Station: [34] The Schlössle (Little Palace)

First, here’s the sad truth: the Schlössle, or Little Palace, isn’t a palace and never was. Even if it may sometimes have felt like one, as far as the Benedictine brothers were concerned.

Until secularisation, the rectangular three-storey building was the property of nearby Schuttern Abbey. It was an abbey priory and served as the abbot’s summer residence. You can tell by looking at the combined coats of arms above the building’s main entrance:

On the left is the abbey’s coat of arms: a king, kneeling, presenting a church to the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus. On the right, there’s a wild boar above a choppy body of water. That’s the coat of arms of the last abbot of Schuttern, Placidius Bacheberle, who held office from 1786 to 1806.

The Schlössle was largely built in the 18th century, but the estate is much older. In 1016, Emperor Henry bestowed a farm called "Ruotgeresvilere" – "Routger’s hamlet" on Schuttern Abbey. That farm was what’s known as a “Freihof”, which means it was exempt from feudal obligations. Three hundred years later – from 1313 onwards – there’s evidence of the existence of the chapel of St. George. The farm expanded, and Ruotgeresvilere eventually became Heiligenzell.

Heiligenzell Farm was probably a kind of manor, with stables and barns, a laundry and a kiln, and ultimately even a prison tower...

... because the Abbot of Schuttern had summary jurisdiction over anyone who lived on the monastic estates. But only until 1806, when secularisation swept all the monastic structures away. A few years later, the mayor of Lahr, Johann Jakob Hugo, and his son-in-law Franz Meister, purchased the building in order to set up a chicory and tobacco factory.

From then on, the Schlössle was given over to the roasting of chicory roots and the rolling of cigars – and smiling female workers posed in front of the main portal. The building was subsequently put to various uses, and by 1970, it was in such a derelict state that there were plans for its demolition. But the Antiquities and Monuments Office protested, and so the municipality of Friesenheim set about restoring the venerable Schlössle. Since 1984, this "major cultural monument" has served as a cultural centre that hosts concerts and exhibitions.

All depictions: © Josef Sailer