Wilhelm Hauff …
Like the colossal tower of a cathedral, a handsome rock rose up from a deep mountain valley, proud and free. All the solid ground lay far distant, is if a bolt of lightning had split the rock from the earth, or an earthquake severed it, or as if a flood in ancient times had washed the softer soil away from its solid mass of rock.
Wilhelm Hauff’s effusive description of “his” Lichtenstein. However, the novel’s main setting, the “old fortress”, had long since been demolished in Hauff’s day. Since 1802, a forester’s lodge stood on the site, providing accommodation for the duke’s forest warden. Even in those days, the place drew huge crowds of visitors. People came en masse. At first for the stunning views, but later, of course, also because of the famous novel.
Some ten years after Wilhelm Hauff’s death, a certain Count Wilhelm of Württemberg drew inspiration from that novel. The Count had enjoyed an all-round education and was a writer of plays and poetry as well as essays on political issues, for example. Tübingen University even awarded him an honorary doctorate in philosophy.
But in his spare time, Wilhelm was also a passionate collector. He owned paintings and sculptures, but also coats of arms, uniforms and suits of armour. And he needed somewhere to keep it all. That was where Lichtenstein came in – the rocky peak, not the castle. The size was perfect, and so was the site. That went without saying. And the connection with Württemberg history provided the icing on the cake. The Count was over the moon.
On the 25th of August 1838, Lichtenstein peak changed hands. The Count purchased it from his cousin, the King of Württemberg, for 7,553 guilders and 58 kreutzer. But his majesty had one condition. Wilhelm was contractually obliged “willingly to permit respectable visitors” to visit the new palace.
Count Wilhelm built his new Lichtenstein in the late medieval style. He didn’t just follow the model provided in the novel, he also implemented his own ideas, which tended towards the romantic.
The little palace was hung fast on the rock, like a bird’s nest perched on the loftiest branch of an oak tree, or built on the boldest pinnacle of a tower. (..) And if the many bright windows of the upper floor gave it an appearance of airy freedom, yet the vast walls of the foundation and the buttresses, which seemed fused to the rock, demonstrated that it was rooted in solid ground and would not be shaken by the force of the elements, nor stormed by men.
Even before the purchase, Count Wilhelm contacted the Nuremberg architect Carl Alexander Heidelof. He was delighted and started working on the designs for the new palace. But the count also contributed his own ideas about the building’s design. In May 1842, the “cloud palace on a rugged crag” was solemnly inaugurated.
Fotos: © Wilhelm-Hauff-Museum