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A fortress and widow's residence

Kirchheim Palace

Alchemists at work: picture of the distilling room, copper engraving, circa 1580
SEARCHING FOR GOLD IN KIRCHHEIM

ALCHEMY

"...that he does not experiment and only tells lies..." The search for gold, or at the very least the philosopher's stone, occupied many European dukes in the 16th century, including Duke Friedrich I von Württemberg. The risk of encountering frauds was high.

Portrait of Duke Friedrich I von Württemberg. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Robert Bothner

Duke Friedrich I von Württemberg.

THREE CHARLATANS ON THE SEARCH FOR GOLD

Around 1600, Duke Friedrich I von Württemberg was a supporter of alchemy, the precursor to modern science. One of an alchemist's goals was to transform non-precious metals into gold and silver, something which has still not been achieved today. Duke Friedrich I purchased an aristocrat's estate at the edge of Kirchheim unter Teck and had a laboratory installed there. In the hopes of revealing the secret of gold production, he engaged three alchemists in a row who promised much and delivered nothing.

Detail: alchemists at work, copper engraving circa 1580

Heinrich Nüscheler's work took him to the gallows.

THE FIRST CHARLATAN

Alchemist Heinrich Nüscheler was the first to begin work in Kirchheim. He publicized a promising method for turning lead into gold. However, he secretly mixed real gold into the universal tincture, with the result that the fraud quickly became apparent and the unlucky alchemist wound up at the Stuttgart gallows.

Detail: alchemists at work, copper engraving circa 1580

His contract with the Duke saved him.

THE SECOND CHARLATAN

Kirchheim's second alchemist, Alexander Stocker, only narrowly escaped his predecessor's fate. His experiments were also unsuccessful, however, he made reference to his contract with the duke in which he gave no assurance of his success, which is why he was subsequently not sentenced to death.

Detail: alchemists at work, copper engraving circa 1580

His art became his downfall.

THE THIRD CHARLATAN

Hans Heinrich von Mühlenfels was the third alchemist. He experimented in Kirchheim for two years without being able to present the duke with satisfactory results. Under torture, he finally admitted his fraud and also wound up at the gallows. His property was confiscated and the Kirchheim laboratory was dismantled.

Reconstruction of a gallows. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Eberhard Späth

Reconstruction of a gallows.

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