Wurzburg: An encounter with opulence

IMG_1413If you think you’ve seen one palace you’ve seen them all …. then make an exception for the Wurzburg Residence. It is quite literally jaw droppingly spectacular!Our river cruise has moved, via the Main – Danube Canal to the Main River, pronounced ‘Mine’.  Its one of Europe’s prettiest rivers, narrow and leafy. The riverbanks dotted with the first of the summer flowers, bright red poppies, lupins, daisies and catmint.

They happen to be running the Wurzburg marathon when we tie up in the town.Two of our intrepid fellow river cruisers have signed up for the half. They need our support. So we head into a town that is packed and ready to party.  There are oompah bands on every second street corner, their beating drums firing up the runners.

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Mike (left) and Dick co river cruisers and marathon men!

While the blokes run the marathon we peel off to visit the Wurzburg Residenz, home to the Prince-Bishops in the 1700’s. Bishop Johann von Schonborn spared no expense on his palatial home. It was the ultimate statement of his importance. It is said he wanted something that would echo the grandeur of Versailles. He got it. The most famous fresco painter of the time, Italian, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, was commissioned to paint the largest ceiling fresco ever painted in the Imperial Hall.  It is magnificent.  But for my money its the stucco work that’s the star of the show. Antonio Bossi’s intricate draperies are so realistic they could be fabric. The Rococo stucco work in the White Hall is my favourite…… applied to pale grey walls, its a confection of flowers, cherubs and scroll work. Delicate, intricate, amazing.  Apparently Bossi went mad by the end of the project. Its easy to see why!

The Residenz  from the formal garden (Above)  No photography is allowed inside.

The Residenz was severely damaged in a World War 11 air raid. Much of it was engulfed in fire but miraculously the Imperial Hall and White Hall survived , along with the magnificent staircase. Restoration has been going on since the end of the war. There’s a fascinating display detailing the renovation process on the ground floor just before you exit. And you’ll notice special mention is given to an American soldier. Lieutenant John Davis Skilton was a ‘monuments man’ in the US Army, charged with preserving art treasures from the rubble. He did a great job and earned the praise of a grateful German nation.

 

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