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A significant monument in the region's history

The Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy

Ansicht des Innenraums der Großherzoglichen Grabkapelle Karlsruhe; Foto: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Urheber unbekannt
Dedicated to remembrance

The chapel

Light red sandstone, white marble, black labradorite, large windows, and a terrazzo floor: The difference between the materials makes quite an impression in the sepulchral chapel of Karlsruhe. The artistic highpoint of the space: the three funerary monuments by Hermann Volz in the transepts.

The Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe, interior of the chapel. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg GmbH & Co. KG, Eva Kobelt

View of the ceiling of the sepulchral chapel.

A ceremonial space

In the past, the chapel was entered from the west portal on the Lärchenallee during burials. The nave and its pews are connected to the crossing, the short transept arms, and the choir as a place in memory of the dead. The decor is ceremonial: Quotes from the Bible can be found on the terrazzo floor and on the walls. The upper columns of the nave walls are made of black, shining, polished labradorite with light sandstone capitals. The wooden vaults and their idiosyncratic transverse arches are unusually rustic. The windows, which were lost due to an aerial mine in World War II, also contributed to the overall effect. Many of them had symmetrical ornamentation in rich colors.

View of the altar in the choir of the Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Helene Seifert

Altar in the choir of the sepulchral chapel.

The altar

The same striking combination of colors that characterizes the walls of the nave were selected for the altar, which was designed based on Italian models from Modena and Florence according to the grand duke's request. The company Rupp & Möller, which remained active in Karlsruhe until 1987, carried out the masonry work. The column shafts are made of black-green shimmering polished labradorite, and the two-tiered pedestal made of granite comes from Seebach, near Achern. Shining white marble from the famous stone quarries in the northern Italian city of Carrara were used for the other parts of the altar. Many wreath bows hang on the choir walls around the altar.

View of the tomb of Prince Ludwig Wilhelm in the Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

The tomb of Prince Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden.

Funerary monument for the prince

In the transept arms of the chapel stand the three funerary monuments to Ludwig Wilhelm and his parents, which are unique in all of Baden-Württemberg. They are only cenotaphs in memory of the dead, not actual graves. The actual interment occurred in the crypt under the chapel. This is where the dead can be found, together with 14 additional members of the family, in simple coffins. The sculptor, Hermann Volz, created the impressive sculptures made of Carrara marble. Typically for the time of their creation, the faces of all three figures give the impression of sleep, not death. The tomb for Prince Ludwig Wilhelm, whose death occasioned the construction of the chapel, can be seen at the entrance to the crypt. 

The Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe, tomb of Prince Ludwig, detail of the head. Image: Staatsanzeiger Baden-Württemberg GmbH & Co KG, Anja Stangl
The Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe, tomb of Prince Ludwig, detail of the hands. Image: Staatsanzeiger Baden-Württemberg GmbH & Co KG, Anja Stangl
The Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe, tomb of Prince Ludwig, detail of the coat of arms. Image: Staatsanzeiger Baden-Württemberg GmbH & Co KG, Anja Stangl

Masterful work: the prince's head and hands, which hold a spray of roses—note also the Baden coat of arms on the shroud at the front.

Impressive details

The prince, who died young, was a lieutenant in the infantry regiment of Baden, as demonstrated by his overcoat, military coat, and saber. In his hands, he holds a spray of roses. The detailed working of the fabric is especially impressive. At the front, the stone fabric bears the Baden coat of arms, finely worked and with a crown. Volz had a famous model: the tomb of Queen Luise of Prussia. The sculptor, Christian Daniel Rauch, created it in 1814 for the mausoleum at Charlottenburg Palace near Berlin. It was no wonder that the Prussian queen was used as an example, after all the prince's mother, Grand Duchess Luise von Baden, was a Prussian princess.

Funerary monuments for the prince's parents

The funerary monuments for Grand Duke Friedrich I (1826–1907) and Grand Duchess Luise (1838–1923) were created by Hermann Volz in the same style. The alliance coat of arms of Baden and Prussia is carved on the pedestal of the monument for Luise, with the Red Cross in a laurel wreath on the other side—Luise founded the sisterhood of the Red Cross in Baden. More than three hundred wreath bows are testament to the many interments and wreath-laying ceremonies that took place in the chapel.

Grabdenkmäler von Großherzog Friedrich I. und seine Gemahlin Luise in der Großherzoglichen Grabkapelle Karlsruhe; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Sandra Eberle

The funerary monuments of Grand Duke Friedrich I and Grand Duchess Luise, created by the sculptor Hermann Volz.

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