Monument to eternal love

The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill

Aerial view of the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Achim Mende
ROMANTIC SEPULCHRAL CHAPEL WITH A GRAND VIEW

MILESTONES

King Wilhelm I had the monument on Württemberg hill erected for his beloved wife Katharina, creating, in Stuttgart, one of the most romantic places in the state. The inscription above the entrance to the sepulchral chapel reads like a promise of eternal love.

Portrait of Katharina, by an unknown artist. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Roland Rossner

Queen Katharina shortly before her death.

A QUEEN ADORED

Katharina Pawlowna married her cousin, the then Crown Prince Wilhelm von Württemberg, in 1816. This marriage continued the close relationship between the Russian and Württemberg dynasties. After all, Katharina's mother, Maria Feodorowna, was born a Württemberg. The young queen's extensive charity work quickly won the hearts of her subjects. Her sudden death, just three years later, was met with profound grief and astonishment throughout the state.

Rotenberg hill and castle, lithograph by Stuttgart painter Renz, circa 1840. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jäger

The castle was torn down to make way for the sepulchral chapel.

THE OLD ANCESTRAL CASTLE

The queen was first interred at the Stuttgart Stiftskirche (collegiate church). Not least because of donations made by the people, the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill began to become a reality. The Württemberg ancestral castle had stood on this strategically advantageous site since the 11th century. However, the king had the ancestral castle torn down completely to make room for the new structure. A surprising decision, since the castle was a historical monument of the state.

Inscription over the entrance to the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Nina Kreckel

Wilhelm's chapel became a monument.

PROOF OF AN ETERNAL BOND

Wilhelm I limited the sepulchral chapel burial rights to Katharina, himself, and their two daughters, Marie and Sophie. The sepulchral chapel was to remain the unique record of the love between him and his wife for all eternity. To reaffirm this tradition, Wilhelm's grandson, King Wilhelm II, renamed the hill on which the chapel stands in 1907: "Rotenberg hill" became "Württemberg hill".

Interior of the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Günther Bayerl

The queen is remembered every year on Pentecost Monday.

Russian Orthodox Services

As the daughter of Czar Paul I, Katharina belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church and maintained her faith even after her marriage. She had her own chapel established at the Stuttgart Residential Palace. The sepulchral chapel served as a Russian Orthodox church after Katharina's death. A priest and two singers were to pray and sing for the queen's salvation there. The house below the sepulchral chapel was built for them. A Russian Orthodox memorial service is still held annually at the chapel.

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