The oldest ecclesiastical Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Bruchsal Palace

Bruchsal Palace, staircase; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele
One of the main works of Balthasar Neumann

The staircase

The famous Bruchsal Palace staircase came about out of necessity: Prince-Bishop Schönborn's independent actions led to a tricky situation. No one could come up with a solution – apart from the famous master builder Balthasar Neumann.

Bruchsal Palace, entrance hall; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Two staircases lead around the grotto up to the bel étage.

Unique architecture

Set on an oval base, the two flights of stairs wind upwards allowing a view down onto the grotto. As the staircase rises higher, light floods through side light-wells and from above. The top of the staircase is impressive: a large, painted cupola crowns the oval space and also connects the two ballrooms, the Princes' Hall and the Marble Hall, like a bridge. The grotto, staircase and domed hall thus form a creative unity set in a unique constellation!

Bruchsal Palace, entrance hall; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

An architectonic problem: the servants' floor.

How did the design come about?

The main construction began in 1725 according to plans by Anselm Franz von Ritter zu Groenesteyn: the ground floor, the bel étageas the representative main floor and a lower second floor followed standard plans. But Schönborn felt that it wasn't enough for his most important employees and his dressing rooms. In Ritter zu Groenesteyns's absence, in 1726 he ordered a mezzanine to be inserted between the ground floor and the main floor – which caused the problem.

Bruchsal Palace, Domed Hall, photograph around 1870; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

Neumann created an oval stage above his staircase.

The 'hole in the middle'

The planned staircase design no longer reached as far as the main floor - it needed to accommodate the extra height. Quite simply, it was an insurmountable problem: Groenesteyn’s proposals were not satisfactory from a design perspective. Construction continued to the left and to the right of the staircase, including a servant’s floor. Over the years, the “hole in the middle,” as Schönborn wrote, remained. Until he called one of the most famous master builders of the time to Bruchsal: Balthasar Neumann (1687–1753).

Bruchsal Palace, Domed Hall before the 2nd World War; photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Georg Maria Eckert

The Domed Hall before it was destroyed in the 2nd World War.

Baroque spatial art at its finest

In 1728, Neumann took on the highest construction management job in Bruchsal. In 1731, he further developed the previous staircase design to create one of the largest German Baroque spatial creations. By changing the slightly oval ground plan, Neumann was able to extend the length of the two staircases and thereby increase the attainable room height. Neumann's design remains one of the most imaginative Baroque staircases – and made Bruchsal Palace famous.