This stately home at Weikersheim, set against the gentle rolling landscape of Hohenlohe, is one of the stops on the Romantic Road. Weikersheim’s market square in reality is far less meant for commerce than as a grand forecourt to the castle. Indeed, the squares present appearance is the result of 18th-century town planning which had that very aim in mind. The arcade at buildings in the western end of the square in part to particularly baroque swagger to the square, reaching out like embracing arms in the manner of the colonnades fronting St. Peter’s in Rome.
Masonry from the original 12th century fortress survives in the lowest parts of the main power, they keep, while the north wing preserves part of the medieval moated castle which later emerged.
The story of its transformation into the grand palatial residence which can be seen today began in 1586, when Count Ludwig II decided to reestablish Weikersheim in its long usurped role as the families main seat, extending it frequently in the years which followed. From 1710 they began to furbish the interior with precious furniture, mirrors, gobelin tapestries and Chinese porcelain, which has survived almost completely. The collection of Ansbach majolica, now one of the largest, was also begun. The well preserved rooms offer rare insights into life at court in the early 18th century. The sumptuous Knights Hall (Rittersaal), decorated around 1600 with its beautifully crafted coffered ceiling, its canvas hunting scenes and life-sized animals sculptures, is a supreme specimen of Renaissance architecture in southwest Germany. From the windows there is a delightful view across the baroque garden, with its mythological statuary, the Gallery of Dwarves and Orangerie, to the distant Tauber Valley. The palace garden at Weikersheim is an outstanding example of garden design in Hohenlohe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and its restoration gives visitors the opportunity to relive the poetic grace and solemnity of a baroque arrangement.
The Castle Garden (Schlossgarten), which is contemporary with the later parts of the castle, is exceptionally well preserved. Bounded by avenues of chestnut trees, it is arranged symmetrically, with formal clipped hedges offset by the blazing color of the flower arrangements. The decorative sculptures, which are the work of Johann Jakob Sommer and his three sons, a particularly notable. On the balustrade immediately below the castle is a series of caricatures of members of the court; these were inspired by the famous engravings of the Lorraine artist Jacques Callot, and are the only impact set of this once popular subjects to have survived to the present day. In the central pond as a group showing Hercules fighting the Hydra. Like many German princes, those of the Hohenlohe family frequently saw analogies between themselves and the mythological hero.
Further evidence of the megalomaniac mindset can be seen in the unfinished Orangerie at the end of the garden, which provides a theatrical backdrop to the beautiful view of the Tauber river valley beyond. Among the figures represented of those they believe to be their spiritual ancestors – Aeneas, and none other than the emperors of ancient Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome.
The Knights Hall (Rittersaal)
After a division of inherited estates, Count Wolfgang II of Hohenlohe – Langenburg chose Weikersheim as his residence. In 1595 he initiated construction of a Renaissance palace to replace a medieval moated castle. The principal room of state took shape in the south wing: an impressive haul 120 feet long, 36 feet wide, and 29 feet high. Balthasar Katzenberger of Würzburg painted a series of hunting scenes for the coffered ceiling. The life-size stucco animals on the long walls, sporting genuine antlers, are another hunting reference. However, they do count among their number an exotic outsider – the elephant. The same artist, Gerhard Schmidt, made the recumbent figures of Count Wolfgang and his lady consort with their ancestral plaques each side of the big fireplace adorned with bas-relief.
The Knights Hall in Weikersheim is one of the few festivals of the period around 1600 still to be found in their original state. Only the wainscot paintings, an artistic clock and the large chandelier were added in the 18th century.
Count Karl Ludwig’s Hall of Audience
During the baroque period Count Karl Ludwig (Carl Ludwig) of Hohenlohe Weikersheim (1674 – 1756) updated the palace, having a baroque garden laid and many rooms refurbished. The key functions of state were no longer performed in the Knights Hall, but in the Count’s own apartment. Karl Ludwig had a suite created from 1708 on the second floor of the east wing. It consisted of an ante-chamber, hall of audience and bedroom. The walls in the hall of audience are structured by red trompe l’oeil marble pilasters (stuccolustro), while sturdy baroque stucco work adorns the walls and ceiling. For sumptuous wall tape