The Development of Rococo Architecture in Germany

The Development of Rococo Architecture in Germany
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  • 0:01 Rococo Architecture
  • 0:50 The Rococo in Germany
  • 2:17 The German Rococo Church
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the architectural movement known as the Rococo in this lesson, and discover what this style meant to wealthy, party-loving Germans of the 18th century. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Rococo Architecture

Structures reflect function - this is the basic rule of architecture. Your building needs to be able to fulfill its purpose. And sometimes, that purpose is to party. In the early 18th Century, French aristocrats stopped socializing in the courts and palaces of the kings and started living it up in private mansions. These elaborate party homes were built in a newly emerging style called the Rococo, which embraced intricate, ornate and asymmetrical patterns as well as a sense of lighthearted whimsy and frivolity. Rococo architecture was very popular amongst French aristocrats, and soon this style spread beyond France and into other parts of Europe, notably Germany. Turns out, Germans like to party, too.

The Rococo in Germany

As Germans started partying like the French, the Rococo became popular amongst German aristocrats and nobility. This is the Amalienburg, a hunting lodge on the grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, built for Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII and Maria Amalia of Austria, his wife. It was designed by François de Cuvilliés with several interior designs by Johann Baptist Zimmerman and constructed from 1734-1739. In that 5-year period, Cuvilliés really brought the Rococo into Germany. Look at the outside of the lodge. See the emphasis on the soft lines and intricate, almost organic designs? Even the color, a soft pink, is very much a part of the Rococo style.

The Amalienberg
The Amalienberg

The focus of the Amalienburg, however, is the main party area, a circular room in the center of the lodge called the Hall of Mirrors 'cause, well, it's covered in mirrors. What can I say? 18th Century aristocrats were pretty vain; they liked to be able to see themselves. What makes this Rococo however are those designs around the mirrors. Gold and silver patterns wind around the walls, almost like vines. Leaves, flowers and birds appear throughout, as do several little cupids. The design is intricate and complex, and overall the room feels alive, in motion. Not a bad place for a party.

The Hall of Mirrors

The German Rococo Church

In Germany, the complexity and whimsy of the Rococo was not just limited to party homes. The Church found a use for it as well. The most notable of German Rococo churches is Vierzehnheiligen, a pilgrimage church dedicated to a group of saints popular at the time, called the Fourteen Holy Helpers, who were often invoked to help against various diseases. It was designed by Balthasar Neumann and built between 1743 and 1772. So, what does a whimsical church look like? Well, like this.

The floor plan of the Vierzehngeiligen
Vierzehnheiligen floor plan

While most churches emphasized solid, straight lines, this one is all about ovals and circles. From inside the church, you can hardly find a straight line. Just like the Hall of Mirrors in Munich, everything feels organic, alive and in motion.

The interior of the Vierzehngeiligen
The interior of the Vierzehngeiligen

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