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Monument to eternal love

The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill

Painting of Queen Katharina, Stirnbrand, circa 1816. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jäger
WELL-ROUNDED, DEDICATED AND CAPABLE

KATHARINA VON

WÜRTTEMBERG

In just three years, the beloved queen achieved a great deal: Katharina von Württemberg, Grand Duchess of Russia (1788–1819), brought social institutions to the region. After her early death, she was deeply mourned across the state. Today, the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill stands as a reminder of her.

Busts of Katharina and Wilhelm I at the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Roland Rossner

Wilhelm was her cousin, and her second husband.

WHO WAS KATHARINA'S FAMILY?

Katharina Pawlowna was the daughter of Russian Czar Paul I and Maria Feodorowna, daughter of Duke Friedrich Eugen von Württemberg. In 1816, in her second marriage, Katharina married her cousin, Crown Prince Wilhelm von Württemberg. She brought her two sons from her previous marriage to Duke Georg von Oldenburg, Alexander and Peter, with her. It was Wilhelm's second marriage, too. During their three-year marriage they produced two children, daughters Marie and Sophie.

WHY WAS KATHARINA SO BELOVED?

Katharina came to Württemberg in a time of great need, crop failures and famine plagued the state. The queen committed herself to her people. She became known for founding the "Zentraler Wohltätigkeitsverein", a universal charitable society. Katharina also founded the first Bank of Württemberg and established schools, children's homes, hospitals and soup kitchens, funding them in part from her own Russian fortune. The Katharinenstift and the Katharinenhospital, a foundation and a hospital in Stuttgart, are also part of her legacy.

Inscription on the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Inscription on the sepulchral chapel.

WHAT WAS KATHARINA'S FAITH?

As Grand Duchess of Russia, she belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church. Retaining her faith was an important condition of her marriage to a Protestant prince. Wives typically assumed their husband's faith. Katharina established her own chapel in Stuttgart and outfitted it in part with pieces she had brought back from Russia. The spatial design and furnishings followed the requirements for a Russian Orthodox mass. These requirements were also incorporated in the construction of the sepulchral chapel.

The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill, double sarcophagus of Queen Katharina and King Wilhelm I in the crypt. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Double sarcophagus belonging to Katharina and Wilhelm I in the crypt.

THIRTY YEARS OLD: WHY DID SHE DIE SO YOUNG?

Royal obligations, social projects, the birth of two children, extensive correspondence. It is amazing what this woman achieved in Württemberg in just three years. It makes her death all the more tragic. In early 1819, Katharina caught a severe cold. Shortly afterwards, she lanced a small blister on her lip, which became infected. According to autopsy reports, it had resulted in blood poisoning and a subsequent stroke, which is what caused her death.

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