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A „porcelain palace“ to rival any in Europe
Rastatt Favorite Palace
Photograph of Mark Twain. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

A Tramp AbroadMark Twain at Favorite Palace

There was little patience for Baroque piety in the 19th century. Sibylla Augusta's stays at the Rastatt Favorite Palace hermitage gave rise to wild speculation. They were even mentioned in Mark Twain's “A Tramp Abroad.”

View of the hermitage in the palace garden, Rastatt Favorite Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The hermitage in the palace garden.

The “sinful” margravine?

The author Mark Twain (1835–1910) heard the rumors when he visited Favorite Palace. In 1880, he wrote the following in his book “A Tramp Abroad”: The margravine is said “to have spent the last two years of her life in the strange cave (the hermitage)... after having indulged in one final, triumphant and thorough orgy.”

Where did such absurd rumors come from?

“Pray for the great sinner, Augusta” had been inscribed on Sibylla Augusta's memorial plate in the Rastatt palace church, as per her wishes. That must have inspired some flights of fancy, albeit entirely unfounded. The inscription is a typical expression of religious understanding for the Baroque period; more than 100 years later, it was met with astonishment.

Wax figures of the Holy Family in the hermitage, Rastatt Favorite Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Wax figures of the Holy Family.

Spooky wax figures

The wax figures of Maria Magdalena and the Holy Family were not to Mark Twain's taste. He referred to them as “dead figures with shocks of hair”, with the complexion of a corpse and fish-like glass eyes. He was horrified that Sibylla Augusta is said to have dined in the company of the Holy Family. According to Twain, there was “so much crazy and decayed trash in the palace, that a dedicated trinket collector would have turned green with envy.”

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Mark Twain’s signature.

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