Plan of Ludwigsburg Palace as completed: 1. Old Hauptbau, 2 & 3: Hunting and Pleasure Pavilions, 4: Ordensbau, 5. Riesenbau, 6. Ordenskapelle, 7. Schlosskapelle, 8 & 9. West and East Kavaliersbauten, 10. Festinbau, 11. Schlosstheater, 12. Bildergalerie, 13. Ahnengalerie, 14: New Hauptbau, 15. Frederick's Garden, 16. Mathilde's Garden.
In the 17th century, the future site of Ludwigsburg Palace was a hunting property called the Erlachhof, which was destroyed by French soldiers in 1692 during the Nine Years' War. Eberhard Louis, Duke of Württemberg tasked Matthias Weiss, a military architect, with replacing it. Weiss planned and began construction of a modest three-story manor house but was interrupted by the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession. Following the Battle of Blenheim, Eberhard Louis spent the remainder of 1705 and early 1706 in the palaces of Munich. Inspired by Munich and Versailles, and having a pretext for a new palace in the Erlachhof, Eberhard Louis renamed the estate after himself (German: Ludwigsburg, lit. 'Louis's Castle') in 1705 and began studying the architectural trends of his day. Eberhard Louis sent the theologian
Philipp Joseph Jenisch to study architecture abroad in 1703 and made him director of construction on his return the next year.
The massive undertaking of the palace's construction eventually necessitated the building of a town, which would also be known as Ludwigsburg. Eberhard Louis decided to cut construction costs, for example by allowing construction workers to settle in the town from 1709 on. He also made offers to potential settlers, such as financing for construction material and land, and 15 years without taxation for the residents of Ludwigsburg.[a] To recover some of the cost, Duke Eberhard Louis commanded the town's residents to either kill several dozen of the sparrows that plagued the town or pay at least six Kreuzer to the duke's construction treasury (German: Baukasse). Construction and growth of the town stalled from its founding in 1709 until Eberhard Louis granted Ludwigsburg city status in 1718 and established it as the capital of the Duchy of Württemberg.
Jenisch returned to Württemberg and began construction from Weiss's plans in 1704, with Eberhard Louis laying the first stone in May, but was only able to finish the Old Hauptbau's first floor and some of the southern garden. After staying at the palaces of the Bavarian Electors in 1705–06, Eberhard Louis lost faith in Jenisch's architectural ability. In early 1707, the duke replaced Jenisch with
Johann Friedrich Nette, now charged with building a complete Baroque palace from Jenisch's corps de logis, to which the east and west wings were aligned at 11°. Nette's work would be further complicated by the palace's foreman, Johann Ulrich Heim, an ally of Jenisch who opposed the growing number of Italian artists at the palace. Opposition to the palace itself was found at the ducal court because of Ludwigsburg's cost. The populace also chafed at the palace's cost, one pastor in nearby
Oßweil saying of the palace at his pulpit, "May God spare our land the chastising that the Ludwigsburg brood of sinners conjure."
Courtyard, looking north at the corps de logis
of the Old Hauptbau. Nette began and finished most of the structures depicted.
Nette based his plans on those of Jenisch, enabling him to complete his design for a three-wing palace in the same year as his appointment. The galleries of the Old Hauptbau were completed in 1707, then the corps de logis the next year. Absorbing Weiss and Jenisch's lustschloss, the Ordensbau and Riesenbau were constructed from 1709 to 1713. The interiors of these structures, which included dining halls in each beletage, were completed in 1714. Meanwhile, Nette began the interior of the Old Hauptbau, which he would never finish. Construction of the Old Hauptbau's pavilions dragged on into 1722. Nette made two trips to Prague and his native Brandenburg to expand his pool of talent, in 1708 hiring fresco painter
Johann Jakob Stevens von Steinfels, stucco workers
Tomasso Soldati and Donato Giuseppe Frisoni, then
Andreas Quitainner in 1709, then Luca Antonio Colomba,
Riccardo Retti and Diego Francesco Carlone. Nette fled to Paris due to an accusation of embezzlement from Jenisch's allies but was ordered back to Ludwigsburg by Eberhard Louis. On his return trip, he died suddenly of a stroke on 9 December 1714 in Nancy at the age of 41. At the time of his death, most of the northern section of the modern palace and its northern garden was complete.
Jenisch sought to resume the directorship following Nette's death, and the building authority was aligned with him. However, Eberhard Louis overruled them in 1715 and appointed Donato Frisoni, a plasterer from Laino who had no formal architectural training. An earlier application Frisoni had made for the position had been ignored, but he enjoyed the support of the Court Chamberlain and impressed the duke with his stucco work in the Old Hauptbau. Frisoni began with the palace's churches, the Schlosskapelle in 1716 and the Ordenskapelle in 1720,[b] then finished the East and West Kavaliersbauten (Cavaliers' Buildings) in 1722. Frisoni also added the mansard roof to the top of the Old Hauptbau, as its flat roof was prone to water damage. This had become a common issue with Nette's work because of the pressure the duke placed on him to finish the palace as soon as possible. Frisoni's work thus far led him to believe that he did not have a large enough talent pool to satisfy the duke's desires for the palace and city, so Frisoni brought on
Giacomo Antonio Corbellini and
Paolo Retti, his brother and son-in-law respectively, who were followed by Diego Carlone in 1718.
From 1721, the duke began to run out of room for the functions of his court in the Old Hauptbau, and Frisoni began planning to enlarge it. Three years later, the duke dismissed the idea and ordered Frisoni to construct what would become the New Hauptbau. Frisoni designed a four story structure, double the height of the existing palace, but plans changed several times after construction began in 1725 atop the first terrace of the south garden. Frisoni settled on a three-story building that still afforded Eberhard Louis six rooms for his suite to the Old Hauptbau's three. To connect the New Hauptbau to the existing palace, Frisoni built the Bildergalerie and Festinbau on the west side, and the Ahnengalerie and Schlosstheater on the east. The Bildergalerie was decorated in 1731–32, while the Ahnengalerie was likewise decorated from 1731 to 1733. With the exception of the interiors of the New Hauptbau and Schlosstheater, all work was finished in 1733, but Eberhard Louis died that same year. Only a few rooms in the west end of the New Hauptbau had been completed when he died. Construction of the New Hauptbau and its connecting galleries cost 465,000 guilders and was managed by Paolo Retti, who at times had more than 650 stone masons, cutters, and basic laborers working on the facades between 1726 and 1728. In all, the construction of Ludwigsburg Palace cost the Duchy of Württemberg 3,000,000 florins.
Use as a residence
Duke Eberhard Louis left no heirs and was succeeded by Karl Alexander. Karl Alexander ended funding for the palace, dismissed its staff, and moved the capital back to Stuttgart in 1733 to modernize Württemberg's army and fortifications. As the master builder of what was now decried as the "sin palace", Frisoni and
Paolo Retti were arrested in 1733 on fraudulent charges of embezzlement. The two men were acquitted in 1735 after they paid a hefty fine to the ducal treasury, despite attempted intervention by the Margrave of Ansbach to free them earlier. Frisoni died in the city on 29 November 1735. Karl Alexander himself died suddenly two years later on 12 March 1737 as he prepared to leave Ludwigsburg Palace to inspect the duchy's fortresses. With his death, the nine-year-old Charles Eugene became Duke, beginning a regency that would last until 1744.
In 1760, Casanova
was a guest at Charles Eugene
's court. During his stay, he praised the performances of the duke's orchestra.
Charles Eugene began the construction of a new ducal residence in Stuttgart in 1746, but continued to use Ludwigsburg as a secret residence until 1775 and brought the Rococo style to Ludwigsburg in 1747. The use of certain rooms at Ludwigsburg changed frequently, such as when
Johann Christian David Leger converted the Ordenskapelle to a Lutheran church from 1746 to 1748 for Duchess Elisabeth Fredericka Sophie. Beginning in 1757 and lasting into the next year, the suites of the beletage were extensively modified by Philippe de La Guêpière. La Guêpière completed the Schlosstheater from 1758 to 1759,, adding a stage, machinery, and the auditorium. An avid fan of opera, Charles Eugene constructed a wooden opera hall, adorned with mirrors, in 1764–65, located east of the Old Hauptbau. In 1764, Charles Eugene moved the ducal residence back to Stuttgart and made no more modifications to Ludwigsburg from 1770 onward. The palace, which hosted a court that Giacomo Casanova called "the most magnificent in Europe", began a steady decline.
Frederick I's throne in the Ordensbau
In 1793, Charles Eugene died without a legitimate heir and was succeeded by his brother, Frederick II Eugene, who was himself succeeded by his son Friedrich II in 1797. Ludwigsburg Palace had already been the residence of Friedrich II since 1795, who made it his summer residence. On 18 May 1797, Friedrich II married Charlotte, Princess Royal, daughter of King George III, at St James's Palace in Westminster. They used Ludwigsburg as their summer residence, Friedrich II taking a suite of 12 rooms west of the Marble Hall and Charlotte a dozen to its east.
Napoleon's armies occupied Württemberg from 1800 to 1801, forcing the duke and duchess to flee to Vienna. The royals returned when Friedrich II agreed in 1803 to pledge allegiance to Napoleon and part with some territory in exchange for the title of Elector. Friedrich II, now Frederick I, felt that he had to express this accomplishment in architecture, as Eberhard Louis had attempted, and gave his court architect Nikolaus Friedrich von Thouret the task of updating the palace in the Neoclassical style. Thouret began with the Ahengalerie and the Ordensbau, from 1803 to 1806. For two days in October 1805, Napoleon visited Ludwigsburg to coerce Frederick I into joining the Confederation of the Rhine and thus becoming his ally, compensating Württemberg with neighboring territories in the Holy Roman Empire and Frederick I with the title of King. Frederick I again tasked von Thouret with a remodeling, this time the Ordenskapelle and the king's apartment, which lasted from 1808 to 1811. The final modernizations ordered by the king took place from 1812 to 1816 in the Schlosstheater and Marble Hall. During this time, the ceiling frescoes of the New Hauptbau's main staircases and the Guard Room were repainted. By the time Frederick I died in 1816, the majority of the palace had been converted to reflect then-modern tastes.
Following her husband's death, Charlotte continued to reside at Ludwigsburg and received many notable visitors from across Europe, among them some of her siblings. She tasked von Thouret with the renovation of her own apartment, which took place from 1816 to 1824. The dowager queen died at the palace on 5 October 1828 following a bout of apoplexy. The queen was the last ruler of Württemberg to reside at Ludwigsburg, as Frederick's son and successor, William I, and future kings did not show any interest in the palace. Members of the House of Württemberg continued to reside at the palace into the early 20th century.
Borkum Island Massacre trial, 1946. Pictured is the defense attorney addressing the court, set up in the Ordensbau's Order Hall.
In 1817, ownership of Ludwigsburg Palace passed from the House of Württemberg to the government of the Kingdom of Württemberg, which established offices there the next year. King William I chose the Order Hall, the throne room of his father, for the ratification of the kingdom's constitution in 1819. The first restoration at the palace took place in 1865 in the Old Hauptbau.
Ludwigsburg Palace was opened to the public in 1918 and the following year was the site of the ratification of the constitution of the Free People's State of Württemberg. Four years later, the Schlosstheater hosted a production of Handel's Rodelinda by the
Württemberg State Theatre, the first musical performance at the palace since 1853. In the early 1930s,
Wilhelm Krämer began hosting the Ludwigsburg Palace Concerts (Ludwigsburger Schlosskonzerte), which from 1933 to 23 July 1939 comprised six to ten concerts annually in the Order Hall, Ordenskapelle, or courtyard. The palace survived World War II unscathed and was chosen as the site of the Borkum Island war crimes trial. The concerts resumed in 1947 with 34 performances, a record that would not be broken until 1979. In 1952, the concerts were packed into a single week as the "Palace Days" (Ludwigsburger Schlosstage) and gained national significance when Theodor Heuss attended a production of Mozart's Titus two years later. The Palace Days became the Ludwigsburg Festival in 1966, which was attended by 12,000 visitors. In 1980, the state of Baden-Württemberg made the festival an official state event.
Restorations were undertaken in the 1950s and 1960s and again in the 1990s, in time for the palace's 300th anniversary in 2004. The anniversary was commemorated by the state government with three new museums and by the Federal government with a postage stamp depicting the palace. On 19 October 2011, Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann hosted a reception for the U.S. Army's 21st Theater Sustainment Command at the palace, which was attended by John D. Gardner, former deputy commander of EUCOM, and
Gert Wessels, commander of all German troops in Baden-Württemberg. Almost five years later on 16 August 2016, Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Finance,
Edith Sitzmann, visited Ludwigsburg Palace and Schloss Favorite. The Ulm-based
Klötzlebauer company exhibited a number of their Lego creations, attracting 18,000 visitors and prompting them to exhibit at the palace again that winter. In that time, Ludwigsburg appeared again on Federal postage stamps in the Burgen und Schlösser series. In November 2017, a painting of Frederick the Great on display in Charles Eugene's apartment, which had been attributed to Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, was found to have actually been painted by his teacher, Antoine Pesne. Michael Hörrmann, the director of the State Agency for Palaces and Gardens, valued the portrait at a minimum of €1 million. Sitzmann returned to the palace to see the painting and attend a press conference, where she spoke about the cultural importance of Ludwigsburg Palace.
By October 2017, 311,000 people visited Ludwigsburg Palace. It was projected that 350,000 people would visit by the end of that year, as 330,000 had done so in 2016. By March 2020, the Baden-Württemberg State Agency for Palaces and Gardens plans to have spent €4 million to sort out and restore some 500 paintings, 400 pieces of furniture, and 500 lamps, clocks, and sculptures, and to arrange the New Hauptbau as it would have looked in the reign of King Frederick I.