Palace – City – Garden. The Royal Residence as Historic Cultural Landscape

German National Committee of ICOMOS; ICOMOS International Scientific Committee On Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL); Landeshauptstadt Schwerin; Landtag Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; Ministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur des Landes Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
05.11.2017 - 07.11.2017
Marius Müller, University of Passau/ESACH

On the road to World Heritage - the commitment of the different stakeholders involved in the application of Schwerin’s romantic historic cultural landscape was the occasion for this third World Heritage conference.[1]

Initiating the first section, STEFAN WENZL (Schwerin) presented a concise panorama of the stated-owned palaces and gardens in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Particularly high importance is attached to the considerations on Wiligrad Palace which is one of the best examples for the “brick Renaissance” in this part of Europe. Besides such built structures in Wismar and Schwerin, this palace is characterised by terracotta elements that have been typical of the regional style of Mecklenburg since the era of Duke Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg.

Subsequently, CHRISTIAN OTTERBACH (Esslingen) outlined the essential elements of the Residence Ensemble Schwerin as a paradigm of cultural landscape of romantic historicism: the palace, the court administration offices in the old town as well as the churches used by the court, surrounded by the water spaces which characterise the whole city of Schwerin. This means that the whole infrastructure of the 19th-century monarchic state can still be found. With the Peace of Westphalia, the princes of the numerous territories had become heads of states that were considered to be sovereign. Following the visual axis from the palace’s main portal, the visitor is guided directly to the former ministers’ palais. Furthermore, he underlined that this building activity of a mid-19th century prince intended to revive the contract between monarch and his people by reinvigorating certain stylistic elements. That might be very important to bear in mind, as the historical context for the building of residences in the 19th century had changed and legitimation of power by divine right or rather tradition was in crisis since constitutionalism had erupted in Europe.[2] Schwerin Palace also reflects how landscape was cultivated for political purposes.

As the continuity of symbols has been identified as one of the early motivations for the protection of heritage, Mecklenburg’s rulers in the 19th century made the entanglement of local historiography and politics their own, clarified MARCUS KÖHLER (Dresden). With Schlitz Castle the speaker continued to illustrate his thesis concerning landscape as a vehicle of meaning. Claims for legitimate authority were expressed by politics for the adornment of land. In the opinion of the speaker, Schwerin Palace holds a special role amongst other princely residences because here Romano-Germanic history was not used for legitimacy purposes but regional history. While the monarchical authority was still legitimised by divine right, Schwerin Place was a counter reaction to frustrated democratic tendencies. The speaker closed with underlining that Schwerin Palace therefore must be seen as a unique symbol of monarchical representation in the second half of the 19th century.

With regard to the “World Heritage” context MARIE-THERES ALBERT (Berlin) postulated the necessity of a reform of the UNECSO Convention of 1972. 45 years after the World Heritage Convention was adopted, only 102 cultural landscapes are listed today. According to Albert, the fact that the “outstanding universal value” (OUV) is mainly defined materially is particularly problematic. Only since 1992 the nomination of cultural landscape as World Heritage has been viable. Seeing Schwerin Palace as a deliberately created cultural landscape, it furthermore contains the political dimension as an immaterial element of the representation of power. This last aspect, so the speaker, could be recognised as OUV. Recognising the Schwerin cultural landscape means underlining the visualisation of the site of power over time, thus giving evidence of the complexity of government in the respective context.

Afterwards, FRIEDERIKE HANSELL (Freiberg) emphasised that comparative studies on the national and international level are indispensable regarding to the Erzgebirge region. Departing from the contemporary use of Schwerin Palace as seat of the state’s parliament, a participant might think of other comparative approaches: the Plazas Mayores in Latin America. These still are the locus of power in the major cities of today’s national states and to this day also give evidence of changing forms of government.[3]

Initiating the comparative part, HELMUT-EBERHARD PAULUS (Rudolstadt) characterised the visualised struggle and urge forappropriate representation of power materialised in the numerous residences in Thuringia as “La Ronde of Residences”. In Weimar the former Bastille was converted into an administrative building (Staatskanzlei) which became the symbol of the new Thuringia, a counter-model of absolutist government, the speaker underlined. Presenting the residences in Gotha and Meiningen the speaker focussed on the immaterial heritage that these built structures represent: while the disposition of rooms visualises the concentration of administration in one building, Meiningen was equipped with a Great Hall (Riesensaal) at the very top of the palace, thus visualising the enhancement of the noble dignity of the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen.

As an ancient meeting point and as royal castle of the Saxon kings, Windsor situated at the river Thames is of special significance, STEVEN BRINDLE (London) outlined. In 1071, the castle was relocated by William I. as a response to a political crisis and to secure the Thames valley. In the context of the so-called Magna Carta crisis Windsor then became a royal residence, being the largest castle in England. During the 13th century, the age of park creation, the landscape design close to Windsor Castle was a status symbol par excellence. After the victory in the Hundred Years' War, Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) delivered the plans for the dramatic skyline of Windsor Castle which visualised legitimacy by force. The speaker had no doubt that the shape of Windsor’s walls was created deliberately, calling it a picturesque and symbolic appearance. During the reign of Charles II. Windsor became a senior royal residence with major alterations made from 1674 to 1685. While visualised continuity was also intended to provide legitimacy in Windsor, the picturesque quality was preserved. Steven Brindle pointed out that the french influence became more visible, focusing on the landscape designs. Most important for the comparison with the Schwerin Ensemble is the visual axis that was carried out at Windsor. During the second important period of alteration in the history of Windsor Castle in the 19th century, the façade was deliberately dramatised, as the speaker put it. Today Windsor Castle is used for state visit receptions and its ceremonial life, such as “Garter Day”, visualising Britain’s living historical constitution.

The presentation of a french example was dominated by the question why castles and palaces were built in the Loire Valley. RÉMI DELEPLANCQUE (Tours) depicted that this architectural heritage served as fortification on the heights above the valley, dominated and protected the surrounding villages or controlled important crossing points. Parallel to the development of Windsor Castle, this valley was the site of french royal power for more than one century after the Hundred Years War. Nevertheless, the speaker emphasised that the castles and palaces of the Loire Valley were merely parts of the cultural landscape. Especially the palaces in Amboise and Chambord – the latter being a role-model for the neo-Renaissance parts of Schwerin Palace – are characterised by their special relation with the surrounding landscape.

INA TRUXOVÁ (Prague) presented the Lednice-Valtice historic cultural landscape. This World Heritage site consists of two country palaces with their gardens and parks connected by visual axes and avenues. In comparison to the other examples of residences in Europe, the Lichtenstein family did not create symbols of their power but instead representations of their travel experiences as diplomats, according to the speaker.

LARS LJUNGSTRÖM (Stockholm) made clear that with the evolution of the modern state marked by centralisation tendencies, the royal authority was strengthened by means of building palaces. As a combination of strongholds and country lodges in former times, the speaker identified a separation of the symbolic contents of royal residences in the 16th century. Not military strength but the political necessity of communicating power and dignity dominated. The image of the ruler in persona was represented in his residences, according to the author. The absence of fortification in royal representation is characteristic also in Sweden. When the government was centralised in Stockholm in the 17th century, the critical audience might easily assume that during times of war in central Europe the royal residences represented the monarchs during their physical absence. With the end of absolutist rule, the royal supremacy was de facto fictitious. In the 19th century it was a parliamentary committee that decided on the further construction of the new royal palace. During the time of the Swedish-Danish Union, Oslo Palace was completed in 1814. The whole urban planning of Oslo symbolises a constitutional monarchy of the 19th century.

In the fifth section WILLIAM BAINBRIDGE (Durham) delivered an important contribution to the symbolic meaning of landscape, focusing on times of Romanticism. Presenting the English Lake District, the speaker approached the concept of cultural landscape, remembering that in 1925 Carl Sauer defined it as “behaving in accordance with the norms of culture transforming its cultural surroundings into cultural landscapes”. Moreover, he considered the Lake District as a literary landscape not only due to the travelling guide of Joshua Reynolds “A Guide to the Lakes”. The speaker pointed out that landscape could either be understood as a region which is the prospect of a country or it could be a picture representing an extent of place with the various subjects in it. With the example of Ruskin’s country house in the Lake District, William Bainbridge drew attention to the fact that social and moral interpretations of landscape were most vivid at this time. While the well-known private palaces and gardens of the Bavarian king Ludwig II. represent virtual travelling or the “urge for privacy”[4], 19th century residences in Bavaria cannot be considered as symbols of political developments or necessities of the time.

THOMAS GUNZELMANN (Memmelsdorf) approached the topic of the residence ensemble in Schwerin differently by referring to the particular type of cultural landscape, i.e. residences at lakes in the 19th century. With this approach from the general to the specific, Gunzelmann underlined that the lake situation delivered a visual domain or rather a stage for the purpose of the representation of power. At this point, it becomes evident that this type of cultural landscape is marked by the human use of a natural resource, besides the cultural value as such.

With their focus on the symbiotic unity due to a homogeneous urban planning concept, RAMONA DORNBUSCH (Frankfurt/Oder) and GABRIELE HORN (Potsdam) stated that the palaces and parks of Potsdam and Berlin form a cultural landscape developed over several centuries. While in Schwerin palace and garden have been gently integrated into the landscape, the Havel landscape was pragmatically remodelled.

The 2017 international conference “Palace – City – Garden. The Royal Residence as Historic Cultural Landscape” delivered a distinctive and comparative approach to the use of the arts as statecraft in Europe’s history – a most interesting approach to be reconsidered during the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.[5] The cultural landscape within and around Lake Schwerin carries the knowledge that such human creations “not only symbolize power but exercise it” and symbolises centuries of state-formation in Europe.[6] The following question may invite to rethink the Schwerin Residence Ensemble: “[…] what is the relationship between the memory of the past and its material remains […] and the historical discourse in which these remains […] figure?”.[7]

Since the era of early state formation in baroque Europe splendid sites of power as architectural heritage of the time epitomise the entanglement of government and visual arts: “[…] Monuments & Memories […] had also a secret and strong Influence, euen to the aduancement of the Monarchie, by continuall representation of virtuous examples; so as in that point ART became a piece of State.”[8] As Wolfgang Reinhard states, forms and symbols moreover were an essential element of monarchical power and were consequently not constrained to representative functions only.[9] Furthermore, as different structural conditions are recognisable in the different parts of Europe concerning forms of government, art historical perspectives provide evidence of the nevertheless common European intellectual basis visualised by the residences and their designed surrounding landscapes. Schwerin Palace is unique with its many faces and visualises the political culture of the far later era known as the “Vormärz” in the 19th century.

Conference Overview:

Welcoming address:

Christoph Machat (Munich)

Beate Schlupp (Schwerin)

Welcoming speeches:

Manuela Schwesig (Schwerin)

Rico Badenschier (Schwerin)

Norbert Rethmann (Schwerin)

Sebastian Schröder (Schwerin)

Public evening presentation: The Hirschberg Valley

Klaus-Henning von Krosigk (Berlin / Munich)

Panel 1: Palace - City – Garden. The Residence Ensemble Schwerin
Moderator: Dirk Handorf (Schwerin)

Stefan Wenzl (Schwerin): Palaces and Gardens in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Christian Ottersbach (Esslingen): The Residence Ensemble Schwerin – A Cultural Landscape of Romantic Historicism

Marcus Köhler (Dresden): Stately Legitimacy: Interpreting and Reinterpreting Archaeological Findings, and Establishing Landscape Locations

Panel 2: The Historic Cultural Landscape in the World Heritage Context
Moderator: Ramona Dornbusch (Munich)

Marie-Theres Albert (Berlin): The “Cultural Landscape” Concept in the UNESCO World Heritage Programme, and Why the Residence Ensemble Belongs There

Friederike Hansell (Freiberg): The Erzgebirge as Cross-border World Heritage Cultural Landscape

Panel 3: Royal Residences as Historic Cultural Landscapes: Examples from Germany, Great Britain & France
Moderator: Gabriele Horn (Munich)

Helmut-Eberhard Paulus (Rudolstadt): The Thuringian Residence Landscape

Steven Brindle (London): Windsor Castle and its Cultural Landscape

Rémi Deleplancque (Tours): The Loire Valley Between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes

Panel 4: Royal Residences as Historic Cultural Landscapes: Examples from the Czech Republic & Sweden
Moderator: John Ziesemer (Munich)

Caroline Rolka (Berlin) / Arnd Hennemeyer (Wismar): Heritage Studies in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / Universities of Applied Science Neubrandenburg and Wismar

Ina Truxová (Prague): The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape

Lars Ljungström (Stockholm): Powerhouses, Retreats and Ceremonial Settings: Swedish Royal Palaces 1500-1850 

Panel 5: Comparable Landscape Concepts
Moderator: Claudia Schönfeld (Schwerin)

William Bainbridge (Durham): Cultural Landscape in Context: Schwerin and the Lake District

Thomas Gunzelmann (Memmelsdorf): Lakeside Residence Landscapes as a Type of Cultural Landscape in 19th-Century Europe

Ramona Dornbusch (Frankfurt/Oder) / Gabriele Horn (Potsdam): The “Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin“ Residence Landscape: Paradisiac “Eyland” and Arcadian Landscape

Panel 6: Conflicts of Use in Historic Cultural Landscapes
Moderator: Steffi Rogin (Schwerin)

Michael Kloos (Aachen): Visual Impact Study “The Residence Ensemble Schwerin – A Cultural Landscape of Romantic Historicism”

Doris Törkel (Düsseldorf) / Tobias Lauterbach (Düsseldorf): Historic Cultural Landscapes under Pressure in Densely Populated Urban Spaces – Two Examples from Düsseldorf

[1] Published by permission of the Deutsche Nationalkomitee von ICOMOS e.V. The European Students' Association for Cultural Heritage (ESACH) at the University of Passau is partner and reporter of ICOMOS Germany during the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.
[2] Dietmar Willoweit, Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte. Vom Frankenreich bis zur Wiedervereinigung Deutschlands, München 2013, p. 241.
[3] Delivering an important example: Diego F. González Rico, Plaza de Bolívar de Bogotá: formas y comportamientos del pasado y del presente, Diss. Barcelona 2010.
[4] Egon Johannes Greipl, Macht und Pracht. Die Geschichte der Residenzen in Franken, Schwaben und Altbayern, Regensburg 1991, p. 195.
[5] As a princely responsibility, the building of residences or rather “embodiments of power” in the 17th and 18th century has been investigated by Frank Wolf Eiermann, Requisita Dignitatis. Die deutsche Residenz als Bauaufgabe im 17./18. Jahrhundert an Beispielen im fränkischen Reichskreis, Diss. Erlangen-Nürnberg 1995; Mark Hengerer, Embodiments of Power?. Baroque Architecture in the Former Habsburg Residences of Graz and Innsbruck, in: Gary B. Cohen/Franz A. J. Szabo (Hg.), Embodiments of Power. Building Baroque Cities in Europe, New York et al. 2008, p. 9ff.
[6] Peter Burke, Overpowering: reflections on the uses of art, in: Víctor M. Cornelles (Hg.), Las artes y la arquitectura del poder, Madrid 2013, p. 42.
[7] Cf. Caroline van Eck, Inigo Jones on Stonehenge. Architectural Representation, Memory and Narrative, Amsterdam 2009, p. 45.
[8] Sir Henry Wotton, Elements of Architecture (1624) cf. Caroline van Eck, „All art is a piece of statecraft “The political use of classical architecture in seventeenth-century Britain, in: Martin Gosman, Selling and rejecting politics in early modern Europe, Leuven 2007, p. 93.
[9] Wolfgang Reinhard, Geschichte der Staatsgewalt. Eine vergleichende Verfassungsgeschichte Europas von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, München 2002, p. 82.

Tagungsbericht: Palace – City – Garden. The Royal Residence as Historic Cultural Landscape, 05.11.2017 – 07.11.2017 Schwerin, in: H-Soz-Kult, 20.03.2018, <>.