The origins of Schwetzingen Palace (Schloss Schwetzingen) date back to 1350, when a small moated castle occupied the site. After an eventful history, Schwetzingen flourished under the Palatine Prince Elector Carl Theodor (1724–1799). The palace owes its current form to the Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm, who commissioned alterations in 1697. The addition of two wings significantly increased its size.
A work of genius
Schwetzingen Palace reached the height of splendour under the Prince Elector Carl Theodor. He instructed the leading landscape architects of the age to design the gardens, including Nicolas de Pigage and later Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell, with assistance from many renowned artists. From 1749 onwards, they created a masterpiece of rare beauty and rich variety. The central part of the gardens, including the Zirkelbauten (wings of the main building, which form a semi-circle), leafy avenues and a circular parterre, is laid out geometrically, with a focus on symmetry and order. In the late 18th century, an English-style landscape park was added to the Baroque garden – the Arborium Theodoricum, as it is called, is one of the earliest of its kind in Germany.
The exotic and ornamental
Schwetzingen Palace Gardens are a cultural heritage site of European significance: more than 100 sculptures are scattered throughout this wonderful, and at times surprising, landscape. An assortment of whimsical buildings lend an exotic touch. The Apollotempel (temple of Apollo), a small, round building, houses a statue of the ancient Greek god of light and the arts, playing the lyre. The Badehaus (bath house) is a summerhouse with its own garden, modelled on an Italian villa. And, most spectacularly, in the Türkischer Garten (Turkish gardens), there is a mosque designed by Nicolas de Pigage – the largest structure of its kind in a German garden. Ornamented with oriental details, the late-Baroque building was purely decorative and served no religious purpose.
A cultural highlight
The palace’s rooms contain furniture from the 18th and early 19th century. The Rokokotheater (Rococo theatre) in the north wing is a particular highlight. It was the first theatre in Europe with galleries – and it is still used as a venue for performances today.