The five hundred acres of Schönbusch Park, located at a bend in the Main river about two miles from downtown Aschaffenburg, is one of the oldest landscape gardens in any German speaking country. It was very carefully designed to bring to life an idealized vision of a bucolic landscape dotted with romantic vistas and buildings. Today there is a Visitors Center in the former kitchens building with an excellent exhibit about 19th century parks. It includes a small scale model of the park as it looked when it was built, as well as working models of the carousel that used to be in the park and boats etc. Today there is also a popular restaurant with beer garden, rental boats, and a large maze garden.
How the Park Came About
Friedrich Carl of Erthal, Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, had the old royal hunting grounds and deer park refashioned into a landscape park in 1775. His minister of public affairs, Count Wilhelm of Sickingen, undertook the construction of canals, artificial lakes, and hills and laid a serpentine path around the outside of the park. The Portugese architect Emanuel Joseph von Herigoyen (1746-1817) designed all the buildings and fixtures in the garden. The first of these was the Electoral pavilion, built between 1778 and 1782 as a little neoclassical summer residence with exquisite Louis XVI furnishings and known today as Schönbusch Palace.
By 1788-89 it had been joined, among others, by the utility building (Wirtschaftsgebäude), the shepherds houses (Hirtenhäuser) and the rustic village (Dörfchen) as designed as picturesque rural sets or props for the landscape, and then the Temple of Friendship (Freundschaftstempel), the House of Philosophy (Philosophenhaus), the Viewing Tower, the Dining Hall (Speisesaal) and the Red Bridge.
After around 1780 the Swiss landscape artist Friedrich Ludwig Sckell (1750-1823) took over the leadership of the park development, under orders to complete the garden by 1783 at the latest. This was Sckell’s first opportunity to apply the landscaping principles he had studied at length in England to a completely new park. Among other things Sckell conceived the entire northern part of the park with its generous water features and meadows as well as the so-called Grosse Wiesental – The Great Meadow Valley — which still today runs through Schönbusch Park from the north to the south. He opened up and thinned out the trees on the edge of the park so that wider views into the surrounding landscape were created. These distant views were a characteristic device to make the park look bigger than it was. Sckell left posterity one of Germany’s greatest accomplishments of landscaped garden design.
The Central Hall in Schönbusch Palace
The first building that was commissioned for the new landscaped garden at Schönbusch near Aschaffenburg was a summer palace. The Central Hall on the upper floor of the palace is a fine example of transposing a baroque idea — a hall of mirrors — into the formal idiom of early neoclassicism. The three large French windows to the balcony are matched by a mirrored doors on the inner walls. All the doors and the fireplace projection are flanked by Ionic double pilasters worked in stucco with an entablature binding them. In the cavity molding above these are mezzanine windows and matching oblong mirrors. When designing the flat ceiling decorated with fields of stucco, the architect Herigoyen used a drawing from the collection A Book of Ceilings, published in 1776 by the Englishman George Richardson, which the Archbishop had purchased for his library. The color scheme in the Central Hall, with cool yet strong views, echoes the hand coloring in this book.