In stark contrast to Pierrefonds Castle in France and last week’s Eutiner Schloss, which both appear solid and built for the purpose of keeping inmates snuggly within their walls and intruders out in the cold, Glücksburg Castle is a dreamy affair that floats on the waters of the Flensburg Fjord like a melting blob of vanilla ice cream drifts on a plate of hot blueberry sauce.
Widely regarded as one of the most important Renaissance castles in northern Europe, Schloss Glücksburg was once home to the Dukes of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, which is so much of a mouthful that even the imaginative Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t have turned it into a gothic spine-tingler (like he did with the House of Usher).
Besides, the white towers of Schloss Glücksburg seem far too cheerful for Edgar’s gloomy goings-on. The one truly sinister thing that did happen – depending on your nationality and point of view – is that the Dukes were kicked out for a while and the Danes moved in – it was a sort of castle upgrade, since the homewreckers were Danish kings no less.
The lovely town of Glücksburg is just a stone’s throw from Flensburg, once an important trading centre for Jamaican rum shipped in from the Caribbean. Glücksburg is also within a hop and a skip of the Danish border and, just like the town of Flensburg, it was once a bone of contention between the German Dukes and the Danish Kings (1779).
Today Schloss Glücksburg houses some truly wonderful treasures like the lavishly decorated baroque chapel on the ground floor or the empress’ salon and bedchamber on the upper floors, where the family’s private quarters are. The castle was built between 1583 and 1587, thus being a much “younger” candidate in my series on castles. The Lucky Fortress is open to the public all year and guided tours are available (in German).
The actual moated palace or Wasserschloss as it is called in German is centred between four octagonal corner towers that seem to hold the whole complex together as it seemingly drifts on the mirror lake. Sandwiched between the four towers are three adjacent buildings with tall roofs.
Unlike other German Wasserschlösser or moated palaces, Glücksburg was not erected on piles but rests entirely on a foundation of 2.5 meters of granite and recycled bricks pinched from a former monastery.
To the north of the palace generations of gardeners have defied logic and Northern Germany’s harsh climate and planted some 400 varieties of roses, which start to bloom in late May and early June, filling the air with an incomparable perfume and introducing a much needed splash of colour into the grey landscape.
For me the castle’s appeal lies perhaps mostly in the fact that – apart from its beautiful proportions and location – it was partly constructed of left-over bits of rubble that belonged to the monastery of the Rüdekloster.
The monastery once stood where the lake is today. Built in 1210, the Cistercian cloister Rus Regis or Rüdekloster stood on nearly the exact spot where the castle was erected by architect Nikolaus Karies.
The cloister of the original Cluny order was founded in 1192, but the monastery survived only until 1541; the cloister and church must have eventually fallen into disrepair, prompting the Duke’s salvage crew to move in and loot the best parts for the erection of their spanking new castle.
Nikolaus’ master, Duke Johann the Younger, subscribed to the motto “May God give good fortune with peace (German: Gott gebe Glück mit Frieden)” and so the new castle ended up being named Glücksburg or Lucky Fortress in the vernacular.
Incidentally, for my UK readers, the current Duke of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg is a cousin four times removed of present day Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.
Only part of the castle has been converted into a museum, the remainder is very much a ducal family residence; while the more stately rooms are there to impress, there are various rooms that are a charming, sometimes touching example of how several generations of the Duke’s family and their servants had to put up with the inconvenience of living in this damp and draughty place called Northern Germany.
For example, there are some splendid Gobelin tapestries in the Weisser Saal (the white salon), which are presumably not just hanging there to show off wealth but alsoto keep the bitter cold out in winter (and as this is Schleswig Holstein, I’m also respectfully mentioning…the bitter cold in spring, summer and autumn). The castle was restored and given a new coat of glistening white paint in 2006, now once more floating on water like a ballerina in her starched tutu. Duke Johann the Younger and his architect Nikolaus would have been so proud.
The castle would make a wonderful location for a romantic novel with damsels in distress and brave men to the rescue…picture it….a manly rower is crossing the moat, the muscles on Count Adalbert’s arms nearly bursting from his attempt to get his beloved far away from the villain of the piece, the dastardly Duke Fritz, who wants the beautiful Countess Mietzi for himself.
Mietzi, meanwhile, dreams of spending the night in the arms of handsome, charming but utterly unreliable servant Merlin…oh hang it, I just remembered – you’re all waiting for more Merlin fan fiction from me!
Seeing the castle pictures in this blog, what romantic hotchpotch would you come up with? Or does it inspire anyone to write a family saga with gothic undertones and Edgar Allan Poe-style ravens croaking from the ramparts?
(source of animation: heathersanimations.com, source of photographs Wikipedia)