The Ducal Vault was erected in the Historic Cemetery between 1823 and 1828. This extraordinary mausoleum is not only the burial place of the rulers of the Saxony-Weimar and Eisenach dynasty. The two greatest poets of the Weimar Classical period, Goethe and Schiller, were interred here as well in 1832 where their caskets remain alongside those of the ducal family.

Visit

Through a Doric portico, visitors enter a chapel room decorated with neoclassical paintings and a star-spangled dome. Original furnishings dating back to its first major renovation in 1865 are displayed around an oval aperture in the floor. To the left of the entrance, a staircase descends to the vault below containing the caskets of the poets and ducal family. The latter are arranged according to the chronology of their deaths. A total of 43 caskets had been kept in the vault until 1994 when ten had to be removed for conservational reasons.

In 2008 researchers determined that the remains of Friedrich Schiller originated from several individuals. Therefore, his casket is now empty.

History

The Ducal Vault – a masterpiece of Classical period architecture in Thuringia – was built at the behest of Grand Duke Carl August between 1823 and 1828 on the grounds of the Historic Cemetery, established in 1818. Its architect was Clemens Wenzeslaus Coudray. Following the construction of the inner crypt in 1824, the sarcophagi of the ducal family, which were rescued from the flames of the City Castle in 1774, were transferred to the Ducal Vault. The first interment took place on 16 December 1827 with the reburial of the alleged remains of Friedrich Schiller. On 26 March 1832 Johann Wolfgang Goethe was laid to rest in the vault next to Schiller. Since the mid-19th century, the mausoleum has become a pilgrimage site for those who wish to pay their respects to the poets.

The Ducal Vault and adjacent Russian Orthodox chapel
The Ducal Vault and adjacent Russian Orthodox chapel

The Russian Orthodox Chapel, built between 1860 and 1862, was the burial site of the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. A connecting doorway between the two adjoined chapels reunited the regent with her husband Carl Friedrich, who had been interred in the Ducal Vault in 1853. In 1865, the couple’s daughter Queen Augusta of Prussia had the austere chapel interior completely remodeled and sumptuously decorated.

From 1952 to 1992 the official name of the vault was the “Goethe and Schiller Mausoleum”. In 1993 and 1994 the vault underwent extensive renovation which reversed the alterations carried out in the previous decades. Furthermore, a number of historical items were returned to the Ducal Vault as part of the renovation measures in 2011.

Projects of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Free State of Thuringia, represented by the State Chancellery of Thuringia, Department of Culture and the Arts.

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