Posts Tagged ‘New Palace’

Sanssouci – modest king’s retreat

Monday, January 2nd, 2017


Palace Sanssouci, located in the city of  Potsdam, not far from Berlin, Germany, was built to serve as the summer residence of Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse), King of Prussia. The Hohenzollern king was known for his discipline and modesty. He is said to have been so unpretentious that he once alleged, “A crown is just a hat that lets in the rain.”

The name, Sanssouci, comes from the French “sans souci,” and roughly translates into “without worry.” Sanssouci Palace was King Frederick’s favorite retreat where he would relax without having to observe the formalities of the royal court in Berlin. Here he could philosophize and play music, which were his favorite pastimes. No women were allowed in Sanssouci, not even Frederick the Great’s wife. Following the king’s death in 1786, Sanssouci remained mostly unoccupied and neglected until the mid-19th century when it became the residence of King Frederick William IV (Friedrich Wilhelm IV). Sanssouci and its extensive gardens became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.

History of Palace Sanssouci

In 1744, Frederick ordered the hillside of an orchard to be transformed into three terraced vineyards. Against the brickwork he planted vines from Portugal, Italy, France and Neuruppin. Fig trees were placed in the niches. Then, between 1745 and 1747, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff designed and built Palace Sanssouci on the ridge of that terraced hillside.

Palace Sanssouci atop of a terraced hillside, planted with grapes and fig trees. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

Palace Sanssouci atop a terraced hillside planted with grapes and fig trees. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

The design of the small rococo chateau was based on a sketch made by the king himself. In 1748, a large fountain was constructed in the center of the garden and marble statues were placed around its basin. They include include Venus, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, Juno, Jupiter, Mars and Minerva, as well as the four elements Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

Statue at Sanssouci depicting Earth. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

Statue at Sanssouci depicting Earth. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

In 1750, Frederick the Great commissioned construction of the baroque New Palace (Neues Palais), but construction did not begin until 1763. In contrast to the single-story Sanssouci Palace, which is rather modest in size and has only ten key rooms, the two-story New Palace contains more than two hundred lavishly decorated rooms, including several ballrooms.

New Palace (Neues Palais). Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

New Palace (Neues Palais). Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

One hundred years later, King Frederick William IV built the orangery (Orangerie). Some of the rooms in the 984-foot-long structure house a collection of paintings by Raphael. However, they are copies. The originals were looted by Napoleon.

Also located in Park Sanssouci is the Chinese teahouse (Chinesisches Teehaus), constructed in 1756. It currently holds a collection of porcelain. Gilded sandstone sculptures sit at the feet of the columns and stand along the walls of the rooms. Locals stood as models, which explains the statues’ European features.

Chinese Teahouse in Park Sanssouci. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

Chinese Teahouse in Park Sanssouci. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013.

Frederick the Great wished to be buried at Sanssouci

Frederick the Great died in his study in the Palace of Sanssouci in 1786 and had requested to be buried next to his greyhounds on the vineyard terrace. But his successor Frederick William II (Friedrich Wilhelm II) ordered to have the body entombed in the Potsdam Garrison Church, next to Frederick the Great’s father. Toward the end of World War II, Hitler ordered the coffin to be hidden in a salt mine. The U.S Army relocated the remains to Marburg. In 1953, the coffin was moved to Burg Hohenzollern, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern. Not until 1991, on the 205th anniversary of the death of Frederick the Great, was Frederick’s body finally laid to rest – in accordance with his will – in the terrace of the vineyard of Sanssouci .


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of