Mannheim Baroque Palace (Barockschloss Mannheim) was intended to be the second largest Baroque palace complex in Europe, after Versailles. Its grand scale was designed to highlight the important role of the Palatine Prince Electors in the Holy Roman Empire
A glittering court
In 1720, Prince Elector Carl Philipp transferred the palatinate’s seat of power from Heidelberg to Mannheim and initiated the construction of a new palace. The residence was completed under the reign of his successor, Carl Theodor. A connoisseur of the arts, Carl Theodor was a generous patron of music, theatre and science. He surrounded himself with leading artists and musicians, making Mannheim a Musenhof, a place known for its circle of luminaries. Among the illustrious visitors in the 18th-century was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In the 19th century, the palace underwent a revival when it became the residence of Crown Prince Karl of Baden and his wife, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, Napoleon Bonaparte’s adopted daughter. After her husband died, Stéphanie, a woman of wide-ranging musical and intellectual interests, stayed in Mannheim. Although modest, her court was lively and was seen as the place to be.
The palace is surrounded by the Mannheimer Quadrate, or Mannheim squares, which define the layout of the city centre. The palace’s architecture echoes this regular, right-angled pattern. The Baroque-style building comprises five wings, with the severity of the long threestorey façades broken up by four-storey pavilions.
Mannheim Baroque Palace’s original interiors were one of the wonders of European architecture – especially the main floor. However, the building was severely damaged during the Second World War. Since then, the main part of the palace has been rebuilt, including the majestic ceremonial staircase and stately Rittersaal (knights’ hall). Today, the restored grand rooms of the bel-étage (main floor) are furnished with over 800 exhibits, including 21 large tapestries, ornate furniture, priceless paintings, valuable porcelain and costly silverware – recreating its bygone grandeur.