Schwerin Castle Facts and History

© Conny Böttcher

How old is Schwerin Castle?

Several older fortresses have been located at the castle island, where Schwerin Castle now stands. The oldest traces date back to 942, though archaeologists are sure there have been people living in the area for thousands of years. In 1160 a fortress of slavic tribes (the Obotrit tribe) has been conquered by an army of soldiers commanded by the famous medieval lord Heinrich der Löwe, duke of Bavaria and Saxony. 1160 therefore became the official founding date of Schwerin.

As a whole the Castle of Schwerin is several hundred years old. When it had been built and restored in the 19th century using parts of an older castle especially those dating from the Renaissance have been integrated into the new building. Newer parts like the famous big tower, the golden dome and the front portal date from 1847 to 1857.

Who built Schwerin Castle?

Schwerin Castle was built between 1847 and 1857 by Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II. of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The court of the Grandduchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin moved into the castle in May 1857.  Schwerin Castle has been designed in most parts by Georg Adolf Demmler, an architect that was member of the society around worldfamous Prussian master builders Semper, Stüler and Schinkel. Semper (who built the world famous Semper Opera in Dresden) in fact planned the big tower of Schwerin castle, while Stüler is in many parts the architect of the fascade that the castle of Schwerin shows towards the city.

In most other countries of the German territory the power of nobility and the old ruling houses declined in the middle of the 19th century. After the war against Napoleon civil society started to fight for more rights and political power. Especially  industry, trade and finance where growing rapidly and soon threatened the old structure of society.  Despite that, in Mecklenburg Western Pommerania Schwerin castle was built. It is one of the last true residence palaces in Germany. 

Why was Schwerin Castle built?

Schwerin castle was built in place of an older building. The place was very symbolic because for hundreds of years there had been a fortress on the island in Schwerin lake.  Schwerin castle like we see it now, was built because the old one was barely inhabitable and moreover not suitable for a Grand Duchy. The court had moved to Schwerin 5 years before, but the old castle was in such a bad condition, that Friedrichs father planned to demolish the castle completely and to build a new palace several hundred meters away from the castle island. In 1842 the father of Friedrich Franz II. died suddenly because of pneumonia. Friedrich was a student of law in Bonn and only 19 years old, when he at once became Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Young Grandduke Friedrich finally decided to have his castle built right on the old castle island and to keep some parts of the older fortress. This castle should be a sign to every one who saw it: Schwerin Castle is the place where the royal family of Mecklenburg-Schwerin had ruled for ages and they would keep ruling over Mecklenburg despite the difficult times that nobility in Germany was going through.

What is special about Schwerin Castle's Architecture?

The young Grandduke ordered the master builder Georg Adolf Demmler to plan a new castle for him, that was modern, but still reminded of the great heritage of the grandducal family. In the 19th century architecture was famous that recited styles of former times, like ancient Greek and Roman style or medieval styles. This was called Historism and it seemed to try to evoke the "good old times", when noble life and society was still in order. Demmler was more of a modern architect, with a perference for the elegance and simplicity of prussian Neoclassicism and of Tudor Gothic. He had real trouble to find a design that pleased the Grand Duke. He was sent on a trip through Europe to find inspiration in other European Castles. Demmler finally found a good example at the river Loire. Castle Chambord became a model for the castle of Schwerin.

The new building kept some parts of the older castle that dated back to the 16th Century. Therefore the style that emerged as a whole became Neorenaissance.

Who lives at Schwerin Castle?

After the reign of the Granddukes ended in 1918 Schwerin Castle became state-owned. After that there was a vivid history, where it had many uses. It has been a school for nursery school teachers, a hospital and housed several museums. After the German Reunification Schwerin Castle became seat of regional parliament. It is also open to visitors as Schwerin Castle Museum since 1974.

There is no one really living at the castle anymore, despite the ghost of Schwerin Castle . In case of a ghost, does the word "live" truely apply ? ;-)

Was Schwerin Castle the one, that was shown in "Kingsman: The Golden Circle"?

While the indoor scenes were done elsewhere, Schwerin Castle was shown in a scene of the movie Kingsman: The Golden Circle ( in cinema September 22nd 2017, 20th Century Fox) as well as in one of the movie trailers. You could get some beautiful views of Schwerin Castles magnificent front facade with its golden cupola and many towers reflecting in the lake at night.