Achstetten Castle is a spacious three-storey building in classicist style. Two wings are loosely attached to the main structure at a right angle. These two wings function as economy buildings. On three sides the castle is surrounded by a large park, which is home to an enclosure where fallow deers are kept. The main access to the castle is by a driveway measuring about 150 metres in length. Noteworthy of the interior are a classicist staircase, 19th century furniture, an iron stove from 1798, portraits of the Freyberg family and a porcelain collection. A raised and roofed passageway on wooden pillars connects the castle to the nearby church. This passageway has a length of approximately 100 metres. Passageways of this kind, which enabled the lord of the castle and his family to enter the church without being subject to the weather, were not uncommon; remnants of such a construction can also be seen at Großlaupheim Castle.
A castle in Achstetten was first mentioned ion 1386. In a description dating from 1449, the castle is said to be a tall building, surrounded by moats and having two bridges. The castle was looted and burnt to the ground during the German Peasants' War in 1525 by members of the local peasant army, the Baltringer Haufe. A new castle was erected in 1583 which was described in 1620 by the visiting abbot of Ochsenhausen Abbey as a splendid palace.
By around 1750 it consisted of an inner yard, surrounded by a large building which contained the stables, a derelict barn and a gate on the ground floor, the granary in the attic and living quarters in between. To the left of the gate there was a prison building and the dairy whereas on the right hand side of the gate more stables for cattle and sheep were located. In the outer yard stood the building allocated to the Vogt as well as a barn. The castle and its gardens were surrounded by a tall hedge which functioned as a living wall.
The original castle was owned by the barons of Freyberg until 1639 after which time it changed hands several times before being bought by Baron Beat Conrad Reuttner von Weyl in 1795. He had the current castle built in 1794–1796. The architect was Franz Anton Bagnato. The building works started one year before the actual contract of sale was signed. Beat Conrad Reuttner von Weyl must therefore have been quite certain of his future acquisition. During the first half of the 19th century, the pond and the moats that surrounded the previous castle were drained and turned into a park. Most recently restoration works at the castle took place in 1982 and 1983. In 1996 a fountain, which already appeared in the original plans by Bagnato, was erected in the castle yard.
Achstetten Castle and its estate are in the possession of the family Reuttner von Weyl who still reside at the castle. It is also home to the offices for the administration and the management of the estate. The castle is in private hands and not accessible to the public.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.