Portrait of Prince-Bishop Damian Hugo by Johann Zick, circa 1750, in the Royal Hall of Bruchsal Palace

A spiritual builderDamian Hugovon Schönborn

Damian Hugo von Schönborn (1676–1743) was the 76th Prince-Bishop of Speyer whose rule began in 1719. Though the builder of Bruchsal Palace came from a wealthy and powerful noble family with many branches, he was quite thrifty.

Coat of arms relief circa 1720/30 for Damian Hugo von Schönborn

The Damian Hugo's family coat of arms.

Why didn't he have a residence in Speyer?

The cathedral and bishop's palace in Speyer were destroyed in 1689 during the Nine Years' War. What's more, Speyer was a free Protestant Imperial City, and its relationship with the prince-bishops was poor. Schönborn's predecessors lived in Udenheim, now called Phillipsburg, or in Mainz and Trier, where they also sometimes ruled. Indeed, Schönborn wanted to rebuild the palace in Speyer, but "the quarrelsome people of Speyer" were opposed. Bruchsal thus became the new residential city.

Bruchsal Palace, Dome Hall, Details

Schönborn as builder of Bruchsal Palace.

Why are the Schönborns so famous?

The Schönborns were one of the most important families in the Holy Roman Empire. They were from a noble, though not high noble, ruling house, and secured their influence through important spiritual offices. As prince-bishops of Würzburg, Bamberg, Speyer, Mainz, and Trier, they had seats and influence in the Diet. The Schönborns also attained status and lasting fame through their magnificent palaces, gardens, and art collections. For many construction projects, they recommended architects and artists to each other.

Portrait of Balthasar Neumann, second half of the 18th century

Balthasar Neumann, architect.

How did Damian Hugo's thriftiness express itself?

Damian Hugo was thriftier than many of his relatives, particularly as his land had been destroyed by war. For important designs, he "borrowed" important architects such as Maximilian von Welsch, who created the first master plan, or Balthasar Neumann, from other Schönborns. Construction and detailed planning on site was handled by local workers. Despite this, the palace has a very uniform design, which can be traced back to its knowledgeable builder. As he wrote in 1731, Damian Hugo made the construction of the palace his "life's work."

Portrait of Margravine Sibylla Augusta, circa 1744

Margravine Sibylla Augusta von Baden-Baden.

What support did he receive from Sibylla Augusta?

The Catholic Margraviate of Baden-Baden, ruled by Sibylla Augusta from 1707 to 1727, was part of the bishopric led by Schönborn as the spiritual ruler. The margravine was pious, well-informed, and loved to build. The two met often and exchanged ideas about the decor of their palaces through letters. Sibylla Augusta also provided craftsmen for his palace. In Bruchsal, both financially supported the seminary for priests. They were close confidants—no less, but also no more.

Porcelain in the hall of mirrors of Rastatt Favorite Palace

Margravine Sibylla Augusta furnished her palace—the precious Favorite Pleasure Palace near Rastatt—at the same time as Schönborn.

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