Esterháza is a palace built by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. Sometimes called the 'Hungarian Versailles', it is Hungary's grandest Rococo edifice. Esterházy began his plans for a new palace not long after he became reigning prince in 1762 on the death of his brother Paul Anton. Before this time, Nikolaus was accustomed to spending much of his time at a hunting lodge called Süttör, built in the same location around 1720 with a design by Anton Erhard Martinelli. The hunting lodge was the nucleus around which Esterháza was built.
The first architect to work on the project was Johann Ferdinand Mödlhammer, succeeded in 1765 by Melchior Hefele. While the palace is often compared to Versailles, which the Prince had visited in 1764 when he visited Paris, H. C. Robbins Landon claims that a more direct influence can be found in 'Austrian prototypes, particularly Schönbrunn palace in Vienna.'
Eszterháza was first inhabited in 1766, but construction continued for many years. The opera house was completed in 1768, the marionette theater in 1773. The fountain in front of the palace was not completed until 1784, at which point the Prince considered his project complete.
Nikolaus Esterházy died in 1790. Neither his son Anton, who inherited the Esterházy lands, nor any of his later successors had any interest in living in the isolated palace.
The palace has 126 rooms. Of particular note is the Banquet Room which has on its ceiling a painting of Apollo in his Chariot. The large library holds almost 22,000 volumes and is graced with the letter 'E', standing for the family surname. The largest room is the grotto-like Sala Terrana which was inspired by the then fashionable Italianate style. On the ceiling are dancing Angels who hold wreaths of flowers in the shape of an 'E'.
From 1766 to 1790, the estate was the home of the celebrated composer Joseph Haydn, where he lived in a four-room flat in a large two-storey building housing servants' quarters, separate from the palace. Haydn wrote the majority of his symphonies for the Prince's orchestra. Eszterháza also had two opera houses, the main theatre seating 400 (destroyed by fire in 1779) and a marionette theatre; Haydn conducted his own and others' operas, often with more than a hundred performances per year.
The palace was geographically isolated, a factor which led to loneliness and tedium among the musicians. This is seen in some of Haydn's letters, as well as in the famous tale of the Farewell Symphony.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.