Near the end of the Second World War, on March 1, 1945, Bruchsal was bombed for the first and only time. A thousand people died in that attack. The palace and the entire city were destroyed.
Since the war was nearly over by that time, and resistance to the advancing Allied forces was slight, it is difficult to understand what military justification there might have been for the bombing.
Today there is a photo exhibition in the palace showing what the palace looked like after the bombing, and how it was later re-built and restored.
Starting in 1964 the palace decorations were carefully and elaborately restored, using traditional materials and techniques whenever possible.
As in the Semper Opera House in Dresden, the apparently marble pillars are not made of marble at all but of plaster that has been carefully painted to look like marble. Only very skilled artisans can do this, often using techniques that have been passed down from father to son for many generations.
As in many other eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings, some of the pillars in the Bruchsal Palace are carved to look like people holding up the roof with their hands and head. In this case it is a man, so he is called an Atlas or Atlant (stress on the second syllable), after the mythological figure Atlas, who was forced to hold up the sky on his shoulders for ever and ever. In ancient Roman architecture this sort of male figure was called a telamon.
Actually, it was more common to have female figures supporting the roofs. These are called caryatids and are common in Paris, among other places. See my Paris posts Théâtre Montparnasse and How they make the Gobelin tapestries for a few examples. (Lots more to come in future posts.)
Bruchsal Palace was originally constructed in 1720 as a residence for the Prince-Bishops of Speyer. These “Prince-Bishops” were, as the name implies, both the secular and the religious rulers of their territories. Since they no longer had a residence in Speyer, the palace in Bruchsal became their main residence starting in 1723. Their territories consisted of several separate enclaves which together formed one of the smallest principalities of the Holy Roman Empire.
On the top floor of Bruchsal’s re-built Baroque palace, above the German Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments, there is another museum called the Bruchsal City Museum, which documents the history of the Bruchsal area from the Stone Age to the present time.
On the stairs going up to the third floor, visitors are greeted by a life-size cutout of Michi, a Stone Age child who offers to guide us through the museum and show us what life was like in this region some six thousand years ago.
In the “Experimental Archeology” section, Michi explains how people in the Stone Age made their food and clothing, and shows what kind of tools they used.
49° 7’43.38″ North; 8°35’53.26″ East
My photos in this post are from 2010. I revised the text in 2017.
See also: Look ma, no electrons!