»he: >...admire the magic< and leave the island >bewitched with delight<.«
Fürst Charles Joseph de Ligne, 1799
»STEIN« ISLAND AND VILLA HAMILTON
The »Magic Rock« at Wörlitz
The »Stein« island in the eastern part of the Wörlitz Gardens with the only artificial volcano in Europe is a particularly spectacular monument within the UNESCO World Heritage that is the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz. After more than twenty years of closure the island was re-opened to the public in September 2005.
This followed years of restoration of this badly damaged structure. Works to secure and reconstruct the building were extremely complex, not least because the objective after years of decay was to reclaim the »Stein« island and preserve it for future generations.
The »Stein« (lit. Stone) was built between 1788 and 1794 for Prince Leopold III. Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau. The island with its grottos and caves, the artificial volcano and the Villa Hamilton gives shape to the memories Prince Franz had from his tour of Italy. He wanted to give the spectator an impression of the Neapolitan topography, of the prevalent vegetation, the shape of a volcano, of an antique theatre and, with the Villa Hamilton, of contemporary Italian architecture.
The Villa Hamilton
The villa was built at the foot of the volcano. It symbolises the friendship between the Prince and the British diplomat, collector of antiquities and geologist Sir William Hamilton and is certainly one of the most delightful neo-classical buildings in Germany. The building with its three early neo-classical rooms is a masterpiece of the architect Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff. The room with the fireplace (»Kaminzimmer«) – the most richly decorated and indeed most beautiful room in the house – can now also be visited again. Apart from the lavish wall and ceiling decorations, the entire historic interior has been restored; lost objects have been replaced with similar ones. Visitors can now experience gouaches by Charles-Louis Clérisseau, alabaster and fluorite vases as well as bas-reliefs by Josiah Wedgwood in their original context. Two of the rooms are still awaiting their restoration.
The re-opening was celebrated with a festive programme that was put together in cooperation with the Anhaltisches Theater in Dessau and the Hotel »Zum Stein« in Wörlitz. Even Sir William Hamilton himself together with Emma Lady Hamilton – played by members of the Trinity College of Music London - have made their way to Wörlitz to join the festivities. Right on time, the volcano – having been dormant for the best part of 200 years – marked the occasion with a series of eruptions. Thousands of visitors witnessed the fascinating event on four evenings. A magnificent spectacle of »nature«…
What happens in future?
The re-opening of the »Stein« concluded main parts of the work on the building, above all those to secure it structurally. To experience the island in its entirety, it is necessary to press ahead with work to restore the exceptional interiors. The coming years will see the restoration of the Temple of the Day, the Temple of the Night, the Roman Baths, the sculptural decoration, the Green Cabinet and the Middle Room of the Villa Hamilton as well as the completion of works on the outside areas.