His people called him “The Old Fritz” but history knows him “Frederick the Great”, a title he shared with Alexander (his story is a previous blog post), and very few others.
Although the capital of his kingdom was Berlin, Frederick spent most of his free time in Potsdam, only a few kilometres from Berlin.
In 1745, he ordered the construction of a summer palace there, completed in two years, Frederick named his palace, ” Sans-Souci ” derived from a French phrase which means ” without concerns/worries or carefree”
Frederick employed a number of renowned architects, but his personal influence on the design and decoration of Potsdam’s buildings, including his palaces was so huge that this entire style of European architecture was later called ‘Frederician Rococo’.
An elegant rococo summer palace, often called the ‘Versailles of Berlin’, is surrounded by a large park, the scenery is spectacular, with architectural treasures scattered among exquisite gardens, fountains, and vineyards.
The vast baroque park area is decorated with gorgeous buildings and palaces, orangeries, temples, a Chinese tea-house, Roman baths and amazing statues throughout the area.
The park is listed among the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO, as a ‘cultural property of exceptional quality’.
The Sans Souci palace was the summer home of Frederick the Great, a refuge from the battlefield and a quiet resort for the enlightened monarch and his famous intellectual guests, who fulfilled his passion for French art and culture.
Many philosophers and theorists were invited to court, with Voltaire being a frequent guest and who actually lived at the palace in what is now known as ‘the flower room’ for nearly three years. Johann Sebastian Bach also frequently visited Sans Souci, and the piano he played while accompanying Frederick on the flute, are proudly displayed in the music room.
Frederick also had his own ‘picture gallery’ built right along side the palace to house his considerable collection.
Designed with a simple exterior showing marble statues of the arts, the opulent design of the interior is all the more surprising with its gilded ornamentation and picture frames and the most sumptuous floors made of yellow and white marble.
Here, he presented in closely hung arrangements nearly 180 of the best works of the Flemish and Dutch Baroque schools of painting, the Italian Renaissance, and the Baroque period including Caravaggio, Van Dyke and Rubens.
It is also the oldest (still standing) museum in Germany.
P.S. All the interior pictures were taken by me surreptitiously as a ‘photo ticket’ costing 3 euro per building, and we were in at least 6, was supposed to be purchased, and after paying 19 euro each to enter, I figured we had paid enough. During our day spent at SansSouci I lost count of the number of times I was ‘spoken to’ for taking pics, stepping slightly off the walkway, brushing against a wall etc., etc., etc.