Schwetzingen Castle and Mythology

6 June 2016

Schwetzingen Castle and Mythology:
The Connection
The beauty and history of the grounds at Schwetzingen Castle is unmistakable. There is a deep history part of its roots in mythology. There are over one hundred statues that decorate the property with many that depict some kind of god, hero or representation of something in mythology. There are also many examples of other cultures scattered around the grounds. The way they are portrayed, their faces and poses tell the story of how they were perceived by their creators.

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The original castle, built in 1350, showed none of the potential that the future grounds would hold. In its beginning, it was merely a small castle with a moat, one of many such structures in Europe at the time. It was the genius of Palatine prince Elector Carl Theodor (1724-1799) to truly turn the Schwetzingen Castle in to a beautiful work of art. He also brought to life the Baroque gardens where statues of four characters of Greek mythology were placed. The gardens have statues or buildings of Zeus, Apollo, Athena, and the Sphinx.

The statue of Zeus in the gardens of Schwetzingen Castle wears a crown of leaves and looks slightly downwards and sideways. His gaze is a powerful one. It is a remarkably emotional statue, offering many opportunities for different interpretation of disposition and intention. The possibilities can vary depending on the angle of the viewer. Is it possible he is passing judgment or deciding the fate of a fellow god? Or is he deep in thought trying to figure out a way to fool Agamemnon into attacking the Trojans: “While gods and mortals slept, Zeus considered how he could best bring honor to Achilles and kill many of the Greeks beside their black ships.” The statues expression can also remind us that men are often no more than an annoyance to the gods, flies to be swatted and forgotten.

Nicolas de Pigage is the primary architect behind the new additions to the castle and the gardens. The gardens consist of 180 acres and scattered throughout are various remembrances of Greek mythology. Pigage apparently was fond of Apollo more than Zeus. Apollo has his own temple on the grounds, whereas Zeus was limited to a single statue and simple fountain to represent his reign. The temple of Apollo is an open domed building with twelve pillars holding up the dome. Apollo is depicted in the middle by a marble statue. He is playing his harp and looking beautiful.

Being that Apollo is the god of light, the top of the dome is a sun radiating its light outward. Apollo is shown without any expression on his face. I can imagine him playing his music in peace and harmony until he finds that Agamemnon has dishonored his priest by keeping the daughter of the priest. Apollo was then filled with rage and anger in his heart and filling the Greek soldiers with arrows from his silver bow. Beforehand, he is the soul of tranquility, now he is the bringer of death to the land.

Athena also has a temple located on the grounds of the garden. Though it is called the temple of Minerva, the statue within its walls houses a spear and an owl. As she is the god of wisdom and war, these are her symbols. Minerva is the equivalent of Athena in Roman mythology. Her temple is much larger than the temple of Apollo. This should be so as Pigage designed the property, with the help of many renowned architects and scholars, as place of contemplation and reverence. The last statue that is related to mythology that is located in the gardens is the statue of the Sphinx. The Sphinx is a monster with the head of a woman, the body of a lion and the wings of a griffin.

It was a representation of death, destruction, and bad luck. It also represented the thirst for knowledge that humans have. We have the desire to know all things, whether for good or for evil. She sat on a rock near Thebes and asked a riddle of all those that passed by. Those that could not answer were killed. She finally committed suicide when Oedipus correctly answered the riddle. In some cultural myths, the sphinx was a guardian to temples and places of importance. I believe that it would have been placed in the garden by the designers to remind people to contemplate all things.

The effects that mythology has on our society throughout the years are unmistakable and clearly identifiable. All four characters represented in the gardens of Schwetzingen Castle exhibit traits and values that humans held dear, or held in fear at the time of the Greeks. A look at a good number of modern day architecture will point to the Greeks. Ancient Greeks came up with a new way to build by using pillars.

They were famous for the temples and other holy places that were used to worship their gods. These buildings were beautiful works of art that used the finest materials available in an effort to please the gods. This style of building is still in effect today and has been used in countless structures throughout the world. Some examples of this style are the U.S. Supreme Court building, Louvre Museum of Paris, Jefferson Memorial, the White House, and Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. The Greek revival in architecture was so widely used in the U.S. during the mid nineteenth century that it was considered the national style.

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