Friday, January 31, 2014

Sans Souci – Burg or Schloss?

            Today, I would like to highlight a different kind of German castle than the ones that I’ve discussed previously. I am going to focus on the castle Sans Souci in Potsdam, near Berlin.
            Sans Souci was built in 1747 as the summer palace of Frederick the Great of Prussia. "Sans Souci" is a French phrase which means “without concerns” or “carefree”, and this castle was used by Frederick to relax and get away from the stress of the court in Berlin. It was built in the Rococo style, and is often compared with the larger Baroque palace at Versailles. Frederick considered himself a patron of the arts and often entertained his friend, Voltaire, at Sans Souci.
            In the 19th century, Sans Souci became the residence of Prussian Frederick William IV. He proceeded to enlarge the castle and improve the grounds. In 1918, the Hohenzollern Prussian royalty left Potsdam for Holland, where they lived in exile when the Weimar Republic came into power. Later, after World War II, the castle fell under the control of the East German government and became a tourist attraction for the Eastern Bloc.

            In 1990, after the reunification of Germany, Sans Souci became a World Heritage Site, and currently falls under the protection of UNESCO. The castle is quite impressive and the gardens are extensive and truly spectacular—definitely worth a visit.
          Now, for a quick lesson in German terminology.  As you might recall from your history classes, the castles of Europe really began to be built in earnest in the Middle Ages, around the 11th century.  The “knight” class emerged with the feudal system. These knights were the warriors of society.  They fought for their kings, they fought in the Crusades, and they fought for their own territories.  In the beginning, these knights built their castles as defensive structures – often on top of mountains (in Germany, at least) or with moats surrounding them, and with thick walls made of stone with tall towers.
            As time moved forward, this class of knights became wealthier, and their focus shifted from being concerned about security to being concerned about demonstrating their wealth.  This shift in philosophy occurred starting around the time of the Renaissance.

            In English, we call all types of old large, residential structures of knights “castles”.  However, the Germans distinguish between them.  The older, Medieval, defensive castles in Germany are called “Burg”s.  The newer, Renaissance-style wealthy castles in Germany are called “Schloss”s (I think of these more like palaces, or manor houses).  So, Sans Souci is a Schloss.  The other castles I have highlighted thus far in this blog have been Burgs.

            An interesting side note – the famous German castle, Neuschwanstein, which is the castle that Disney’s castle is modeled after – is actually a Schloss, but it is built in a Burg style. 

Which type of castle is more interesting to you – the older Burg, or the newer Schloss?