ancestral seat, hunting lodge and summer residence of the counts of Schwarzburg; Baroque palace situated on a narrow mountain ridge in the Schwarza valley where it dominates the surrounding countryside, ruins of the Baroque main palace and of the arsenal from the late Middle Ages, Baroque garden parterre with emperor’s hall building (orangery)
Schwarzburg Palace rises on a mountain spur high above the romantic Schwarza valley. Built on the grounds of an early medieval castle, which can still be seen from the enclosing walls, the arsenal and from remains of the ditches, the complex marks the ancestral seat of one of the oldest and most powerful dynasties in Thuringia. Noblemen calling themselves “Schwarzburger” after the town of the same name in the Schwarza valley are mentioned in chronicles dating back to as early as the 8th/9th centuries.
From the 15th century the castle was no longer as important; instead Arnstadt, Rudolstadt and Sondershausen now served as residential seats. Fires in 1595 and 1726 reduced the castle complex to rubble. The only buildings spared were those of the former orangery, later changed into an ensemble of pavilions for courtly ceremonies and official functions when the noble family was raised to the rank of Reichsfürsten. In the year of the fire of 1726 work began on rebuilding the castle ruin as a hunting lodge, which was largely completed by 1744.
About 200 years later the palace so rich in history was meant to be converted into a “Reichsgästeheim” (guesthouse of the Third Reich). By the time this project was stopped in 1942 due to the war gatehouse, church, part of the palace’s main wing and major parts of the interior furnishing of the main building had been demolished. With the aim of a possible use in the long term the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia (owner since 1994) is systematically stabilising what has been left of the baroque main building with its 17 axes, its central projection with portal consisting of a double row of columns, and its stuccoed ceilings on the upper floor.
The most prominent and best preserved building of Schwarzburg Palace is the former orangery, now museum, with the Emperor’s hall and a parterre in front of it. The highlight of this two-storeyed summer and pleasure house, as it is described in documents, is the Emperor’s hall. Visitors find themselves in an unusual picture gallery bathed in fascinating light coming from a square-shaped lantern on top of the hall. Even if some of the 48 life-sized paintings of medieval emperors and kings are now missing, the remaining portraits together with the 100 emperor medallions and the stucco and picture programme on the ceiling can still convey the outstanding character of this hall.
A plan of the park from 1744 was also referred to when an area of 5000 square metres in front of the Emperor’s hall building needed to be redesigned some years ago. Lawns and a fountain, a mini-orangery as reminder of the erstwhile function of such a building and a “tree hall” invite visitors to linger and wander round.
In the armory of Schloss Schwarzburg was kept for centuries the royal armory. Meanwhile, the building has been renovated. The weapons brought to Rudolstadt in 1940 will be presented again at the historic site by May 2018.