Bypass Repeated Content

The oldest ecclesiastical Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Bruchsal Palace

Dachspitze mit goldener Krone von Schloss Bruchsal; Foto: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Eberhard Späth
The end of the prince-bishopric

Secularization

in Bruchsal

In 1803, Bruchsal was a major site of secularization. Secular rulers received the holdings of monasteries and bishoprics. In the process, many small territories were dissolved. The prince-bishops of Speyer had to cede their territory to Baden. Baden came out ahead and became significantly larger.

Cast iron coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Baden, 19th century. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Baden.

New territories, but why?

In the Napoleonic Wars, Baden had lost some territory on the left side of the Rhine to France, but the Baden's ruler now received other, even larger territories. Ecclesiastical holdings were expropriated and distributed to secular rulers. Among other lands, Baden received those parts of the Bishopric of Speyer on the right side of the Rhine. In 1803, secularization was legitimized by the "German mediatization." In 1806, Baden became a grand duchy, though not a kingdom, as some had hoped.

Portrait of Grand Duke Karl Friedrich von Baden, circa 1790. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth

Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Baden circa 1790.

The end of spiritual rulers

For Prince-Bishop Wilderich von Walderdorff, the end came in Bruchsal in the fall of 1802. In a confidential letter, Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden announced the occupation of Bruchsal. Shortly thereafter, the military occupied those parts of the Bishopric of Speyer that lay to the right of the Rhine. The prince-bishop had left the palace. The land was now called the "Principality of Bruchsal." In the following weeks and months, many pieces of furniture, paintings, and valuable objects came to Karlsruhe or other palaces that belonged to the House of Baden.

Portrait of Prince-Bishop Wilderich von Walderdorff, circa 1800. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Prince-Bishop Wilderich von Walderdorff circa 1800.

Walderdorff, the last prince-bishop

"The last unhappy bishop and ruler of Speyer" was written under Wilderich von Walderdorff's will in 1810. With secularization, he was deposed as the sovereign. In six deaneries, he remained the spiritual leader, but with ever decreasing authority. However, Walderdorff received a pension of 200,000 guilders and the right to live in the Waghäusel Hermitage. In the winter, he was allowed to continue living in the southern state apartment, the guest apartment at Bruchsal Palace. In 1806, he lived next to Amalie von Baden, who had her dower house here and inhabited the northern apartment in summer.

Detail of the crown of the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1811. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The crown of the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1811.

Coronation insignia with old stones

The churches and monasteries in the newly acquired regions quickly became a financial burden for Baden. The art objects from these churches and monasteries were generally only prized in a material sense. Works by goldsmiths and silversmiths were melted down, and the jewels were used elsewhere. In 1811, new coronation insignia were created for Baden: crown, scepter, and sword. Stones and a blade from the prince-bishops of Speyer, silver from the cathedral treasure of Speyer, and jewels from Rastatt Palace church were used in their creation.