Episcopalian Baroque residence at Lake Constance

Meersburg New Palace

Porträt des Fürstbischofs Johann Franz Schenk von Stauffenberg, 1739, Öl auf Leinwand, Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Joachim Feist
A builder with a clear vision

Johann Franz Schenk

von Stauffenberg

Prince-Bishop Johann Franz Schenk von Stauffenberg (1658–1740), who came from an old Swabian noble family, shaped the appearance of the town of Meersburg. He was responsible for constructing the splendid buildings that sit next to the old castle and make up the Baroque residence.

Portrait of Prince-Bishop Johann Franz Schenk von Stauffenberg, painting from 1722. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Stauffenberg was a generous ruler.

Was Stauffenberg a family man?

Stauffenberg was born in 1658 in Lautlingen near Albstadt, the fourth of five sons of Wolfgang Friedrich Schenk von Stauffenberg. After his studies in Dillingen, he became the subdeacon in Augsburg in 1682. In 1704, he was elected as the Bishop of Constance. Stauffenberg worked hard to increase his family's status and holdings. He provided especially for his many nieces and nephews, in part by foregoing earnings from his own principalities.

Lake side with Meersburg New Palace, detail of a ceiling fresco in the Meersburg-Baitenhausen chapel, circa 1750. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Expanding the palace was an emergency solution.

What was his goal as the Bishop of Constance?

Immediately following his appointment to bishop, Stauffenberg attempted to move the prince-bishops’ residence back to the cathedral city of Constance. He wanted a representational bishop's seat near his cathedral. To this end, he planned a palace and seminary. When the city council was unwilling to provide the necessary land, Stauffenberg turned his attentions back to Meersburg in frustration and decided on an expansion to his residence directly next to the old castle.

Why did Stauffenberg need more room?

Stauffenberg called on former Benedictine monk Christoph Gessinger (circa 1670–1732) to be his architect in this endeavor. Gessinger had already worked as a surveyor at the prince-bishops’ court and now designed the expansion that would later become the New Palace according to Stauffenberg's wishes. There was a shortage of space for administrative offices, since Stauffenberg planned on expanding his retinue considerably during his reign. Thus the legal office, the upper and lower bailiwicks and the records office were moved into the second floor of the New Building.

Garden facade (lake side), lower garden level and pavilion of Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Stauffenberg shaped the Meersburg lakeside facade.

What connects Stauffenberg and Meersburg?

The most striking elements of the impressive Meersburg lake facade, as can still be seen today, were created by Johann Franz von Stauffenberg and his architect, Gessinger. These include, in particular, the seminary and the New Palace, its garden and teahouse, which were built in the first half of the 18th century.

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