The New Palace (Neues Palais) is a palace situated on the western side of the Sanssouci royal park. It is considered to be the last great Prussian baroque palace.
The building was begun in 1763, after the end of the Seven Years' War, under Frederick the Great and was completed in 1769. It was purposed to celebrate Prussia’s success. In an architectural form, Frederick the Great sought to demonstrate the power and glories of Prussia attributing it as fanfaronade, an excess of splendor in marble, stone and gilt.
For the King, the New Palace was not a principal residence, but a display for the reception of important royals and dignitaries. Of the over 200 rooms, four principal gathering rooms and a theater were available for royal functions, balls and state occasions. During his occasional stays at the palace, Frederick occupied a suite of rooms at the southern end of the building, composed of two antechambers, a study, a concert room, a dining salon and a bedroom, among others.
After the death of Frederick the Great in 1786, the New Palace fell into disuse and was rarely occupied as a residence or entertainment venue. However, starting in 1859 it became the summer residence of the German Crown Prince, Frederick William, later German Emperor Frederick III. The palace was the preferred residence of Frederick and his empress, Victoria, throughout the 99 Days’ Reign. During the short reign of Frederick III, the palace was renamed Friedrichskron Palace (Schloß Friedrichskron) and a moat was dug around the palace. The ascension of William II saw renovation and restoration within the palace being carried out with the installation of steam heating, bathrooms in state apartments and electrification of the chandeliers which Frederick the Great had collected from across Europe. Until 1918, it remained the preferred residence of William II and the Empress Augusta.
After the November Revolution and the abdication of William II, the New Palace became a museum and remained such until the Second World War. Much of its furniture had been removed and taken to the residence of the exiled William II at Huis Doorn in the Netherlands. Some of the palace’s treasures were looted by Soviet Army at the end of the Second World War. The majority of the furnishings were discovered by the Dutch in the 1970s, still in their original packing crates, and returned to Potsdam. Because of this, and because it escaped bombing in the Second World War, the palace today looks much as it did in 1918.
While Frederician Rococo was established at Sanssouci, Frederick the Great had the New Palace built in varying forms of baroque architecture and decoration, with some deviations. The King preferred rococo and baroque to the classicism that was already taking hold of Europe at the time as the preference of many monarchs. Architect Johann Gottfried Büring, with the aid of Heinrich Ludwig Manger, was assigned with the task of planning the New Palace and had already demonstrated success with the completion of the Chinese Teahouse and the Picture Gallery in the Sanssouci royal park.
After disagreements over the design of the palace, in 1764 the design of the palace was totally vested in the architect Carl von Gontard. The three-story façade had already begun to rise around unfinished interiors, as construction had steadily been underway. With 220 metre east and west façades, the centre portion of the palace was crowned with an enormous dome, at the top of which were placed the Three Graces supporting the Prussian royal crown. The dome is not only architectural, it provides an attic area under the supporting timbers which carry it. Additionally, the north and south auxiliary wings are crowned with domes surmounted by gilded eagles. Between the pilasters, what appears to be brick is actually a painted effect, leaving only the King’s south wing with exposed brick. Repointing the mortar of the joints proved to be an arduous and expensive task, therefore Frederick had the brick covered in stucco and painted in such a way that even tourists today are fooled by the deceptive finish. Over 400 sandstone statues and figures adorn the palace and auxiliary buildings, created by many notable sculptors, namely Johann Peter Benckert, Johann Matthias Gottlieb Heymüller, the brothers Johann David and Johann Lorenz Räntz and more.
Occupying two levels above the ground floor, the Theatre dates to the Frederick the Great’s reign in the eighteenth century and is still in use today. Rococo in style, the theatre makes heavy use of red and white with gilded accents. It can be seen as peculiar given its location within a palace, for the theatre lacks a royal box in which a king may view a performance. Instead, Frederick would sit among his guests in the third row of seating from the stage. The seat rows, which are curved, are reminiscent of an amphitheatre in antiquity. The Theatre is fitted with modern stage equipment which is discreetly placed to preserve the rococo décor.References:
The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.