This forgotten and neglected water palace was once one of the most beautiful in the region, designed and built by the same architects who worked on some of the masterpieces of Baroque architecture in Dresden. Today it lies hidden and empty just across the border in Poland.
August the Strong was Elector of Saxony and King of Poland in the 17th century. A character larger than life, his great physical strength earned him the nickname. He was a great patron of arts and architecture and established the city of Dresden as a major cultural center. He had beautiful palaces built in Dresden that were inspired by the architecture he saw while touring France and Italy, including the castle residence in Dresden, the Zwinger, Pillnitz Castle and Moritzburg Castle. He was also known for being a man of pleasure and excess. He held “animal-tossing” contests for entertainment in which he participated himself, demonstrating his “strength”. He is also said to have fathered many illegitimate children, some say as many as 365!
His chamberlain, however, was a different sort of man. Joachim Sigismund von Ziegler und Klipphausen came from a noble Upper Lusatian family who inherited the village of Radmeritz (today Radomierzyce in Poland). The small village is about 10 km (6 miles) south of Görlitz just opposite the Neisse River from Hagenwerder. The most significant structures in the village are thanks to Joachim’s efforts, including the water palace, the church and the mill. Joachim was a life-long bachelor and known for his moderation. He decided that he wanted to establish a foundation for the care of unmarried noble women. The women were to be from at least four generations of nobility and to have fallen on hard times financially through no fault of their own. The goal of the foundation was to give the young ladies an appropriate upbringing and to prepare them for the role of wife and mother. This was during a time period when noble families were frequently experiencing financial troubles. Times were changing, and while in cities like Görlitz merchants were experiencing a lot of success at the time, noble families had misjudged these changes and were losing their wealth, so you can begin to understand why such a foundation might have been needed.
The palace Joachimstein is built on an artificial island and surrounded by a moat, at the point where the river Wittig (Witka) and the Neisse meet. Inaugurated in 1728, the construction of the three-wing palace took almost 20 years and included a beautiful garden as well as a tree-lined path all the way around the moat.
In addition to these young noble women, the palace has also provided quarter to many famous historical figures throughout its 300 years. During the Seven Years’ War the Prussian King Frederick the Great was here, and during the Napoleonic Wars General Blucher and Prince Wilhelm were quartered in the palace, along with a volunteer force of the Prussian army called the Lützow Free Corps. These were volunteers who were drawn from all over the numerous German realms, men who felt called by the romantic nationalism of the times. Among them was a man named Theodor Körner, who abandoned his promising career as a dramatist in Vienna and volunteered. He wrote songs and poetry to inspire his fellows. While at the palace he wrote his “Aufruf” or call to the Saxons to rise up against Napoleon.
During WWII a wing of the palace was used to accommodate groups of children who were evacuated from larger cities to protect them from aerial bombing, called the Kinderlandverschickung in German. After WWII Germany’s eastern borders were redrawn and Radmeritz was now in Poland. The noble women who remained living there were expelled and the palace was looted. It remained empty for decades and fell into disrepair.
In 2003 the palace was purchased by an investor who wanted to turn it into a hotel and event venue. A few of the buildings were renovated, including the facades and roofs. But the investor died unexpectedly in 2004 and all renovation work on the palace has since ceased.
The water palace is not exactly open to visitors. If you approach the moat you will find that the main entrance to the palace is shut and there is a barrier for cars with signs in Polish. Now I’m not fluent in Polish, but I’m pretty sure they don’t say “welcome!”
However, if one were to duck under the barrier, one could walk all the way around the outside of the moated palace on the tree-lined path. I’m not here to promote trespassing, but the views of this palace from the path are absolutely stunning with the reflection in the water and one can imagine the noble ladies of the 17th century who lived here as they took their daily walks along this tree-lined path.
The Joachimstein water palace in Radomieryzce is absolutely lovely and I only discovered it by accident – I was eating lunch at a restaurant nearby and saw its name on my GPS nearby and decided to check it out. It’s a beautiful and important historical structure that deserves to be seen and appreciated. I would love to see the palace receive further investments and be opened again to the public and I look forward to the day when I can admire it from the inside!
Check out this really great drone footage of the water palace for a unique point of view: