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Episcopalian Baroque residence at Lake Constance

Meersburg New Palace

Staircase with statuary and ceiling fresco, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, Arnim Weischer
A majestic climb

The staircase

The splendid staircase connects the entrance hall and the bel étage, the representational main floor in the third story. Today, visitors still follow the same path that high-ranking guests walked when attending celebrations in the time of prince-bishops.

Portrait of Balthasar Neumann, oil on canvas, second half of the 18th century. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, Andrea Rachele

Neumann designed the magnificent staircase.

A prominent architect

Damian Hugo von Schönborn, the Prince-Bishop of Constance between 1740 and 1743, planned an expansion to the New Building, including a representational staircase. Famous Baroque architect, Balthasar Neumann (1687–1753), designed the modifications, including the palace church and staircase, from Bruchsal in 1740. He was employed there as von Schönborn's architect, who was simultaneously the Prince-Bishop of Speyer. Johann Georg Stahl, likewise located in Bruchsal, implemented the construction.

Expensive decor

The new staircase, however, was unstable due to its poor foundation. By 1759, architect Franz Anton Bagnato had already been commissioned to rebuild it. Simultaneously, it was ornately decorated with lions, divine figures, lanterns and vases. The railing, created by metal worker Johannes Oberhofer, runs the length of the balcony above the main portal. The figures on the pedestals are likely by Constance sculptor Johann Ferdinand Schratt.

Prince-Bishop Franz Conrad von Rodt's coat of arms in stucco, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, Arnim Weischer

The prince-bishop's coat of arms at the entrance to the ceremonial hall.

Designed to be representational

As is typical of the Baroque style, the Meersburg staircase also served a representational function and was designed accordingly. The two-winged staircase leads from the dark first floor, past the second floor, through a light-filled foyer, to the ceremonial hall, the central room of the bel étage. Cardinal Franz Conrad von Rodt's stucco coat of arms sits above the door. The lions reference Prince-Bishop von Rodt's sovereignty and display the Rodt family coat of arms.

Ceiling fresco “Glorification of the Prince-Bishop” in the ceremonial hall, Meersburg New Palace, by Giuseppe Appiani, 1761. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, Arnim Weischer

A status symbol for the prince-bishop.

A crowning conclusion

The most eye-catching feature of the staircase is the giant ceiling painting created in 1761 by the court painter to electoral Mainz, Giuseppe Ignazio Appiani. He depicted the ecclesiastical prince's glowing sovereignty and the endurance of the prince-bishops’ rule. At the center: a portrait of Franz Conrad von Rodt, surrounded by Fama and Clio, personifications of glory and historiography. The royal hat, cardinal's cross, miter and sword indicate his royal rank.

Staircase with statuary and ceiling fresco, Meersburg New Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, Arnim Weischer

The staircase: an impressive ensemble.

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