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A significant monument in the region's history

The Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy

Detail of the Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown
Grand Duke Friedrich I helped with the plans

The structure

It was initially intended to be a modest chapel, located at the end of the Lärchenallee, with a direct line of sight to the palace of Karlsruhe. Yet the plans for the burial place of the grand dukes of Baden became significantly larger, and the construction became significantly more lavish. The sepulchral chapel was built in seven years, under the direction of architect Friedrich Hemberger.

Portrait of Grand Duke Friedrich I von Baden, Ferdinand Keller, oil on canvas, 1900. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The client: Grand Duke Friedrich I von Baden.

The competition

In 1888, Grand Duke Friedrich I announced a competition to find a suitable architect for the sepulchral chapel. A Romanesque Revival or Gothic Revival chapel over a crypt was requested. The use of medieval forms and ornamentation was very popular at the end of the 19th century. The commission was received by the archbishop's architect, Franz Baer of Freiburg, who had led the restoration of many Gothic churches, including the cathedral in Salem. His simple design of Gothic Revival shapes fit the grand duke's taste. On May 1, 1890, the foundation for the chapel was laid.

The architects

The overall leadership of the project was assigned to Friedrich Hemberger, senior government building officer of the Grand Ducal Court Building Office. Baer himself took care of developing the sculptural details and ensuring that the plans were executed correctly. However, the architect soon fell severely ill. His role was taken up by Hermann Hemberger, the senior government building officer's son. Father and son had both studied at the Karlsruhe Polytechnical School of Architecture. However, when it came to questions of design, the grand duke frequently added his influence; again and again, he added new wishes and inspirations, while the building was already under construction, which caused some difficulties. Many artists and companies from Karlsruhe contributed to the decor.

Tower of the Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Gothic Revival shapes characterize the tower.

The dimensions of a church

When the chapel was already half completed, there were some decisive changes: Grand Duke Friedrich I wanted a stone vault above the choir instead of the planned wooden ceiling. To be able to house the structure for the vault, the chapel had to be built significantly taller. This also resulted in the enlargement of the windows, which allow ample light into the interior. At the same time, the nave was shortened, as the original length would not work with the new height. Another change to the plans was made in 1892: Instead of the modest ridge turret that Baer had envisioned, a 57-meter-high tower that could be seen from far away was constructed above the crossing. 

The Sepulchral Chapel of the Grand Duchy in Karlsruhe, entrance gate. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg GmbH, Anja Stangl

Gateway to the chapel.

The execution: the artists and companies of Baden

The chapel is a rich example of the high degree of skill of the artists and companies of Baden at the end of the 19th century. A total of 22 companies from Baden participated in the project under the leadership of architects Baer and Hemberger. A few examples: The wooden doors and gates of the chapel come from the Schottmüller workshop. The iron hinges for them and the bars of the crypt were designed by Hermann Götz, director of the renowned vocational school for the arts in Karlsruhe. The organ was built by the company Voit and Sons in Durlach. The original glass windows came from Eugen Börner from Offenburg, the center of stained glass in Baden. Last but not least, sculptor Hermann Volz, professor at the art academy, created the three funerary monuments.

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