Wörlitz, Nymphaeum (1767/68) by under Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-DessauState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
Together they form a unique harmonious combination of garden art, architecture and fine arts. The beginnings of the Gartenreich go back to Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817). Impressed by several educational journeys through Europe, he carried out comprehensive reforms in his small country, which also included landscape design. The starting point and highlight is the Wörlitz Park with the castle as the first building in the classicist style in Germany and the first landscape garden based on the English model of continental Europe. This was followed over the next forty years in and around Dessau by other landscape gardens and castles such as the Georgium and the Luisium, which were interlinked visually and creatively.
The already existing older gardens in Oranienbaum and Mosigkau were also skilfully integrated into the design concept. About 142 km² of this historically unique “country beautification” have been preserved until today. Castles, country houses, churches, ramparts and various garden architectures as well as the richly designed and largely preserved gardens are woven into the alluvial landscapes along the Elbe and Mulde rivers. In 2000, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee recognised the Garden Kingdom as an “outstanding example of the implementation of the philosophical principles of the Enlightenment in landscape design that harmoniously combines art, education and business” and included it in the list of World Heritage Sites.
Wörlitz, Monument (Prince Franz) (after 1817) by Friedemann HunoldState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau undertook four educational journeys in the first decade after taking over the affairs of government, which led him to Italy, France, England and Scotland. He was particularly interested in the Enlightenment, which had already progressed in the countries visited. Impressed by the Grand Tours, he endeavoured to implement the new findings in his home country.
Comprehensive reforms were carried out in areas such as social welfare, education, culture, agriculture, landscaping and the military, affecting virtually every aspect of social life. Modernisation often found expression in architecture and garden art, for the regent acted according to the principle of “combining the useful with the beautiful”.
Wörlitz, Red Wall Guardhouse (after 1770/1771) by Friedrich Wilhelm von ErdmannsdorffState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
To protect against frequent floods of the Elbe and Mulde rivers, Prince Franz had not only dikes built, but also guard stations – better known as wall guard houses – such as the Elbe pavilion and the Piedmont farmhouse. Elsewhere, trees were planted to ward off ice floes. He also devoted himself to the drainage measures introduced by his grandfather Leopold I of Anhalt-Dessau; the capitol ditch between Oranienbaum and Dessau is an exemplary example of this. Fruit trees were planted extensively on land reclaimed in this way, which also lined numerous roads in the Principality.
Wörlitz, Piedmontese farmhouse (1795/1797) by under Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-DessauState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
With regard to the promotion of popular education, rural schools – for boys and girls – were increasingly established, for which a new building was erected if required. One such building is the Griesen school building near Wörlitz, designed by Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff and still preserved today.
Wörlitz, Synagogue (1789/90) by Friedrich Wilhelm von ErdmannsdorffState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
A further aspect of the Enlightenment that was to enter Anhalt-Dessau concerned religious tolerance: in 1789/90, Jews created a synagogue on the shores of Lake Wörlitz, not far from the palace, which still exists today and is used as an exhibition space.
Wörlitz, chain bridge (1781/1788) by under Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-DessauState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
The combination of use and beauty should find its climax in the Wörlitzer Park. It is accessible to everyone and is an extensive educational play in the truest sense of the word, exemplified by the bridges and the island of Stein. 19 unique bridges connect the banks of the canal and allow the manifold construction possibilities as well as the history of the art of bridge building to be reconstructed: The Hornzackenbrücke, for example, is reminiscent of a tree trunk and thus symbolizes the oldest form of waterway crossing; the Schwimmbrücke refers to the use of pontoons; and the Kettenbrücke stands for suspension bridges.
Wörlitz, Island Stein in the evening light (1788/1794) by under Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-DessauState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
The artificial island of Stein was created in 1788 – more than 20 years after the return from Italy – and is partly based on the Gulf of Naples. The grass iron stone used in the construction looks very similar to the tuff stone from the surroundings of Vesuvius. The active volcano, which the prince had climbed, has been immortalized as a functioning replica on a smaller scale. The interior reveals a multitude of aspects of the southern Italian landscape, such as an ancient tomb vault, ruins of an ancient grammar school and several caves and grottos.
Wörlitz, Monument (1801/1807) by Friedrich Wilhelm von ErdmannsdorffState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
Immediately adjacent to it is the ancient theatre, which is based on the original buildings of the Roman Empire.
Wörlitz, Amphitheater (1788/1794) by under Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-DessauState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
Wörlitz, Island Stein (1788/1794) by under Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-DessauState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt
The Villa Hamilton with its striking red and white façade is a smaller version reminiscent of the Neapolitan summer residence of the British diplomat and volcanologist Sir William Hamilton, whom Prince Franz had come to know and appreciate in Campania. Figs, agaves, Lombard poplars and pine trees round off the Italian-inspired ensemble.
Wörlitz, Villa Hamilton Fireplace Room (1791/1794) by under Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-DessauState Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt