Sepulchral Chapel

With an atmospheric setting in the Hardtwald forest, the Sepulchral Chapel (Großherzogliche Grabkapelle Karlsruhe) is the only edifice built during the Grand Duchy to survive the Second World War unscathed.

Located on the edge of the Fasanengarten in Karlsruhe, the mausoleum is one of the region’s most significant historical monuments, and it is the burial site of five of the total of seven Grand Dukes of Baden.

Its 19th-century architect was inspired by the High Gothic style. The lower floor of the chapel with the grand ducal coffins.

Its 19th-century architect was inspired by the High Gothic style. The lower floor of the chapel with the grand ducal coffins.

A place of privacy for Baden’s rulers

The mausoleum was commissioned by Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden and his wife, Luise of Prussia. They wanted their son, who died in 1888, to rest in the “secluded tranquillity of the woods”. Until this time, the rulers of Baden had been buried in the Schlosskirche St. Michael (castle church of St Michael) in Pforzheim or in the crypt of the Karlsruher Stadtkirche (Karlsruhe town church) – places that the Grand Duke and his wife could not visit without being on public display. The discreet family chapel was a statement of the separation between their public and private lives.

The sepulchral chapel was modelled on the mausoleum in the park of Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. That mausoleum was constructed in 1810 for Queen Luise of Prussia, the grandmother of the Grand Duchess.

A mournful cherub: the grand ducal mausoleum was designed with the greatest of care and attention, to the last detail.

A mournful cherub: the grand ducal mausoleum was designed with the greatest of care and attention, to the last detail.

An artistic and architectural masterpiece

The architect Friedrich Hemberger fashioned the red standstone structure with the flourishes of early Gothic style. Spires, gargoyles and dragons carved by the imaginative local sculptor Wilhelm Sauer decorate the building. Crowned by an impressive spire, the chapel towers above the treetops, and can be seen from a distance.

Flooded with light, the interior of the main floor of the chapel features rows of columns, one of top of the other; the top row is made from shimmering black labradorite. Here you can admire angels’ heads carved from pale yellow limestone, decorative details such as friezes and capitals in the form of intertwined leaves and – if you look very carefully – carved stone lizards. The transepts of the chapel are home to the three cenotaphs (empty tombs that act as monuments) for Grand Duke Friedrich I, his wife Luise of Prussia and their son Ludwig Wilhelm. These cenotaphs were created from white Carrara marble by the Karlsruhe sculptor Hermann Volz.

From the main floor of the church, a wide stairway leads down into the crypt. This houses the three magnificent coffins of Prince Ludwig Wilhelm, Grand Duke Friedrich I and his wife Luise of Prussia, as well as another 15 coffins of members of the house of Zähringen.

Cenotaphs of Prince Ludwig Wilhelm

A touching sight: three snowy-white marble cenotaphs are located on the main floor of the chapel – pictured here that of Prince Ludwig Wilhelm.

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