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Episcopalian Baroque residence at Lake Constance

Meersburg New Palace

Glorification of Franz Konrad von Rodt and his land, by Giuseppe Appiani, 1761, fresco on the staircase, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Baroque residence for the prince-bishops of Constance

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With the Reformation, Meersburg became the center of the Prince-Bishopric of Constance. Three prince-bishops are credited with turning the Medieval episcopal town into a modern, Baroque residential city, complete with magnificently outfitted palace, in the 18th century.

Exterior of Meersburg Castle. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

View of the old residence: Meersburg Castle.

Moving from Constance to Meersburg

The church territory around Constance was established in the 7th century and was the largest ecclesiastical province within the Roman Empire. Since the 13th century, the old Medieval castle, also called Meersburg Castle, had been part of the estate belonging to the Prince-Bishops of Constance. The sitting prince-bishop moved his residence from Constance to Meersburg when citizens of the episcopal town joined the Reformation. This move made Meersburg the center and administrative seat for the ruling prince bishops.

From old castle to new palace

For 200 years, the old castle served as the prince-bishops’ seat. But soon, the medieval building was no longer sufficient for holding proper court for an ecclesiastical prince. Plans to return the residence to Constance failed, so Prince-Bishop Johann Franz von Stauffenberg commissioned a new structure for his administrative seat. His successors had the management buildings expanded into a representational palace, which the sitting prince-bishop was finally able to occupy after its 50-year construction period.

View of the palace and town of Meersburg from Lake Constance. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Nina Kreckel

A beautiful lakeside location: the New Palace.

Interior courtyard side of the former equestrian school in Meersburg, now the state vineyard. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The equestrian school, today a state vineyard.

Meersburg as the center of the prince-bishops’ rule

Meersburg was the largest town in the Prince-Bishopric of Constance, constituting the prince-bishops’ secular domain. As the seat of the first prince of the Swabian Circle, the town was also an important administrative seat. Meersburg has its prince-bishops to thank for its unique silhouette, which still characterizes the townscape to this day: a Baroque lake facade with a castle, palace, equestrian school and seminary. The dissolution of the prince-bishopric during secularization cost the town its importance.

The town side of Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Side of the palace facing the town.

The palace changes ownership

The prince-bishopric ended in 1802, and Meersburg and its territory became the property of Baden. All prince-bishopric buildings transferred to Baden’s property administration, which housed government institutions therein, including a teachers college, a school for the deaf-mute and a boys’ grammar school. In 1955, the palace transferred to the state of Baden-Württemberg. As of 2012, following an extensive renovation, both interior and exterior, it can again be toured, now with a new palace museum!

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