Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Ludwigslust Palace – Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s very own Versailles

I'm delighted to welcome Julia Meister, who is your guide to Ludwigslust Palace – Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s very own Versailles


Ludwigslust Palace – Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s very own Versailles
Entering the gardens of Ludwigslust Palace is quite a magical experience: Lush green trees everywhere you look (if you are lucky enough to visit the palace in the spring or summer!), with a vast alley leading the way to one of the most beautiful palaces of North Germany. Add to that the clear air and the feeling of being quite alone in this lush landscape – Ludwigslust Palace is hardly ever overrun by tourists, and all the more worth visiting because of that! - , and you have more than enough reasons to visit this joyous (The –lust in Ludwigslust meaning as much as ‘joy’) place. Built originally as a hunting lodge for Prince Christian Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who was to become duke in 1747, it was eventually turned into a proper palace in the 1770s, once Ludwingslust had been named the capital of the German duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The palace features Baroque as well as Neoclassicist elements, and is unique due to the fact that it’s the only ensemble of a Baroque garden and palace in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern area: Hence it being referred to as its very own Versailles!

We may thank Christian Ludwig II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, for being able to enjoy the grandeur of this ensemble today, since he was the one who had seen Versailles with his own eyes during his Grand Tour of Europe, and desired nothing more than having his own version of Louis XIV’s lavish palace in Ludwigslust. Jean Laurent Legeay, architect to the Imperial Court, who drafted the architectural plans for the project. With the help of Johann Joachim Busch, they began to build an entire Baroque city to surround the castle, as well as a glorious chapel royal. Of course, this was no cheap endeavour, which is where the use of  papier-mâché comes into play: The so-called called Ludwigsluster Carton was used in various parts of the castle instead of expensive materials.  It seems to have worked for Ludwigslust Palace – just goes to show how easily people can be fooled and that clever businessmen existed back in the 18th Century as well! In the 19th Century, the park was remodeled by the famous Prussian gardener and landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné.

The palace is further embellished by the very romantic palace pond and various other artificial ponds, as well as a gorgeous water cascade that also provides the visitor with great photo opportunities and angles!  If one visits Ludwigslust, one really needs to schedule in a few hours dedicated to just exploring the park - there’s just so much to see! A Swiss cottage, two mausoleums (one was built for  Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, the other for Grand Duchess Elena of Russia, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg), an artificial ruin, and even a Gothic chapel! 

The inside of the palace is no less visually stunning: With the Eastern wing having recently been restored to its former glory, the Golden Hall, now and then used for classical concerts, can now finally be visited again (it is quite a sight, with its big chandeliers, the entire room being all golden and sparkly!). Obviously, the many portraits of Baroque ladies and gentlemen displayed throughout the castle are a feast for the eyes, too! The palace also contains a vast royal collection of clocks, as well as musical instruments, Baroque pieces of furniture and various busts of the royals that used to live here (and of their relatives, too!). An interesting figure to watch out for is Frederick Francis I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who inhabited Ludwigslust Palace with his family from 1785 until his death in 1837. His statue looms large in front of the palace. Two of his children converted to the Catholic faith (how scandalous!), and Frederick Francis himself founded the first German coastal resort in Heiligendamm (a place located at the coast of the Baltic Sea) in 1793. It was modeled on the then already very famous seaside resorts in the South of England.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also be interested in my musings about Mirow Castle. If you ever take a trip to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, I’d strongly suggest not to miss either Mirow Castle or Ludwigslust Palace – the pleasure will be all yours (see what I did there?)!

About the Author

Julia Meister is an 18th/19th Century enthusiast, and is especially interested in the social history of women. She has a vast knowledge of royal mistresses and is fascinated by their political power. Whilst she loves British and French history, her main passion is the Habsburg Empire: When on holiday, she can most likely be found visiting a castle in within the former Austro-Hungarian region that has once been inhabited by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Buda Castle, Gödöllő Palace and Vienna’s Hofburg are among her favourites). In 2016, Julia wrote and recorded the texts for Marienfließ Convent’s audioguide – the first female Cistercian convent in the Brandenburg area of Germany, founded in 1231. She is currently seeking new ways of indulging her passion for history and writing.

All content of this post copyright © Julia Meister, 2017.

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