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The master builders of Heidecksburg palace

Who formed the shape of the castle

For several centuries, Heidecksburg Palace has been enthroned as the town's crown overlooking Rudolstadt. A multitude of master builders and skilled craftsmen exerted their influence, changed its face and finally made it into the imposing palace it is today. In the process, close relations were formed with the Dresden court building department, so that the master builders there were often consulted for practical building questions.

The architect Joris Robijn, also known as Georg Robin, originally came from Ypres, Belgium, and was appointed court architect to the Archbishop of Mainz in 1575. As a master builder of Renaissance architecture, he enjoyed a high reputation and was considered one of the leading architects of his time. He also took over the planning for the construction work at Heidecksburg Castle – commissioned by Albrecht VII. His work was limited to the period from 1571 to the beginning of 1575. He was familiar with the great castle buildings of his time and had studied architectural theory.
According to Robin's plans, rooms were modernised in a short time for representative but also purely functional purposes. He was also faced with the task of connecting the buildings standing to the north with a modern façade structure to form a unified castle wing.

When considerable damage to the tunnel vault leading to the palace courtyard under the south wing became apparent at the end of 1719, the master builder of Saxony, Matthaeus Daniel Poeppelmann, was contacted. In May 1720, he sent his son Carl Friedrich Poeppelmann and Johann Christian Knoeffel to Rudolstadt as his substitutes, who eventually took over the planning for the upcoming work and analysed the damage. Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann himself, however, was repeatedly involved, also by Krohne for the overall planning of the palace.

Only little is known about the training that the architect, born in Dresden, received. In 1698 Knoeffel became a bricklayer and around 1710 he worked for the Dresdian royal department of building and planning. Here he gained great practical experience and studied the theory of architecture of his time as an autodidact. His first project as designing architect was the laying out of the palace and garden in Heidenau-Grosssedlitz for the count of Wackerbarth in the years 1719/20. Since then Knoeffel ascended in the hierarchy of the royal department of building and planning.

In 1722, he was appointed court architect followed by his appointment as third senior court architect apart from Poeppelmann and Longuelune six years later in 1728. After 1733 Knoeffel’s scope of duties expanded and after Poeppelmann’s death in 1738 he led the royal department of building and planning. Despite of the necessary administrative duties Knoeffel managed to pursue comprehensive planning and construction activities. Especially the influential count of Bruehl made use of Knoeffel’s services for all of his building projects in Saxony. Knoeffel’s work shaped the development of the Saxon architecture from Baroque to Rococo. His buildings combine the tradition of the Dresdian baroque with the influence of the French theory of architecture of the 17th century. After the fire at Heidecksburg Palace in 1735, Knoeffel accomplished the design of the new western wing and carried out the structural works until 1747.

In 1732, the building conductor Johann Jacob Rosseau, who worked in Dresden and about whose life only little is known, was appointed as the first county architect of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. He was therefore responsible for all building projects of the sovereign and had to provide the necessary building plans. He was subordinate to the Privy Council.
His earliest planning works include the ground and elevation drawings of the Audience Room in the west wing and the ground plan of the Great Court Room on the ground floor of the same. He also designed the table arrangements, the magnificent decorations and the illuminations. The plans drawn by Rousseau give a partial impression of the original design and interior architecture of the west wing before the fire of 1735.

As in the case of Knoeffel we only know very little about the training of Gottfried Heinrich Krohne who was born in Dresden in 1703. It is likely that he has received training in building trade and gained his first professional experiences with David Schatz, a building master from Leipzig. There is also evidence that Krohne worked together with Georg Baehr, the architect of the Frauenkirche in Dresden especially since Baehr’s wife Magdalena was Krohne’s godmother. At the age of 23 Krohne received work as a court master builder by Count Wilhelm Ernst of Saxony-Weimar. In 1726, he changed the tower of the Weimar castle and crowned it with a dome and a cupola. Krohne spent the summer of 1729 in Vienna in order to study and at the end of the same year he finally settled down in Weimar.

Under Count Ernst August I of Saxe-Weimar, who reigned since 1728, Krohne’s rise to a court architect began. The building passion of his sovereign was decisive for his work. Krohne created numerous pleasure palaces and hunting lodges, among them Belvedere Castle and the Rococo castle of Dornburg. In 1741, when the duke Ernst August I of Saxe-Weimar inherited the Duchy of Saxe-Eisenach, Krohne also became court architect of Saxe-Eisenach. Under his guidance the city palace of Eisenach was erected and the hunting lodge in Wilhelmstal rebuilt.

After the dismissal of master builder Johann Adolph Herzog, Krohne was nominated senior court architect of the duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. His advice was also asked for in many other territories. He drafted the plans for many building projects. In 1742, Krohne designed the interior of the banquet rooms of Heidecksburg Palace which should not only prove to be his last task but also the crowning achievement of his life’s work. 

Peter Caspar Schellschlaeger, who had initially pursued a military career and was also intensively involved in mathematics and geometry, worked on the Rudolstadt palace building under Gottfried Heinrich Krohne from the end of the 1740s. He drew a ground floor plan of all the buildings of the entire complex. These plans are important sources for the building history of the castle. Krohne had great confidence in Schellschlaeger.
In 1751, Schellschlaeger applied to Johann Friedrich of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt to become an ensign, which the prince granted. In 1756, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. With the death of the master builder Krohne, Schellschlaeger took over the construction management of the residential palace in 1756 and became master builder himself in 1758. In the further expansion of the palace rooms, he consistently adhered to Krohne's existing construction drawings.

Wilhelm Adam Thierry was born in Bruchsal and later studied the art of painting in Mannheim. He found employment as the landgravial drawing master in Homburg and later as court painter in Saxony-Meinigen. After additional architectural studies in Karlsruhe, he was finally appointed princely building director in Rudolstadt by Princess Karoline Louise, with responsibility for Heidecksburg Palace. Wilhelm Adam's younger brother, Johann Anton Ferdinand Thierry was a pupil of the master builder Friedrich Weinbrenner, which earned him the rank of Grand Ducal Baden land architect and district building inspector.
In the period around 1800, building activity around Heidecksburg Palace revived once again. In addition to Christian Friedrich Schuricht from Dresden, Wilhelm Adam Thierry was also instrumental in the completion of the castle ensemble. His brother Ferdinand created a series of interior and furniture designs. There are a number of architectural drawings for the classical redesign of the chambers in the south wing, but not all of them were realised.