Benrath Palace is a hidden treasure situated in the middle of a dense urban district of the City of Duesseldorf. The palace is part of a large landscape garden, including a number of large ponds, and is a work of the late baroque. One can say that the entire complex of the palace, the outbildings, gardens and ponds are a phantastic all-encompassing work of art well worth visiting more than once.
The palace is a true Rokoko building complex consisting of the main building, the Corps de Logis, and two separate wings. Nowadays the palace is surrounded on three sides by urban housings. A large park with water basins and fountains is part of the complex as well as a so-called French garden and a small English landscape garden, both adjacent to the Corps de Logis.
Gardens and park are open to the public 24/7 and are an important local recreational area for Duesseldorf and the people living nearby.
Benrath Palace is situated in the same-named borough Benrath of Dussseldorf City, with Dusseldorf being the capital of the German state of Northrhine-Westfalia. On four sides, in the west, the north and the east and the south palace and gardens verge on the urban housings of Dusseldorf. Basically, palace and gardens are just across the street for many residents in the borough of Benrath. In the west, the gardens are only separated from the banks of the river Rhine by a road.
What is it all about Benrath Palace. The palace was not planned as a residence, from the outset the plan was to build a Maison de plaisance. Prince-Elect Karl Theodor von der Pfalz was the principal for this project. The palace complex consists of the main building or Corps de Logis and the two separate wings which have no connection to the main building. In addition to that there an orangery, the French garden and the English landscape garden, the pond and canal system.
The idea behind the new Maison de plaisance was to spend the summer time in the Rhineland. First plans were made in 1755. The prince-elect ordered his personal architect, no one less than a certain Nicolas de Pigage, to plan and supervise the construction of the new Benrath Palace. It is interesting to know that Nicolas de Pigage learned his craft at the Sorbonne in Paris and was quite an established expert in architecture at his time. He also worked on the Mannheim Residence and the Schwetzingen palace gardens.
In order to built Benrath Palace it became necessary to take the water castle that previously belonged to the counts von Berg, who had converted the former castle into a Renaissance-Style water castle. The parts of the Renaissance castle still standing and in use are a side wing housing the orangery and a chapel. The orangery is now home to the Dusseldorf public library.
Construction work on the palace began in 1755 and lasted for the best part of 16 years, until in 1771, finally, the buildings and the interior finish was completed.
Benrath Palace is thoroughly a Rokoko building. As is the case with all palaces build during the late baroque period, the use putti in and around the Corps de Logis is something that catches the eye.
The term "Corps de Logis" is attributed to the main building and also describes the building where the living quarters and the dormitories are situated. The Corps de Logis is the very building where the landed gentry actually live when they happen to be about. This building is always at the centre of the entire palace complex, meaning, all wings, pavilions and corner towers, servants wings, chapels, are draped about the Corps de Logis as the epi-centre of it all.
At Benrath Palace, the Corps de Logis is a separate building, the west wing and the east wing are not connected with the main building. That set-up makes the Corps de Logis the architectural highlight of this composition.
The Corps de Logis was planned as the living quarters for the prince-elect and his wife. The east wing contains salons and bed chamber for the Electress Palatine and the west wing contains salons and bed chamber dedicated to the Prince-Elect. The windows of both salons face south and allow for a beautiful view of the mirroring pond in the parc.
The English landscape garten at Benrath Palace belonged to the private gardens of Prince-Elect Karl Theodor. However, the current shape of the garden is the result of restructuring work done towards the end of the 19th century. At that time the bridge in the garden was added and the trees were planted.
The French garden at Benrath Palace also belonged to the private gardens of the Prince-Elect but was used by his wife Auguste. Even nowadays, one can see the stringent symmetry of the original garden. The main piece of the French garden is a lawn parterre, bordered by flowers. To the east the garden is extended by a set of six pools with fountains and cascades.
The mirroring ponds is set up in a north-south direction and almost directly verges on the alley crossing in front of the south facade of the Corps de Logis. During spring and summer time a fountain is in operation. From the far end of the pond, the visitor can see the palace reflecting in the water of the pond. The pond is part of the southern visual axis of the palace.