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The oldest ecclesiastical Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Bruchsal Palace

Bruchsal Palace, detail. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Eva Kobelt
The prince-bishops of Speyer and their palace

Milestones

Four prince-bishops lived and resided in Bruchsal, but what does this office actually mean? What was the situation when the first prince-bishop entered office in Bruchsal in 1719, and where did the story go from there?

Prince-Bishop Franz Christoph von Hutten, portrait by Johann Zick, circa 1750, in the Royal Hall of Bruchsal Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

With miter and crown: Franz Christoph von Hutten.

Prince-bishopric and bishopric

In the Holy Roman Empire, a prince-bishop's power was two-fold: As a bishop, he was the spiritual ruler of his bishopric, and as a prince, he was the reigning sovereign and therefore also had political influence. The territory that the Prince-Bishop of Speyer ruled over was called a domain; however, it was significantly smaller than his bishopric. Some bishops held several offices. Damian Hugo von Schönborn, who also became Prince-Bishop of Constance in 1740, is one example.

Bruchsal Palace, main building, west side; Image: Dr. Manfred Schneider, Nußloch, www.manfred-schneider.de

The west side of the main building.

A century of war

The Bishopric of Speyer suffered under several wars, the last of which was the Nine Years' War between 1688 and 1697. The troops of King Louis XIV of France left a broad swath of destroyed cities in 1688/89. The bishop's palace and parts of the cathedral in Speyer burned down. Bruchsal too suffered from repeated plunder and destruction in the 17th century. Since 1689, the population had been severely decimated; a difficult starting position.

Better times for Bruchsal

Schönborn's decision to begin constructing his new residence in Bruchsal in 1722 resulted in an upswing for the city. But the wars didn't end. Almost every bishop had to leave the residential city for some years. The fourth bishop in Bruchsal was ultimately the last: Philipp Franz Wilderich von Walderdorff was deposed at the end of 1802, and with that, the era of spiritual rulers ended. Over the course of secularization and the reorganization of the region under the influence of Napoleon, his holdings fell to Baden.

Luftansicht von Schloss Bruchsal; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende

Aerial view of the palace complex in Bruchsal.

Portrait of Prince-Bishop Franz Christoph Hutten with Bruchsal Palace in the background, by Nicolas Treu, after 1761. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Prince-bishop Hutten, with the palace in the background.

Different personalities

The four prince-bishops were very different people: Schönborn was frugal, while Hutten spent freely; Limburg-Stirum was contentious, while his successor Walderdorff appear rather meek and was a broken man after the end of his rule. Amalie von Baden, in the palace since 1806, was status-conscious and hated the "upstart" Napoleon. The history of the palace was as changeable as the personalities of its inhabitants, something that still remains true today.

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