Set majestically on a steep vineyard-covered cliff overlooking the Saale river valley north of Jena, visible from far and wide, are the three Dornburg Palaces: the Old Palace, the Renaissance Palace, also known as the Goethe Palace, and the Rococo Palace. Starting in 1824 the three palaces were joined to form a coherent ensemble under Grand Duke Carl August von Sachsen-Weimar and Eisenach by means of a unifying garden designed by Carl August Christian Sckell.
The Old Palace on the eastern side of the site traces its origins back to a 12th-century castle. Acquired by the Ernestine dynasty, it was converted into a palace with stair tower in front. The keep was preserved as palace tower. The two Emperor’s Halls and the official court reception room attest to the importance of the castle in the early modern era.
Set on the western edge of the complex, the Renaissance Palace, built in the 16th century as manor house, was later converted into a residential palace by Grand Duke Carl August in 1826/27. This is where Johann Wolfgang Goethe stayed on several occasions in the year 1828. Today, Goethe’s sojourns in Dornburg are commemorated in the palace. A landscape garden with meandering paths, copses and flowerbeds was laid out at the Renaissance Palace starting in 1824.
In the middle of the ensemble, a geometrically designed garden with both an ash-tree bower and a rose bower surrounds the Rococo Palace, the youngest of the three structures. The palace was built between 1736 und 1741 under Ernst August I von Sachsen-Weimar after plans conceived by architect Gottfried Heinrich Krohne. The interiors are opulently decorated with stuccowork, and some of the rooms still have their 19th century furnishings.
Above the vineyards a terraced promenade leads along the steep slope, connecting the three palaces. From this “Thuringian balcony” a glorious vista opens up over the Saale river valley.
The Dornburg Palaces and their gardens as complete ensemble provide visitors with a vivid picture of Dornburg’s transformation from Ernestine official seat to Baroque court showcase and then to its present identity as dynastic souvenir of the post-classical era.
The Freundeskreis des Goethe-Nationalmuseums e.V. and the Verein Dornburger Impressionen e.V. support the Dornburg Palaces and organise a variety of cultural offerings.