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:
Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.
The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.
The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.
From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.
Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.