pagodenburg and water tower
Maria Einsiedeln chapel
Maria Einsiedeln chapel
Rastatt palace
Rastatt palace
Rastatt palace, front yard
Rastatt palace, front yard
Rastatt palace, front yard
Rastatt palace, front yard
Rastatt palace
Rastatt palace
Jupiter statue on top of the palac…
Jupiter statue on top of the pala…
Rastatt palace: Detail of the faca…
Rastatt palace: Detail of the fac…
Rastatt palace, front yard
Rastatt palace, front yard
Rastatt palace, garden side
Rastatt palace, garden side
Gate into the palace gardens
Gate into the palace gardens
Palace gardens, winter impression
Palace gardens, winter impression
Rastatt palace, original Jupiter s…
Rastatt palace, original Jupiter …
Assembling for the special tour in…
Assembling for the special tour i…
Demonstration of baroque court dan…
Demonstration of baroque court da…
Palace chapel
Palace chapel
Portal of the palace chapel
Portal of the palace chapel
Palace chapel
Palace chapel
Russell the Wombat enjoys a Glühw…
Russell the Wombat enjoys a Glüh…
Sibylla Augusta depicted as Saint …
Sibylla Augusta depicted as Saint…
The central street towards the pal…
The central street towards the pa…
Pagodenburg and water tower
Pagodenburg and water tower
Market square and catholic church
Market square and catholic church
Catholic church
Catholic church
Catholic church, interior
Catholic church, interior
Rastatt Christmas market
Rastatt Christmas market
Rastatt Christmas market
Rastatt Christmas market
Rastatt Christmas market
Rastatt Christmas market
Stairway to Pagodenburg
Stairway to Pagodenburg
Pagodenburg
Pagodenburg
Baroque gardens around Pagodenburg
Baroque gardens around Pagodenburg
Pagodenburg
Pagodenburg
Maria Einsiedeln chapel
Maria Einsiedeln chapel
The ensemble: Maria Einsiedeln cha…
The ensemble: Maria Einsiedeln ch…
The ensemble: Maria Einsiedeln cha…
The ensemble: Maria Einsiedeln ch…
Murg river in Rastatt
Murg river in Rastatt
Rastatt Sights & Attractions review
Rastatt Palace: Information for Visitors
Visitors can see the state apartments of the Margrave and Margravine on the Beletage (principle floor) of the palace. These magnificent rooms are full… read entire review
Rastatt
photo by: Kathrin_E