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Perched upon a hill to the south of Weimar in the middle of a spacious park with an orangery, pleasure garden and labyrinth lies Belvedere Castle, the former Baroque summer residence of the ducal family of Saxony-Weimar and Eisenach. Since 1923 the castle has been used as a museum of the arts and crafts dating back to the 18th century, featuring exquisite porcelain works once owned by Weimar’s ducal dynasty.
Duke Ernst August of Saxony-Weimar and Eisenach built the Baroque summer residence between 1724 and 1748. Situated on a wooded hill just south of Weimar, the residence comprises the castle, an orangery, pleasure garden and labyrinth. The castle ensemble is one of the more prestigious projects designed by the master builder Gottfried Heinrich Krohne, who also built a number of other ducal pleasure palaces, of which only few exist today. Originally used as a hunting lodge with a menagerie, Belvedere Castle was later converted into a summer residence modelled after the French maison de plaisance with pavilions, a clock house, cavalier houses and a landscaped park.
Until 1904 Belvedere was a favourite summer residence of the ducal family, especially of Duchess Anna Amalia and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. After the abdication of the last grand duke Wilhelm Ernst, ownership of the estate fell to the new Free State of Thuringia. In 1923 the castle was incorporated into the newly established Weimar State Art Collections and turned into a museum for 18th-century arts and crafts, highlighting courtly life during the late Baroque and Rococo periods.
The Belvedere Castle Park largely owes its present appearance to Duke Carl Friedrich who had the grounds converted into an English landscaped garden. With its sweeping views over the picturesque countryside, even the famous garden landscaper Lord Hermann von Pückler-Muskau only had words of praise: the layout of the entire complex was “excellently done”.
Belvedere Castle had originally been surrounded by a Baroque garden of stringent regularity resembling the large courts of that time at Versailles and Vienna. The castle builder Duke Ernst August and his guests would stroll along the radial promenades which extended away from the castle along geometrically arranged flower beds and trimmed hedges. His successor Anna Amalia yearned for a more natural atmosphere and more spaciousness. The Baroque rigidity of the park gradually yielded to a post-classical, romantic character with numerous ornamental niches and park structures such as fountains, sculptures, the rose arch trellis and an artificial ruin, the Great Grotto. The Russian Garden west of the castle is quite special; it was created at the behest of Carl Friedrich for his wife Maria Pavlovna as an exact replica of the garden she left behind in St. Petersburg.
Grand Duke Carl Alexander, who became ruler in 1853, diligently preserved and cultivated the castle, park and orangery. From 1974 to 1978 the park underwent extensively restoration, followed by the Russian Garden from 1978 to 1982.