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Episcopalian Baroque residence at Lake Constance

Meersburg New Palace

Shell, natural history cabinet, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele
A spectacular collection

The natural history cabinet

The prince-bishops of Constance were avid collectors of shells, snails, minerals and fossils. Even in the 18th century, in Bishop Maximilian Christoph von Rodt's lifetime, people traveled to Meersburg just to admire the collection.

Shell and snail collection, natural history cabinet, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Exhibited in the palace.

Systematically collected

Colorful specimens in the natural history cabinet give an idea of the prince-bishops’ deep interested in natural history and also demonstrates the beauty and variety of their collection, which thrilled so many. The collection was assembled by Capuchin father Andreas Rettich von Marchthal and expanded and organized by naturalist Johann Caspar Abel, von Rodt's private secretary. Some of the shells even originated from James Cook's expeditions!

Öhningen fossils, natural history cabinet, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Baden State Library Karlsruhe

The prince-bishop also collected interesting fossils.

Fossils from Öhningen

The natural history cabinet includes roughly 900 Öhningen fossils, fossilized remnants of plants and animals, which were once described as “by far the most famous attraction in Constance….” The prince-bishop could claim ownerships of the fossils because the Augustinian monastery in Öhningen, on whose property the two quarries were located, were under his control. Today, 17 Öhningen fossils from the prince-bishops’ collection are on display in the palace, on loan from the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe.

Cockle, natural history cabinet, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

Cockle from the prince-bishops’ collection.

Cockle and sunburst carrier shell

The significant collection of “small conchs”, houses for small mollusks, attracted particular attention. It boasted exotic, never-before-seen specimens with imaginative names: cribrarula cribraria, cypraecassis rufa, mitra papalis, mitra mitra, turbinella pyrum. Some of the richly varied shapes and colors of shells and snail houses, along with a variety of fossils, are once again on displayed in the bel étage of the New Palace, a room that once served as the royal audience chamber.

Snail, natural history cabinet, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Snail, natural history cabinet, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele
Strawberry top shell, natural history cabinet, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

The prince-bishop’s remarkable collection included the most unusual snails.

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