Perched imperiously on a ridge overlooking the former monastery town of Ellwangen, the palace was first mentioned in historical records in 1266. Known as the “abbots’ castle”, the fortified structure provided a grand home to the abbots of the Benedictine monastery in Ellwangen. The old walls of the castle complex, dating back to the time of the Medieval Hohenstaufen dynasty, are still partly visible. However, in later years, Ellwangen’s “prince-abbots” and “prince-provosts” altered, expanded and renovated their residence with astounding regularity.
Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces
Between 1603 and 1608, the palace was remodelled in Renaissance style, on the orders of Prince-Provost Johann Christoph I von Westerstetten. This design – a four-sided structure built on a trapeziumshaped floorplan, with towers in all four corners – still defines the appearance of the complex today. The Arkadenhof, a courtyard bounded by three stories of elegant arcaded balconies, is a remarkable architectural achievement.
After a fire a century later, the palace was renovated in the Baroque style. In addition to lavishly redecorated interiors, the new features included a double staircase, completed in 1726, a mansard roof on the main building, and the majestic Thronsaal (throne room).
In the early 19th century, many church territories were officially annexed by German states. As a result, Ellwangen Palace passed into the possession of the royal family of Württemberg. In 1815 and 1816, the banished king of Westphalia, Jérôme Bonaparte – a brother of Napoleon – and his wife Katharina, the daughter of the king of Württemberg, had some rooms refurbished prior to taking up residence.
A throne room with a view
Today, the palace provides an atmospheric setting for theatre performances, which take place here every year throughout the summer. The former rooms of the prince-provosts were converted into a museum in 1908. Both the Throne Room, which is often used for concerts due to its excellent acoustics, and the Tower Room provide a unique view of the town of Ellwangen.