Castle of Theatre Duke Georg II. of Sachsen-Meiningen based upon Romantic ideas of a fairytale castle, emerged in 1875 from the remodeling of an important medieval and early modern fortress
Greetings from Heldburg Castle “where it’s wonderfully quiet” were sent by Baroness von Heldburg to her brother Reinhart in summer 1891. At that time her first stay at this castle where the arts were appreciated and which her husband, Duke Georg II of Sachsen-Meiningen, had converted and furnished as his refugium and favourite residence, was already 13 years ago.
Between the Jungfern wing, which is part of the core of the castle, and the French wing designed by Nikolaus Gromann there are traces of earlier buildings from the 12th and 13th centuries. Nonetheless, it was thanks to the Renaissance architect Gromann who was in Saxon service that the medieval castle was converted into a prestigious architectural ensemble of outstanding art-historical significance.
Instead of pulling down the existing buildings and erecting a typical new palace consisting of four wings, he integrated what was there already and renovated and complemented it. A clear facade structure, light colours and the sandstone oriels with rich iconographic programmes all contribute to the fact that the enormous massiveness of the French wing with its nine axes is not being perceived as such.
After this building had been completed in 1564 it took 300 years before another building sponsor with determination appeared.
This was Duke Georg II. Inspired by the enthusiasm of the 19th century for medieval castles he was responsible for only a few though rather drastic alterations to the outer appearance of the castle: the Jungfern wing lost its half-timbering to look medieval once again, towers were heightened and the keep with its battlements received a conical broach roof dominating the silhouette from afar.
The same duke of Meiningen was even more interested in changing the interior of the French wing. The piano nobile, the Great Hall and the chambers were made more comfortable. That visitors today can hardly see any of these alterations is due to a major fire in April 1982. The fire brigade prevented worse things to happen; nonetheless the attractive French wing became an open ruin and the furnishings were completely destroyed by the flames. Immediately after the German reunification the reconstruction and repair of the ruin began.
By taking over this property, which characterises the surrounding countryside, the Trust has fulfilled the last will of Duke Georg II, namely that “this castle may be preserved into the distant future and that for the benefit of the town of Heldburg and its surroundings it may be an attraction for visitors from afar...” 25.000 visitors each year prove that Heldburg Castle, the “Franconian lantern”, which used to lie in the border zone, is now a great attraction. After the renovation of the castle, the German castle museum opened in September 2016.