Where did little German boys long to be taken for a day trip in the 1830s? The castle of Lowenburg in Kassel, the capital of Hesse.
What was so special about Lowenburg, which wasn’t even a real military fortification, in a country dotted with imposing and beautiful castles?
Lowenburg was something of an architectural folly, built between 1793 and 1801 by one of the richest men in Europe at that time. William IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, later Prince-Elector of Hesse (1743-1821), commissioned architect Heinrich Christoph Jussow to build him a brand new ancestral pleasure palace that would look like a medieval castle from a distance. Jussow was sent to England to look at romantic ruins of abbeys and study the latest trends in garden design. Lowenburg was built complete with imitation Roman aquaducts, Greek temples, and ruins and surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge, in the picturesque Wilhelmshoheberg park. The high Baroque interior was furnished with medieval altars, tapestries, stained glass, armor and weapons.A tourist destination long before 1975 when the Deutsche Marchenstrasse, or German Fairytale Route, was created, it was just the kind of cultural site to be proudly promoted in books for little tarry-at-home travelers. The production of these kinds of books were a minor industry in Britain, but don’t seem to be anywhere as common in France or Germany. One of those books was recently acquired by Cotsen: Das Ritterwesen, oder die Reise nach der Lowenberg zur Unterhaltung and Belehrung fur die reifere Jugend [Chivalry, or The Trip to Lowenburg for the Entertainment and Information of Older Children] published by G. H. Renner & Schuster in Nurnberg around 1833.
In the frame story, the brothers Fritz and Karl are on a walking tour with their tutor. They are delighted to learn that the tutor has planned a side trip to Lowenburg, where they will learn everything there is to know about the noble tradition of German knighthood.The author of Ritterwesen unceremoniously dropped the dialogue between characters after four pages, which would have made the account more lively, but the illuminated illustrations are more than adequate compensation. Here is a plate illustrating knights in different styles of armor.
And another of fair ladies….
And a folding plate of knights jousting.
And a fun fact to close: Lowenburg was the model for Disney castles…