Two picture sunday: Palais Graimberg

palais_graimbergOf all the Frenchmen responsible for the state Heidelberg castle is in (disclaimer: see below), compte Louis Charles Francois de Graimberg is probably the one held in highest regard.

This 19th century engraver and preservationist became the first official conservator of the castle ruin he had fallen in love with at first sight. His pictures helped make the castle known internationally and generated a good share of the money its preservation cost. In short, he stopped the rot.

His magnificent house on Kornmarkt today houses parts of the administration, most notably the mayor for building and traffic. It used to be a collection of Antiquities saved from the castle debris.


Graimberg was fascinated by ruins even before he came to Heidelberg, as any good romaticist was. This just about confirms my long-held suspisicion that Heidelberg wouldn’t be half as famous if the castle was still intact or, heaven forbid, if late 19th century plans to rebuild it had gone ahead. In the days of the foundation of the second Empire, this was even billed as a national task. Others argued to leave the ruin as a reminder of the French arch-enemies’ shameful deeds. Wait a minute, it’s just about time for the…

… disclaimer: Despite a wide-spread prejudice, it was not the French who destroyed the castle. They seized it twice at the end of the 17th century, which caused some major damage. But there’s good reason to believe that more was done in following years, once the rulers had left for Mannheim, due to fire, erosion, and local need for building material. There was plenty lying around up on castle hill, all straight and worked… Yes, that means that our ancestors probably took down most of the castle themselves. But it doesn’t sound quite as good as “oh, the f****** Frogs did that”.

One final note: When the reconstruction debate was finally buried in 1905, some said it would pop up again 100 years later. Guess what? Two years ago, plans were published to rebuild the renaissance castle gardens. Problem is, Hortus Palatinus only ever existed in parts and never reached completion. Critics ranted about a botanical Disneyland, others didn’t like the idea of having to pay for a visit to park that was uptil then free for all. For now, the plans have been buried again. See you in 2105?


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