Thursday, 6 December 2007

A Visit to Castle Waldegg, Feldbrunnen, Switzerland

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I was driving home from work last week and saw that our local castle is now illuminated in the evenings. As it was my birthday today and in honour of the day I had taken the day off (and tomorrow as well) I decided to take a few photos. Not being very expert in night photos, I took about 10 photos, threw about 7 away and this is about the best. I risked being run over by cars which were driving passed now and again, but I think it was sort of worth it.

Castle Waldegg is on my way to work in the morning, which means I drive past twice a day during the week. To be able to drive up the avenue leading and surrounding the castle you have to have special permission. Being a member of the village I have this permission, although I dread the day when a policeman asks to see it. I know roughly where it is in the car, but I also know it will probably be a very embarrassing search process until I actually find it. I have visited the castle a couple of times since the renovation work, but this time I was armed with my camera. It has become a very popular place for excursions, and weddings, after all it is not everyone that can show a wedding photo in front of a castle. I cannot show any wedding photos, but that’s another story.

Here is a photo showing the visitor’s entrance to the castle.

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So now I will bore everyone with a bit of a history lesson.

Castle Waldegg was built from 1682-1690 as the Summer house of Johann Viktor 1 of Besenval (1638-1713) and his wife Maria Margaritha von Sury (1649-1713). From all the various country houses of the Solothurn patronage Waldegg is the most beautiful and largest. An avenue lined with trees on each side lead to the baroque castle with its gardens, situated on a hill. French and Italian style elements mix with the strong architecture of the Solothurn towers.

Johann Viktor II of Besenval (1671-1736), diplomat and high officer in French service, made extensive structural changes to the building of the theatre hall and the building of the second St. Michael’s chapel, as well as bringing many works of art to Waldegg.

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Although Baron Peter Viktor von Besenval (1721-1791), his son and the third owner of Waldegg was born in the castle, he lived practically all his life in France. He was responsible for the extension of the Orangerie.

In 1789 at the outbreak of the French Revolution, the decline of the family Besenval began. The family’s power achieved through commerce, mercenary services and statesmanship is today no-longer existent and the family is extinct. Waldegg was almost deserted until it was bought in 1865 by Joseph von Sury-von Besenval. The new owner made the castle once again habitable. He built two apartments in the castle and changed the baroque garden into an English garden.

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In 1963 castle Waldegg came into the possession of Kanton Solothurn through a contract made with the Marguerite, Charles and Victor von Sury. Members of this family still live today in the East Wing of the castle. Some of the family also served as guards to the pope in the Vatican.

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Although the meeting centre Waldegg could be used as such in 1974, extensive renovation and restoration work was necessary from 1985 until 1991 until the opening of the museum. In 1991 castle Waldegg was opened as contribution to the 700 year jubilee of the Swiss Confederation. The renovation and re-establishment of the baroque gardens received international recognition in 1995. In 2005 the adjoining buildings in the castle grounds were renovated.

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The reason why I made my visit last Sunday was because they had a special open day. The visit to the castle was combined to the exhibition of handcraft Christmas gifts and a friend of mine, who does the accounts for the castle, told me that it might be interesting as they also had some very old books on show as well.

Part of the castle was also used to show various handcrafts which were sponsored by local businesses. It made a change and I quite enjoyed the visit. Mr. Swiss was occupied in seeing my son off as he arrived on the doorstep on Saturday for the week-end to attend a class reuniion after ten years. He made a quick visit from Brussels where he is at the moment working for the next two years. Here are some of the gifts on exhibit in the castle.

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