It was the year 1833. High excitement reigned at the house of Jean-Francois Boch, an industrialist and committed educated citizen, because the Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm had announced that he was coming to visit. He was on a journey through the Prussian Rhineland and greatly valued the impressive riverscapes and their picturesque relics from times gone by. And he wasn't the only one: tourism had started to develop on the Rhine and Mosel, primarily among guests from Britain.
Boch ran a state-of-the-art, largely mechanised tableware factory in the old secularised abbey in Mettlach on the Saar, and his high-quality products created a stir as far away as Berlin. Was this the reason the man who would become King Friedrich Wilhelm IV was seeking Boch out?
Above all, their shared interest in history makes this visit resonate to this day: Boch's historical collection included an ancient wooden box that a master baker had once given him. It contained the remains of King Johann von Böhmen, a medieval heroic knight who had gone blind and later died at the Battle of Crécy. This king came from a Luxembourgian noble family and was an ancestor of Friedrich Wilhelm and his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria. As his old burial place in Luxembourg had fallen victim to secularisation under Napoleon Bonaparte, it is fortunate that the master baker was able to save it.
The life story of this blind king was on the very cusp of the era. The Crown Prince was close to German Romanticism and longed for a return to the “perfect world” of the Middle Ages. He dreamed of a harmonious coexistence between rulers and the people. No written constitution, no parliament should stand between them!
He decided to have a burial chapel constructed for his medieval ancestor, and the site was quickly chosen: a dilapidated hermitage in the sandstone cliffs high above the Saar was to be rebuilt in the current style of the era. To ensure that his romantic-political ideas were actually reflected in the building, the Crown Prince commissioned his chief building director Karl Friedrich Schinkel, a great painter and architect of the Romantic period, to draw up the plans. He also played a highly personal role in the planning - the images he created still exist to this day.
Almost 200 years have since passed. The bones of Johann von Böhmen rest once more in Luxembourg City, and Germany has long since ceased to be ruled by a king. But the Schinkel Klause still stands on the sandstone cliffs, and its architecture is one of the highlights of German Romanticism.
Come and take a look...
Another jewel of German Romanticism under Friedrich Wilhelm can be found in Koblenz: Stolzenfels Castle. A mural there even depicts King Johann von Böhmen at the Battle of Crécy.