Documents, Photos and Exhibits.
The so-called “Russian House” (Russenhaus) accommodates the documentation and visitor’s centre together with a permanent exhibition. It provides information about the history of Heiligenberg and its protagonists, from Grand Duchess Wilhelmine, Tsar Alexander II, Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine and the Battenbergs through to the court gardener Gernet.
The exhibition focuses on the history of the Battenbergs with their connections to Russia, England and Bulgaria in the 19th century – following Grand Duchess Wilhelmine, who acquired Heiligenberg in 1827 and left it to her youngest children Marie and Alexander after her early death in 1836, both of whom lead a very eventful life initiating the Russian connection.
Visitors can brief themselves on this intriguing family through information boards and also through a collection of documents, photos and other exhibits. The so-called “Russian Era” and its positive impact on Jugenheim is also depicted. Last but not least, a small section of the exhibition is dedicated to the Gernet family, the Heiligenberg gardener family over two generations.
In addition, there is a small museum shop in the information centre with various brochures on Heiligenberg (in German, English, Russian and French). There is also a small book shop with an interesting selection of books on various topics concerning the Battenbergs and other nobility from Darmstadt and area. A quiz booklet is also available for children with which they can explore Heiligenberg in a detective-like, playful and, to a certain extent, picturesque way.
The Russian House was built in 1827 as a single-storey shed and later extended twice reaching its present size and shape. The building was once used to accommodate the servants of Tsar Alexander II, who, with his wife Marie, frequently visited Heiligenberg and Marie’s brother Alexander, Prince of Hesse and by Rhine. More recently, the building served as a dwelling. Since 2004, however, it was left deserted and threatened by decay. The “Stiftung Schloss Heiligenberg” foundation organised funding and contracting for the renovation of the building in accordance with the strict preservation rules starting in 2010. The wooden shingles that were added at a later date were removed in the course of the restoration to expose the original timber frame that can be seen in historical photos. In 2014 the complex project was completed.
The architecture office Kaffenberger in Reinheim accompanied the project and in 2015 was awarded a Heinrich and Georg Metzendorf Prize for Building Culture reaching second place for their architectural achievements.
The Bathing Hut
As early as 1865, the bathing hut was part of the building ensemble on Heiligenberg and was probably used as a garden hut at that time. When an oval swimming pool was built right behind it in 1896, the bathhouse served as a changing cubicle. Bathing for refreshment and recreation came into fashion in the mid-19th century. A private swimming pool was something quite unusual at that time. Today, the bathing hut and swimming pool are witness to the carefree summer days the Battenberg family enjoyed on Heiligenberg.
Once the funding was settled, the extensive renovation of this small building was tackled in 2017. Initially the timber framework was laboriously refurbished and the infill renewed. Then the floor in the arbour, which was ruined over time, was completely renewed. Initiated by the Heiligenberg Jugenheim Foundation, it now houses a small exhibition on the history of the Heiligenberg.
The bathing hut is open at weekends simultaneously with the Russian House. Please check the current opening times on the German page.
For the Heiligenberg Foundation it was self-understood that one of its tasks was to set up and run an archive on the history of the castle. In the meantime this archive has grown to a considerable size and contains material on various key topics.
The basis for this was material that was already available in the castle. In the course of time the former castle administrator collected everything that was concerned with the different eras of the castle. In addition, this archive was merged with the equally rich archive of the local tourist and town improvement society, the “Verkehrs- und Verschönerungsverein Jugenheim an der Bergstraße”.
Once the public made more note of the efforts of the Heiligenberg Foundation, repeated donations from Jugenheim citizens whose ancestors had been employed by the Battenberg family occurred. These were, for example, documents, pictures, even furniture. The archives also received a valuable addition in the form of a CD-ROM from the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow.