Monument to eternal love

The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill

Sarkophag der Königin Katharina und König Wilhelms I. in der Gruft der Grabkapelle auf dem Württemberg; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Roland Rossner
CEREMONIAL TOMB FOR THE ROYAL COUPLE

THE CRYPT

Below the chapel lies the crypt, a central room with a low cupola, expanded by four cross arms. The double sarcophagus where Queen Katharina and her husband, King Wilhelm I, rest together stands in the eastern arm.

Crypt at the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Direct and indirect light together.

ATMOSPHERIC INDIRECT LIGHTING

The crypt is located directly below the chapel and can be reached via a narrow, steep spiral staircase. In contrast to the bright chapel, the crypt is quite low and dark. Originally, light entered the room through the opaion, or skylight. This circular opening at the highest point of the low cupola is barred by an ornate cast-iron grate from Wasseralfingen. Song and prayer from the chapel could reach the crypt via the opaion, thereby including the departed in the liturgy.

Sarcophagus belonging to Queen Katharina and King Wilhelm I in the crypt at the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Roland Rossner

Inscription with information on the deceased.

ROOM FOR FOUR SARCOPHAGI

The crypt mirrors the chapel in its layout, a circular central room with four cross arms. Originally, one sarcophagus was to reside in each arm. One sarcophagus each for the queen, the king, and their two daughters. But then, Wilhelm decided on a double sarcophagus for him and his wife. This stands in the eastern arm, with the narrow side facing the center of the room. Their daughter, Marie, died in 1887. Her sarcophagus is located in the southern arm. Their second daughter, Sophie, became queen of the Netherlands and is interred in Delft.

The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill, busts of Queen Katharina and King Wilhelm I in the crypt. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Roland Rossner

The busts of Katharina and the three Kings of Württemberg located in the northern arm are reminiscent of the original plan, which was to use the sepulchral chapel as a central mausoleum for Württemberg royalty.

Sarcophagus of Queen Katharina and King Wilhelm I. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The lid resembles the roof of an antique temple.

A SARCOPHAGUS MADE OF PRECIOUS MATERIAL

Giovanni Salucci provided one sarcophagus design with the help of court sculptor, Antonio Isopi. The sarcophagus, carved from precious Carrara marble, displays a panel on its narrow side with the birth and death dates of the royal couple. The panel is framed by lush garlands of flowers and fruits. The long sides are adorned with the Russia-Württemberg alliance coat of arms, overlaid with a crown.

Idealized view of the crypt at the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill based on a drawing by Salucci. Scan: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg

Salucci's original design.

A SIMPLE INTERIOR

Based on Salucci's drawings, it appears that the architect had originally planned much grander decor for the crypt interior. Floating Roman deities and various inscriptions were intended for the walls. It is possible that King Wilhelm I requested something more modest or found the embellishments unnecessary given that the crypt was not intended to be open to the public.

TIPP

Take a closer look at the narrow side of the sarcophagus: the lion and stag, Württemberg's heraldic animals, lie sleeping on the ground. Both hold a lance, on top of which perch an eagle and an owl, symbolizing the virtues of vigilance, strength and intelligence.

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