Summer residence of the older line of the House of Reuss, early neo-classical palace from 1769 with landscape park designed by Carl Eduard Petzold and Rudolph Reinecken in 1878, in the park exceptional features of dendrology and park architecture, such as the Pinetum and a lake
The east Thuringian town of Greiz, also called “pearl of the Vogtland”, used to stand for Thuringian sectionalism. At times there were the four Reuss residences of Obergreiz, Untergreiz, Dölau and Rothental in the area of today’s town, and the borders ran through the middle of the old town. Only after the Untergreiz line had died out in 1786 this separation was given up. The “Reuss road of princes” which touches Greiz is a reminder of this epoch as is the upper palace, first documented as a castle in 1225 and to become the town emblem.
The ensemble of buildings from different periods and in different styles, situated on a peak of about 50 metres height, was the starting point and also the visual point of reference for the property “Summer Palace and Park on the western outskirts of Greiz” before today’s summer palace was erected. Since 1994 this property has been owned by the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia.
Neither in the upper palace on the peak nor in the lower palace situated then on the outskirts but now in the centre there was sufficient space for the princely family to retreat from daily life at the court. Furthermore, as the garden in Obergreiz functioning as pleasure garden had been destroyed by a flood, ruling Prince Heinrich IX Reuss (1722-1800) began to focus his attention on an area on the western bank of the river Weisse Elster, measuring 40 hectares and known for generations as Greiz park.
On the foundations of an earlier building he initiated the construction of the new summer palace between 1769 and 1779 and of a building commonly known as the kitchen house. To the north-east a small park was laid out; an exceptional feature of this park and unique in Thuringia to this day is the so-called Pinetum, a collection of native and exotic trees, especially of conifers. About one hundred years later the prospering textile and paper-producing town of Greiz was connected to the railway.
The originally intended railway route would have seriously harmed the park and was therefore rigorously rejected by the House of Reuss. Compromises were found. The newly negotiated route not only preserved the quietness desirable for such a refuge, it also became a considerable source of income for the prince. Heinrich XIII Reuss used this money to commission Carl Eduard Petzold, a renowned pupil of Pückler and for some time court gardener in Weimar, to make designs for the landscape park in Greiz which today measures roughly 45 hectares.
For the realisation of his designs Petzold successfully recommended the gardener Rudolph Reinecken whom he knew well from Muskau. To say that the entire park shows the hand of Reinecken does not belittle Petzold’s basic ideas. Nonetheless, during the five decades Reinecken worked in Greiz he questioned one or the other of Petzold’s designs, took the occasional liberty of deviating from them and even of adding something totally new. Highlights of the park, which is considered a unique example of late classical landscape design in Thuringia, are – apart from the already mentioned Pinetum – a pond with rushes situated in the middle of the park and measuring about eight hectares, an avenue of linden trees, the “white cross” at the end of a magnificent view axis erected after the death of the prince’s wife Sophie, a rotunda and finally the Gasparine temple open to all sides and built in commemoration of a princely wedding.
At the instigation of the prince in the pediment of the summer palace the inscription “maison de la belle retraite” was added to the decoration consisting of the Reuss coat of arms. The architecture of the building, whose facade faces south and not towards the upper castle like the earlier building, skilfully conceals the main purpose of the palace’s construction by having the state apartments where the prince’s family could remain undisturbed, namely behind the salon which itself was used as an orangery. On the first floor the hall, just like the orangery richly decorated with stucco work, is the centre of the prince’s apartments.
The building was extensively renovated from 2005 to 2011 while remaining open to the public. The Greiz’s State collection of books and engravings with about 1000 mezzotint engravings, several thousand maps, battle plans, views and atlases, most of them from before 1850, caricatures from the 18th and 19th centuries and finally the collection of contemporary caricatures called “Satiricum” height the attraction of Greiz summer palace and park for tourists.