A fortress and widow's residence

Kirchheim Palace

Schloss Kirchheim; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Kiehl
WÜRTTEMBERG'S STRONGHOLD AND DOWER HOUSE

PALACE AND GARDENS

For centuries, Kirchheim Palace, located along the northern ridge of the Swabian Alb, was home to Württemberg's dowager duchesses. It was originally part of a giant military installation, and is one of the best-preserved strongholds in the duchy.

KIRCHHEIM UNTER TECK AS A STRONGHOLD

Duke Ulrich von Württemberg had seven strongholds built in the 16th century, forming a wide circle around his residential city, Stuttgart. The town of Kirchheim unter Teck was expanded into a defensive stronghold, including moats, bastions, ramparts and casemates. The many-winged Renaissance palace formed the southwest corner of the 3.6 km complex.

Enfilade of rooms at Kirchheim Palace from Duchess Henriette's living room. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Kiel

Room to room, like a string of pearls.

FROM STRONGHOLD TO DUCAL PALACE

Many military changes occurred following the Thirty Years' War and the stronghold lost its importance. Palace architectural styles and decor were also undergoing changes. Kirchheim Palace would now act as lodgings for the dukes' hunting expeditions or during their health retreats in Bad Boll. Despite modifications, the simple structure with its massive basement floor and deep ditches still shows signs of its original use as a military stronghold.

Kirchheim unter Teck, by Andreas Kieser, 1683. Image: Wikipedia, public

Kirchheim unter Teck, by Andreas Kieser, 1683.

Quiet residence for six dowager duchesses. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Duchess Henriette's garden room.

QUIET RESIDENCE FOR SIX DOWAGER DUCHESSES

The palace's second life began as a dower house for Württemberg's dowager duchesses. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, six dowager duchesses lived in Kirchheim. Some led rather secluded lives, such as Franziska von Hohenheim. Others are remembered for their philanthropy, such as Henriette von Württemberg, who was active in social outreach. She also converted the palace rooms into a lavishly furnished residence, very much in the style of the mid-19th century.

Duchess Henriette's bedroom, watercolor, circa 1850. Image: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

Duchess Henriette's bedroom, watercolor, circa 1850.

THE 20TH CENTURY: TEACHING INSTEAD OF MILITARY

Many teachers know Kirchheim Palace. They have attended the learning center here, which now takes up most of the palace. For a time, however, the palace also housed a school and a local history museum. On the third floor, palace rooms invite visitors to explore the charming past.

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