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The oldest ecclesiastical Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Bruchsal Palace

View of Bruchsal Palace from the garden side. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende
A turning point

Destruction and

reconstruction

In World War II more than 80% of Bruchsal was destroyed, including much of the palace. To this day, its reconstruction is considered an extraordinary accomplishment. The reconstruction of the bel étage to its condition as it stood from the 18th century to its destruction in 1945, completed in 2017, was a crowning achievement.

Photograph of the central building of Bruchsal Palace after its destruction in an air raid in 1945. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

The palace after the destruction in 1945.

The destruction

The train station and the tracks close to the palace were bombed several times at the end of World War II. On March 1, 1945, two months before the end of the war, an air raid destroyed more than 80% of the city and much of the palace. The wooden ceilings with frescoes and stucco burned, but the substance of the walls and staircases remained largely intact. The most valuable pieces of furnishing had been moved to safe storage in time.

Ruins of the guard gatehouse of Bruchsal Palace after its destruction in an air raid in 1945. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

The former guard gatehouse after the destruction.

First measures

After the end of the war, the first task was to create emergency lodging. In 1946, work began on rebuilding the outbuildings to serve as offices and apartments. For a long time, the ruins of the palace's central buildings remained unprotected. It was more than a year before it received an emergency roof. The consequence: rain and frost had damaged the complex. Due to a danger of collapse, a portion of the remaining wall was completely demolished. Thus, the palace suffered further losses after the destruction.

Marble Hall in Bruchsal Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Christoph Hermann

The restored Marble Hall.

The challenge of the interior

In the 1950s, the Chamber Music Hall, the church tower, and the shell of the palace's central building were recreated. The next step was the interior, which posed the greatest challenge. The wall and ceiling decorations were reconstructed in the most important rooms along the central axis. The Domed Hall, Royal Hall, and Marble Hall were given their colorful frescoes and gilded stucco once again.

Restoration work on the facade in 1974. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Artur Hassler
Restoration work on the Domed Hall in 1961. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Artur Hassler

Painters and stucco artists during the reconstruction of the decorations.

Historical photography of the ceiling painting in the Marble Hall of Bruchsal Palace, circa 1870. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Georg Maria Eckert

The work was based on old photographs.

Help from historical photographs

A stroke of luck: Hundreds of photographs of the palace taken between 1870 and 1945 had been preserved, some even in color. They served as a pattern for the reconstruction of the ceiling frescoes. Instead of the apartments that once stood alongside the ceremonial halls on the second story, modern, open exhibition rooms were created for the Badisches Landesmuseum. In 1975, the palace was reopened. The reconstruction of the frescoes on the ground floor, the exterior areas, and the garden took until 1996.

Bruchsal Palace, bel étage, enfilade. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Dirk Altenkirch

Reconstructed enfilade in the bel étage.

Open again since 2017: the bel étage

More than 1,000 square meters were reverted back to the old layout of the bel étage. Modern technology was also installed to meet modern needs for heating, light, and air conditioning. The former prince-bishops' apartment was then furnished according to old inventory lists and photographs. Furniture, paintings, tapestries: more than 350 works of art from the bel étage were stored elsewhere during World War II. They were carefully restored before once again being displayed in the bel étage.

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