Have you ever driven on the German Autobahn
? And if you have, did you notice those brown signs along the road mentioning more or less obscure tourist attractions nearby? That is how I first learned about Schloss Hundisburg
. I saw the sign for it about half a dozen times in the last couple of weeks when going from Hanover to Berlin or vice versa - and one Sunday I decided to do some spontaneous castle hunting, left the Autobahn
and stopped at the Baroque palace near Magdeburg. Schloss Hundisburg
is a fairly little known place but one with a fascinating history for two thirds of it burned down in 1945 - and reconstruction only started some 50 years later.
Its origins dating back all the way to the 12th century, Schloss Hundisburg
received its current Baroque appearance thanks to Johann Friedrich II von Alvensleben. The minister at the Hanoverian court of King George I of the United Kingdom had a former Renaissance castle located on the same site redeveloped into what became the most important Baroque palace in rural parts of the modern-day state of Saxony-Anhalt. He commissioned Johann Balthasar Lauterbach and Hermann Korb, both popular choices of architects for the Guelph rulers at the time. Schloss Hundisburg
was heavily inspired by the summer residence of the Brunswick Guelphs, Schloss Salzdahlum
, which was later dismantled.
Construction on Schloss Hundisburg
started in 1693. While the palace was finished by 1712, it took another seven years for the Baroque gardens to be fully completed. Throughout the 18th century, Schloss Hundisburg
was a popular place to stay both for members of the Brunswick line of the House of Guelph as well as Prussian rulers, including Friedrich I, Friedrich Wilhelm I and Friedrich II. Around the year 1750, Johann Friedrich III and Gebhard August von Alvensleben had parts of the gardens redeveloped to reflect the changing tastes of the time implementing elements of an English landscape park.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the Alvensleben family had run into some financial difficulties and thus decided to sell Schloss Hundisburg
. In 1811, Magdeburg-based industrialist Johann Gottlob Nathusius purchased the Schloss
and the surrounding lands. Instead of using it as a representative residence, he, however, decided to use the palace as a factory and had intermediate ceilings installed in some of the rooms. This was later reverted. His son Hermann Engelhard von Nathusius took over management in 1831, turned Schloss Hundisburg
into a model estate and became one of the most important animal breeders of the time. The last Nathusius to own Schloss Hundisburg
was his grandson Gottlob Karl as the property was seized in 1945 by Soviet troops and the remaining family fled to West Germany.
While the Schloss
and estate had escaped the Second World War relatively unscathed, on a fateful November night in 1945 most of the Baroque palace burned down. After the end of the war, Soviet troops were stationed at the palace. The main wing of the palace caught fire on the night of November 28 and two thirds of the palace destroyed by the flames - but not forever, although it would take a few years... While the remaining parts of the Schloss
were used during the following decades, the main wing was largely left to decay. Even a short-lived attempt to rebuild the palace during the 1960's did not change this. Only after German reunification local initiatives together with the local municipality and the German foundation for the protection of historical monuments saved the palace from further decay. Reconstruction started in the early 1990's and continues to this day.
The star of the show? Certainly the ceiling of Schloss Hundisburg
's main hall, which otherwise remains under construction. It's a beauty, isn't it?! And especially the contrast between the new ceiling and the old, still damaged walls is a fascinating one. It somewhat reminded my of Schloss Blankenburg
, the fate of which is different but somehow similar. In addition, several other less prominent rooms now housing parts of the old Alvensleben library again as well as exhibitions have also been restored. Currently construction is going on the exterior facade. It's an utterly fascinating project and a joy to see how people breath new life into this old building.