Seat of Count Gotter, prestigious residential palace from the 18th century, conversion of a former moated castle into a Baroque country seat, four-wing palace complex with rich sculptural decorations on the south facade, Baroque interior decorations and landscape park
Approximately ten kilometres south-west of the Thuringian capital of Erfurt and near the Erfurt motorway intersection (A 4 / A 71) Molsdorf Palace is located in a valley of a landscape park of about eight hectares. As a conversion of a moated castle of the 16th century – as can still be gathered from the fortified character of the north facade flanked by towers – it owes its present appearance largely to Imperial Count Gustav Adolf von Gotter (1692-1762).
This sophisticated aristocrat, diplomat and rake enjoyed the special favour of Duke Friedrich II of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg in whose service he was. He was held in high regard by the German Emperor, the Prussian King, the Russian Tsar and many princes from whom he received various titles and decorations. In his early forties, while Gotter was at the peak of his career and fame, he discovered the knight’s estate of Molsdorf which to him became the place on earth he liked best, as is described in an inscription on the north portal: “Hicce terrarum praeter omnes angelus ridet”.
For the conversion of the castle into a summer residence he was able to commission the Landbaumeister Gottfried Heinrich Krohne (1703-56) from the court of Weimar. For the interior furnishings and decorations he also decided in favour of acknowledged masters – for instance the well-known Johann Baptist Pedrozzi (1710-78) for the stucco work. Gotter completed a contract with the gardener Johann Jacob Hartmann for the upkeep of the existing pleasure gardens, including orangeries, and the laying-out of new gardens based on his ideas.
The palace and park of Molsdorf remained in his possession for 15 years. The fact that he had to sell this cheerful and festive property although he earned well, received the odd financial support from various princes and was a successful gambler, probably had to do with Gotter’s extravagant lifestyle. While the fabric of the palace was then already in a poor condition, the situation worsened over the next generations. Changing uses, especially as an accommodation for resettlers after World War Two and as a children’s home, contributed to the decline. Therefore, at the beginning of the 1950s there were serious plans to demolish the building.
“I have seen many summer residences of German princes, but no other compares to this one – possibly the smallest of all – in the refined taste of all the decorations.” More than 200 years ago the enlightened poet Leopold Friedrich Günther Goeckingk (1748-1828) sang these praises of Molsdorf Palace. In fact, to this day visitors are impressed by this ensemble, especially by the two-storeyed, scenery-like south wing with its central projection, designed by G. H. Krohne as an attractive main facade facing the park.
Only interrupted by sculptural decorations the entire facade is accentuated by rows of French windows. These windows symbolise as it were what has characterised this building since Gotter’s time and has made it attractive to this day: the deliberately arranged harmony of interior and exterior, of man and nature. True to Gotter’s motto “vive la joie”, which can be read four times in the building’s banqueting hall with its oak panelling reaching up to the ceiling, each room in the palace radiates cheerfulness.
As is appropriate for a Lustschloss this one too has some surprises. For instance a hidden spiral staircase leading directly from the count’s bedroom to the wine cellar and also to the outside. Gotter’s meals were famous. Apart from very rare dishes some rather strange ones were also offered.
Written records describe that often dishes were served which were filled with watches, rings, chains and other jewellery. Guests were allowed to pick a souvenir from these dishes. In this irregular four-wing complex dating from the baroque, the upper storey of which is used as a museum while the ground floor serves as a café, the latest attraction is the marble bathroom from around 1910. Commissioned by the owner of the palace at that time, Countess of Gneisenau, the bathroom received its name from the green veined wall covering of Jurassic limestone. Opposite the bathtub is a sofa with a golden and floral wooden frame. On each side of the sofa a golden lattice gate with Art Nouveau elements is fitted into the wall, while the room itself is designed in the neo-classical style.
The renovation of this small masterpiece of interior decoration, which is part of the tour of the museum, was carried out after this property had been taken over by the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia in 1998. Shortly after this change of ownership a lapidarium was set up on the east side of the palace. The sculptures shown there date from the baroque period of the palace gardens.
They give visitors an idea of the once great number of allegorical sculptures and decorative vases in the park, which was changed into a landscape park around 1825. The rough stone wall surrounding the park, avenues inviting visitors to wander round, a canal system, wrought-iron gates, plants in tubs as well as sculptures also shown outside the lapidarium all contribute to making a visit to the palace and park of Molsdorf an impressive experience.