A striking example of Thuringian Baroque palace architecture, the three-wing Elisabethenburg Palace, begun in 1682, is one of Meiningen’s city landmarks.
The palace at Meiningen was the central seat of the dukes of Sachsen-Meiningen and the intellectual centre of an important “court of the muses” set between Weimar and Bayreuth.
In the late 19th century, Meiningen rose to international fame when Duke Georg II von Sachsen-Meiningen (1826–1914), an enthusiastic patron of the arts, caused a sensation all over Europe with his Court Theatre and Court Chapel, ultimately sparking far-reaching cultural reforms. Wherever the duke’s court players stepped onto stages across Europe, audiences and critics alike were taken by surprise by the historical accuracy and illusionist perfectionism of the stage settings.
The productions of dramas by Shakespeare, Schiller and Kleist, authentic down to the last detail, were the signature feature that earned Meiningen the reputation of a world-famous theatre town and Georg II the nickname “Theatre Duke”. In addition to the ducal apartments, banqueting halls and collections of fine and decorative arts, the museum also shows original 19th-century stage scenery from the Meiningen Court Theatre. Associated with Meiningen’s musical traditions are such illustrious names as Johann Ludwig Bach, Hans von Bülow, Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss and Max Reger. Their lives and work were all closely connected for a time with Elisabethenburg Palace and with Meiningen.
The display of rare historic musical instruments in the former ducal library and the dukes’ dining room is one of the highlights of the new presentation of the musical history collection and Max Reger archive. Memorial rooms in the palace commemorate Princess Adelheid von Sachsen-Meiningen, Queen of Great Britain at the side of William IV from 1830 to 1837, as well as Friedrich Schiller’s sojourn when he sought asylum in Meiningen and Bauerbach in 1782/83.