A staircase split up the middle. On the left-hand side is a reconstruction of the historic steps, while the right hand side provides a less strenuous way of climbing up the equestrian staircase.
You’re probably puzzling over the idea of an equestrian staircase. Well, the long, shallow steps weren’t intended for humans, but for fleet-footed horses, which bore their riders up to the entrance into the palace. This form of access was created when Moritz of Saxony converted the castle into a hunting lodge between 1543 and 1546.
Moritz would organise hunting parties, to which he’d invite other princes and members of the nobility, and they’d all start out from the lodge. And when they rode up this grand staircase to the main castle, they’d have been thoroughly impressed!
No doubt they rode straight past a discreet projection on the wall without even noticing. It’s on your right and opens on to the rock. This projection was part of the ducal toilet, his garderobe, which was in the second floor bedroom right above. Take a look at your screen: the garderobe shaft ran between the double windows and had an underground connection with the river Röder. Water draining off the roof was also piped into the shaft, flushing it thoroughly whenever it rained. The garderobe shaft disappeared during the remodelling work in the late 18th century, as did the dormer windows.
The equestrian staircase remained and still leads up to the magnificent Renaissance portal, which also dates to Moritz’s time. Architecturally, it’s has similarities to the Dresden Palace and was refurbished in the 1990s. Perhaps you’ve noticed a few old dents in the wooden door. They bear witness to the huge door knocker that hung here for centuries. These days, it’s kept in the treasure chamber of the palace museum, where you’ll have a chance to see it.
On the 9th of April 1985, the vaulting beneath the great stairs collapsed, taking several metres of the equestrian staircase with it. Fortunately, it was a Sunday, so no-one was hurt. The playground of the kindergarten housed in Klippenstein during the GDR period was right at the foot of the stairs. For more than a decade, the equestrian staircase was out of use. It was only restored as part of the refurbishment undertaken after German reunification. Since 1998, visitors have once again been able to take this route all the way up to the main castle and the museum.
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen