Arriving in Wurzburg, the beautiful Marienberg Fortress, the first residence of the prince bishops looms above the Main River. Nearby the Pilgrimage Church can be reached by ascending the 352 steps; your reward is stunning views of the fortress and the city. A city tour reveals a wealth of beautiful buildings and churches. The finest of them, the “palace of palaces” is the palace of the Schonborn family of prince bishops.
Inspired by Versailles, the Prince Bishops palace, know as the Wurtzburger Residence, was completed in 1744. A highlight of any trip here is a visit to this famous palace and adjoining gardens. Today a UNESCO world heritage site it contains two massive domed ceilings, spanning 200 feet by 300 foot. An engineering feat in its time, it is miraculous that they have survived.
The palace was designed with the most modern features. Carriages pulled inside to the impressive staircase for their honored guests to alight. The King would descend the steps, only sufficiently to reflect level of importance of his visitor. Only once did he descend all the steps to meet the carriage of Maria Theresa.
Built in the Baroque style, the palace was completed on 1780. Still, the beginnings of the rococo style are evident in the plasterwork. Instead of simply frescoes, walls and ceilings are adorned with a mixture of painting and plaster work. Plaster curtains seem to sway in the breeze; cherubs plaster legs that dangle from the ceiling, musicians plaster trumpets jut from the walls. The cooperation between the painter and plaster worker created a three dimensional masterpiece.
Wages were high for such skilled labor. During its construction the ceiling, the fresco painter received the wages equal to that of 1500 brick masons. After constructing the massive domes, the ceiling painting took an additional 14 months to complete.
The impressive hall of mirrors is based on Catherine’s Palace famous amber room in St Petersburg, Russia. Glass, with scenes painted on the back, was covered with mercury, to create an effect similar to ambers glow. As World War II progressed and it became clear the palace would likely be bombed, an effort was made to remove the glass. Unfortunately it was so well glued in the plaster that the pieces cracked. The remaining glass was completely destroyed. Today, all that remains are the two original panels that cracked upon removal prior to the bombing. Now redone with modern mirrors, the effect is nonetheless impressive.
In preparation Most of the chandeliers and other furnishings were removed from the palace, and today many rooms in the palace have been restored.
Two kinds of bombs were dropped during the war incendiary, and explosive. Incendiary bombs burn everything, and explosive bombs pack blasting power. While Incendiary bombs struck the Wurtzzburger Residence, the two domed ceilings survived because they contained no wood. The remainder burned. Completely rebuilt after the war, the task of removing the grime from the domed ceilings took 4 years. Today the palace and gardens are restored to their former glory.
Most buildings have been reconstructed including palace.
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