Prince Leopold III. Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817) is regarded as the creator of the Gardenrealm of Dessau-Wörlitz. In 1758, at the age of 18, he succeeded to the throne of the little principality on the rivers Elbe and Mulde. As a result of the experience he gained during his Grand Tour travels abroad, the Prince started as early as 1765 to make calculated changes to the countryside in order to improve it. The starting point as well as the culmination of these changes were the gardens at Wörlitz, which became the first English landscape garden in continental Europe and its country house (or Schloss) Wörlitz was the first neo-classical building erected in Germany.
In 2000, the Gardenrealm of Dessau-Wörlitz was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee justified its inscription as follows: »The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is an outstanding example of the application of the philosophical principles of the Age of the Enlightenment to the design of a landscape that integrates art, education and economy in a harmonious whole.«
Today, the Gardenrealm extends to an area of 142 square kilometers and includes six parks and five palaces, amongst others the world famous garden of Wörlitz. Large parts are today administered by the Kulturstiftung Dessau-Wörlitz, a non-profit foundation under public law with its headquarters in Dessau. It is supported by the State of Saxony-Anhalt. The mission of the Kulturstiftung is to preserve the Gardenrealm including all its buildings, gardens and art collections, and to make them accessible to the public. Visit our palaces and gardens and spend some relaxing and inspiring hours here. Take walk through the parks, enjoy a gondola tour, listen to concerts or visit our yearly exhibition – there is much to enjoy. Take in the harmony of landscape, architecture and the fine arts and discover the cultural heritage of times gone by.
Schloss Wörlitz – England and classical antiquity all under one roof
Schloss Wörlitz, the house that established neo-classicism in Germany, was built for Prince Franz after designs by Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff. It still contains its original late 18th century furnishings and decorations including precious collections of classical sculptures, paintings and objects from the famous Wedgwood factory. All its floors are accessible to visitors since 2017 during guided tours. And a trip to the belvedere allows for a sweeping scenic view across the lake and the landscape garden.
The Gothic House in the Wörlitz Gardens
Beginning in 1773, the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau began establishing the Gothic House in the Wörlitz Gardens as a chamber of arts amidst an assemblage of neo-Gothic architecture. To this day, the collection includes some of the greats of Old German and Dutch painting. The Gothic House still has 18 paintings connected to the Cranach family. It served as a hideaway for Friedrich Franz where he could live among his collections in the solitude of his garden.
The »Magic Rock« at Wörlitz
The »Stein« island in the eastern part of the Wörlitz Gardens with the only artificial volcano in Europe is a particularly spectacular monument within the UNESCO World Heritage that is the Gardenrealm of Dessau-Wörlitz. Built between 1788 and 1794 it is as much travel memento and homage to Naples, the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius as well as a monument to the Princes friendship with the British diplomat, collector of antiquities and geologist Sir William Hamilton (1731–1803), whom the prince met in 1766 in Naples during his grand tour. After more than twenty years of closure the island was re-opened to the public in September 2005 and from time to time, an artificial eruption of the model volcano is staged in a special event.
Oranienbaum – a little piece of the Netherlands
Oranienbaum is a geometrical ensemble integrating town, palace and park and at the same time a rare example of a mainly Dutch-inspired baroque garden in Germany. Henriette Catharina, Princess of Anhalt-Dessau and born a Princess of Orange-Nassau and great-grandmother to Friedrich Franz, chose the little village as the place of her summer residence and previously named it »Oranienbaum« (lit. orange tree). Planned by the Dutch builder Cornelis Ryckwaert, town and castle represent the Dutch influences to which the principality of Anhalt-Dessau owed much to in terms of influences into its economy and culture. Friedrich Franz added a English-Chinese Garden part during its reign which represents the worldly fashion of his time and manages to surprise and inspire a far-eastern impression.
Mosigkau – a pearl of the Rococo period
The Rococo palace of Mosigkau was built by Princess Anna Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Dessau, an unmarried aunt of Friedrich Franz, as a summer residence. The house – today affectionately called »little Sanssouci« – is one of the last surviving Rococo ensembles in Central Germany. Although it is only faintly comparable with its model in Potsdam, its rural charm and elegance contribute to its unique appeal. The core and at the same time climax of the whole design is the Gallery within the Corps de logis. The room holds important paintings by mainly Flemish and Dutch masters hung in a baroque fashion which is rare, in fact unique for Germany, and set in recesses in the wall. Its pleasure garden offers a maze and many nooks and crannies for leisure and courtly activities and invites to a stroll between its hedges.
Luisium – a private retreat for the Princess
The neo-classical country seat of Princess Louise of Anhalt-Dessau, wife to Friedrich Franz, is considered to be Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff’s masterpiece. Today it appears as the most idyllic of all the grounds laid out between Dessau and Wörlitz. The intimate rooms and cabinets of the delightful house with their fine stucco decorations and wall paintings are largely originally furnished. Its mirror-cabinet, ballroom and Pompeian cabinet adorned with depictions of volcanos are only three of the interesting rooms one can visit. The surrounding park invites for a leisurely walk and surprises with intimate garden-architectures and statues around nearly every turn of the path.
The park at the Sieglitzer Berg
Towards the west of the old fishing village of Vockerode, where the river Elbe takes a bend, Prince Franz began laying out a woodland park after 1777. It is situated on an elevation that is dry during the frequent floods of the surrounding meadows and comprises an area of about 25 hectares. Contemporaries described it as an »orderly wilderness«, which is exactly the effect the Prince had intended. Using the appropriately named “Solitude” building in its midst to take baths as treatment for his rheumatic condition.
Großkühnau – a vineyard within the Elbe meadows
The palace was built for Prince Albert of Anhalt-Dessau and was completed in 1780. Its owner simply referred to it as the »house« and at the time it was very modestly and solidly furnished. Apart from the decorative painting in the Banqueting Hall on the first floor, there was no artistic ornamentation anywhere in the house. Since January 1998 the palace houses the administrative headquarters of the Kulturstiftung Dessau-Wörlitz (KsDW).
Summer nights at the Gardenrealm of Dessau-Wörlitz: »It is now infinitely beautiful here. I was very moved last night as we strolled through the lakes, canals and woods by how the gods have allowed the Prince to create a dream around himself…« Those lines were written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Charlotte von Stein in May 1778 during his visit to Wörlitz. To this day, visitors are spellbound by this unique, homogenous garden and architectural landscape. Between May and September, the gardens and palaces host a unique array of concerts, theatre performances and musical and literary events every year. Inviting visitors to experience the cultural heritage left behind by Prince Leopold III. Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau with all senses, this event-series is marked by many as a welcome indulgence in the arts. A concert on the lake in Wörlitz, for instance, will surely become an unforgettable memory for every visitor.
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