Schloss Augustusburg, the favourite palace residence of the prince-elector and archbishop of Cologne Clemens August of the House Wittelsbach (1700 – 1761), is one of the great masterpieces of rococo and the first important example of this style in Germany. The Schloss, together with the hunting lodge of Falkenlust and the park and garden grounds, which connect the two palaces, comprises the entire complex of an electoral residence which has been preserved with a completeness that is seldom encountered. The complex was recognized by UNESCO and added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1984.
Already by the 12th century, the Archbishop of Cologne had an established manor and game hunting grounds where the present-day palace complex stands. In the year 1284 the Archbishop Siegfried had a moated castle built as a stronghold against the city of Cologne, which was completed in 1298. The castle was fortified under Archbishop Walram. The castle stood until 1689, when it was destroyed by the French in the Palatinate War of Succession. It was on the ruins of this middle ages castle that Archbishop Clemens August ordered Schloss Augustusburg be built. In 1725 work began following plans by Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun. Since the new construction was ordered on the foundation of the old, the window axes of the side wings could not be symmetrically allocated, an atypical feature in baroque architecture.
Beginning in 1728 under François de Cuvilliés, Bavarian architect to the imperial court, Schloss Augustusburg was designed and decorated to stand as the preeminent residence of its time. Artists renowned across Europe worked on the Schloss up until its completion in 1768. Of particular note are Balthasar Neumann, who completed the design for the world-renowned staircase, and Carlo Carlone, who created the impressive ceiling frescos in the staircase and garden hall.
Schloss Augustusburg was badly damaged by the end of the Second World War. Nevertheless efforts to restore it to its previous splendour had already begun by 1946. From 1949 to 1996, Schloss Augustusburg was in many decades used as an official representative palace by the state. Elaborate receptions were held by the president of Germany to greet foreign dignitaries here. Today, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the owner and steward of the grounds, ensuring that the world-renowned palace in Brühl will be conserved in perpetuity, and together with Schloss Falkenlust maintained as a museum open to the public.
The Palace Church “Saint Mary of the Angels” can be considered one of the most beautiful baroque churches in West Germany. The single-nave church is outwardly characterized by modest late gothic style and a simple ridge turret. Inside, it opens up to the radiant splendour of the baroque. Established by Elector-prince Hermann IV. of Hessen and consecrated on December 8th 1492, Saint Mary of the Angels served up until secularization in 1802 as an abbey for the Franciscan Order seated here. The church is dedicated to the patron saint the Virgin Mary. The added title „of the angels“ goes back to the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi, where the Franciscan Order originated.
The church was redesigned under Clemens August, Elector of Cologne from the House Wittelsbach in the first half of the 18th century. An oratorio was built onto the choir and the church was connected to the palace through an orangery. The modest gothic Order Church became an opulent court and palace church in the rococo style, receiving a wrought-iron screen to separate the monks‘ area from the public, two side altars and a pulpit. The centrepiece, a double-sided main altar, was based on a design by Balthasar Neumann, and could well be seen as the most splendid canopied altar in the Rhineland. It consists of two main parts, the altar itself and its crowning canopy. Both parts are made of wood and coated with colorful stucco marble and partially gilded. The altar has a front and rear refectory, so that two masses can be conducted simultaneously: in the front for the monks and the people, and behind for Clemens August and his entourage, who could follow the event from the oratorio.
A grand round mirror in the middle of the altar structure is embellished with an equilateral triangle symbolizing the eye of god. The mirror also has a very practical function. It covers an opening in the wall (now walled off) in the upper oratorio. A tilting mechanism allowed the mirror to be adjusted in a way that allowed Elector Clemens August a view out onto masses taking place in the rear altar.
With the secularisation in 1802 ownership of the church and the Fransciscan monastery were passed over to the French state. In 1807 the church was once more left to the congregation and was used as a branch church of the parish of Saint Margareta. On December 28th 1944 the church was hit by two bombs and extensively destroyed. In 1949 the restoration began, which culminated in its reopening on December 8th 1953 and its elevation to rectory. In 1961, the first Sacrifice of the Mass could be celebrated on the restored high altar. The restoration work concluded with the reconstruction of the previous side altars in 1999. In the meantime, in the year 1958, the rectorate became a parish and Saint Mary of the Angels a parish church. Today the church shines in all its former glory and dazzles with its painterly ambiance just as it did in Clemens August’s time.
The three-aisled late gothic basilica was built in the middle of the 14th century as a replacement for a chapel which had gotten too small since Brühl became an independent parish in 1274. Its expansion followed at the end of the 19th century with, among other things, a two-aisled transept. To this day the church presents itself essentially in this form to the observer. The interior impresses with its clearly organised gothic structure and its bright, large space. The decor is noteworthy: the wooden shrine to Ursula (1500), two panels in the choir area (1510), the triumphal rood in the northern side aisle (1714), the pulpit and organ (1730) as well as the new gothic high altar (end of the 19th century). The modern, illuminating and richly symbolic windows were installed in the 1960s according to designs by the stained glass artist Hermann Gottfried
The Church of Christ on Mayersweg in Brühl, inaugurated in 1888, is the oldest protestant church between Cologne and Bonn. Already in 1834 protestant services were being led in Brühl: first as a military worship service for Prussian soldiers from all over the territory, and later by a protestant priest who came with the mail coach every three months from Cologne to Brühl for the service. With the growing industrialisation of the region, more and more Christians moved to Brühl. A room in Augustusburg Palace, which initially served the congregation as a church nave, proved to be too small over time, and so on September 2nd 1886 the cornerstone of the Church of Christ was laid. After two years of construction, the church opened on September 21st 1888. After being hit by a bomb on March 2nd 1945, the entire church including all its contents, from the Karl Leopold Melchior-designed windows to the likewise heavily damaged steeple, were destroyed. After the war, services took place in the orangery of the palace. With support from the community, the church was rebuilt and reopened on November 11th 1951.The postwar years allowed with regard to building materials initially only the simplest workmanship. At the start of the 1960s the sculptor Helmuth Uhrig was tasked with the artistic direction of the church‘s expansion. With the entirety and consistency of the biblical-ecclesiastical representations, including the glass windows, sculptures in stone and wood as well as the woven antependium, the Church of Christ in Brühl counts as one of the best examples of iconological design of the new era in the protestant church.
The baroque garden adjoining the southern wing of the Palace was created in the French style by Dominique Girard from 1728. Today it is one of the most authentic 18th century gardens found in Europe and together with the physical structure was added in 1984 to the UNESCO World Heritage list. The heart of the garden is the large, two-part „parterres de broderie“ with round and quatrefoil-shaped fountains and connecting reflecting pools. The embroidery-esque ornamental box tree filigree winding through the decorative garden plot is framed by rhythmically planted flower beds. Enclosing the parterre on both sides are promenades of linden trees leading to the triangular hedge gardens, which themselves were designed with round pathways, wells and small “salons“ and already by the 18th century were destinations for intimate excursions. Also worth seeing is the so-called “secret garden” (“jardin secret”) found tucked under the orangery wing.
From 1842 Peter Joseph Lenné designed the park in Brühl for Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia as an English landscaped garden, whose elements today continue to define the forested area. Here the painterly change from tree lots and meadows sets the prevailing mood. Irregularly curving paths and small coursing streams lead to the water areas of the two pocket ponds. As the technical sensation of its day, Lenné also incorporated the train tracks of the Cologne-Bonn line, opened in 1844, into the garden design by leading it to the pocket ponds area via a richly decorated iron bridge.
The baroque parterre was reproduced on the grounds between 1933 and 1937 following the original garden plans.