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Saturday, 1 July 2017

The palace of Augustusburg and hunting lodge “Jagdschloss” Falkenlust | Educational excursion with some students ornamental woodcarving to the castles of Brühl

Educational excursion with ornamental woodcarving course members to the castles of Brühl 
The palace of Augustusburg & hunting lodge “Jagdschloss” Falkenlust

The palace of Augustusburg and hunting lodge “Jagdschloss” Falkenlust

For many years now I have been undertaking annual, educational excursions with some of my ornamental woodcarving course members. In this context, the famous palace of Versailles has always been a popular destination. This year I thought it was time for something different. A couple of magnificent places in Germany came to mind. We thought it would be a great idea to visit the castles of Brühl, i.e. the palace of Augustusburg and hunting lodge (German: jagdschloss) Falkenlust. These are two prime examples of German rococo, located not too far from the Belgian border, which have been rightfully included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Unfortunately we were not so lucky with the weather, as it rained throughout the whole day.
With a couple of cars we drove in the direction of Brühl, situated close to Cologne. It was only a 1 hour 15 minute drive from Maaseik ( where I live), making it acceptable for people who do not enjoy long car or bus rides. I have probably already visited these UNESCO World Heritage sites at least 10 times, but being in the company of several of my “students” gave an entirely different feel to this excursion, compared to when visiting Brühl by myself.

I tried to answer all the questions my students have, but I also learned new things about this fascinating style period (rococo). As always, I was very much attracted to the splendid rococo compositions, executed in stone, plaster and wood.

Hunting Lodge Falkenlust in Brühl

Hunting Lodge “Jagdschloss” Falkenlust
First up was hunting lodge Falkenlust. Originally this palace was used by the archbishop-elector and of Cologne Clemens August of Bavaria strictly for falconry and hunting. Afterwards his girlfriend and children also moved in. This hunting lodge opened its doors at 10:00 AM. As always the staff was very friendly and courteous. They were very happy to see a bigger group visiting the castle.
As we were also planning to visit the palace of Augustusburg later that day, we opted for the combi-ticket which costed 12 euros (June 25th 2016). The discount price was 10 euros.

It was highly recommended to use the audio guide, which was included in the ticket. Depending on your personal interests and the use of the audio guide a tour of this intimate hunting lodge took roughly 1 to 1.5 hours.
It was not allowed to take photographs of the interiors. The same was true for the palace of Augustusburg, and the staff made sure that the rules were strictly abided by. After some searches on the internet I did however manage to find a couple of nice photos of the Falkenlust rococo interiors.

Hunting Lodge Falkenlust in Brühl

After the visit we returned to our cars, and a 5 minute drive took us to the palace of Augustusburg. The parking lot (free of charge) was located close to the Brühl train station. This was quite useful, especially when you contemplate visiting downtown Cologne; something we did later that day. A return ticket Brühl-Cologne costed 4.5 euros, and a train ride of approximately 15 minutes took us the famous Cologne cathedral. What a luxury, especially considering the high parking costs, the low emission zone tax, and the time spent to reach the old town.

To the visitor, who is lucky enough to pick a day without rain I would highly recommend to visit the palace of Augustusburg first, then to leave your vehicle on the above-mentioned parking lot and to proceed on foot through the lovely park and forest to the hunting lodge Falkenlust.
I have done this a couple times myself and the 25-30 minute walk is truly a pleasant change of pace.

An impression of the walk to Falkenlust in 2008.

The palace of Augustusburg

The palace of Augustusburg in Brühl, close to Cologne, is generally considered the architectural pinnacle of European architecture of the first half of the 18th century. This residence of the archbishop-elector of Cologne Clemens August of Bavaria, of the House of Wittelsbach, is one of the first rococo style buildings in Germany.
Construction started in 1725 and was overseen by Johann Conrad Schlaun. From 1728 onwards work continued on the interiors and decoration based on the designs of architect François de Cuvilliés. He also designed the decorations found on the facades and in the grand reception room in Regency and late Baroque styles.

Interesting to note is that François de Cuvilliés was born in Belgium and later settled in Munich, Germany, to become an accomplished interior designer, sculptor and stucco master.
The center piece or showpiece of Augustusburg is undoubtedly the west wing staircase, which is both elegant as well as dynamic; truly an architectural masterpiece and a real treat for the eyes. It was designed by Johann Balthasar Neumann who was also responsible for the staircase in the palace of Würzburg.

Augustusburg in Brühl | German Palace

The palace of Augustusburg

Johann Heinrich Roth completed the palace interiors, including the “Gardensaal”, located on the first floor and lavishly decorated with stucco.
In concordance with the client’s expensive taste, and the prevailing style of the time, a lot of stucco marble was used. Stucco marble or “scagliola” was used extensively on pilasters and walls, often combined with trophies and other ornaments, instead of real marble. 

In those days marble was often considered too ordinary to be used as decoration. The baroque style garden (French) from 1728 can still be enjoyed in its original splendor.
This palace with its staircase and garden is one of the most important creations of German baroque.
The prince-electors only used the palace of Augustusburg as hunting and summer palace, and was inhabited approximately 4 to 6 weeks of the year. Their main residences were the Electoral Palace and Palace Poppelsdorf in Bonn.  

When Clemens August died in 1761, construction on the main halls was still ongoing. His successor Max Friedrich von Königsberg (1761-1784) oversaw the completion of the palace as planned by Clemens August. After more than 40 years of construction the palace of Augustusburg was finally completed in 1768.
With the advent of the French Revolution the prince-electorate of Cologne seized to exist in 1794. 
French troops occupied the castle and sold all the furniture. When Napoleon visited the castle in 1804, he liked it so much that he wished it had wheels. In 1809 he donated it to marshal Davoust, who neglected it completely.

Augustusburg in Brühl | German Palace
On the train to Cologne

As mentioned, we also scheduled a short visit to Cologne. Due to the rain we decided to just visit Cologne Cathedral (German: DOM), rather than discovering the old center on foot. It was a challenge to ascend the 157.31 meter south tower with its 509 steps. This massive edifice is located close to the Rhine River (250 meters), and the main train station. Cologne Cathedral, officially called the High Cathedral of Saint Peter, was built in Gothic style with a cross shaped floor plan. Including the nave and towers this cathedral is 144.58 meters long and 86.25 meters wide.

Cologne Cathedral

Construction started on August 15th 1248 but was halted in the 15th century due to lack of funding. Centuries later, in 1824, construction resumed based on the original medieval design. Finally in 1880 the cathedral was completed in Neo-Gothic style. Only the base of the west tower dates back to the 13th century. It wasn’t until 1956 that all the damage caused by the war was repaired, and the church could be officially reopened.

The Cologne Cathedral boasts an impressive inventory including a couple of stained glass windows dating back to the 14th and 16th centuries.

Cologne Cathedral, 509 steps higher

After a visit to a local “Brauhaus”, for which Cologne is famous, we took the 18:00 train back to Brühl, where we ended our educational Saturday in the “Brühler Wirtshaus”. This was the old Brühl train station which had been converted to a very nice restaurant, something we experienced first-hand.

Translation Koen verhees


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