Belvedere Castle stands on a hill at the south of Weimar and is surrounded by 43 hectares of parkland. Duke Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach had a Baroque summer residence including an orangery, pleasure garden and labyrinth built here between 1724 and 1748. Since 1923, Belvedere Castle has been used as a museum of 18th century crafts.
The castle, which originally served as a hunting lodge, is surrounded by stables with the knights' quarters at the side, giving it the typical atmosphere of an absolutist estate of the time. After the death of Ernst August in 1748, the parks began to run wild. They were restored to their former glory only when Duchess Anna Amalia took up the residence every summer. Duke Carl August, who came to power in 1775, pursued botanical studies at Belvedere together with Goethe. By 1820, a botanical garden had been created to keep approximately 7900 plant species from Germany and abroad. In 1811, Carl August left Belvedere Castle and Park to his son Carl Friedrich and the latter’s wife, the Russian Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. The later duke had a so-called Russian garden laid for his wife at the west of the castle. The park had by now gone to rack and ruin, and between 1815 and 1830 it was transformed into a country park in post-classical, romantic style with meandering paths and numerous ornamental park constructions. Grand Duke Carl Alexander, whose reign commenced in 1853, had the castle, park and orangery carefully preserved and maintained. The park was reconstructed between 1974 and 1978 and the Russian Garden between 1978 and 1982. Reconstruction and restoration work on the orangery complex began in 1998 and will be completed step by step over the next few years.
The exhibits on display in the crafts museum in Belvedere Castle harmonize with the castle’s interior. The museum focuses on porcelain and glass from the ducal household. The collection includes court accessories along with French and German furniture dated back to the 18th century. The tour begins on the ground floor with Oriental porcelain, Thuringian earthenware and portraits of the owner and his family. Early Meissen porcelain and Thuringian dishes and figures are on display on the upper floor. The museum collection also focuses on products from the royal porcelain factory in Berlin, the Fürstenberg factory in the Duchy of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and the imperial factory in St. Petersburg. Most of these items arrived in Weimar because of the ducal family’s dynastic connections. An exhibition on the ground floor of the West Pavilion sheds light on architecture and garden culture in Duke Ernst August’s day. In the East Pavilion, 18th century weapons which belonged to the ducal family bring the history of court hunting to life.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.