The history of Schloss Hauptwil
A place called ‘Hobtwile’ is first mentioned in 1413. Seventeen years later, monks from the St Pelagaus Monastery in Bischofszell created carp ponds between the present-day Hauptwil und Wilen. These ponds later enabled hydropower and in turn the industrialisation of Hauptwil.
The first recorded commercial activity in the area is from a mill that began operating in 1448.
A liberal spirit and entrepreneur
Heinrich Gonzenbach (1585-1650) became a citizen of St Gallen in 1607. He and his sons, Hans Jacob and Bartholome, made a name – and a fortune - for themselves as successful linen merchants.
Unhappy with the anti-innovation nature of the St Gallen linen industry, Hans Jacob (1611-1671) and Bartholome (1616-1693) decided to relocate to Hauptwil, where they had already acquired judicial power and property. The brothers moved into their newly built castle in spring 1666 and began using the name ‘Gonzenbach von und zu Hauptwil'.
The castle was constructed between 1664 and 1665. The door to the main entrance is dated 1665.
Hauptwil is a historically significant place. For example, in 1665 a groundbreaking new linen factory was built in the area. Hauptwil was also where the movement to liberate Thurgau began in 1798.
The castle is divided into two wings and the central building.
The main building has 7 floors.
The Garden Hall was originally the castle’s chapel where services for the reformed congregation took place. The church in Hauptwil was built in 1861.
The Garden Hall used to be the chapel and today’s chapel used to be an oil store. Parts of the artwork on the chapel’s ceiling are borrowed from a fresco at the Würzburg Residence in Germany. Prince Bishop Carl-Philipp von Greiffenclau, Duke of Frankonia, commissioned the master painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo to create the original fresco in 1750.
Despite having uninterrupted views of the baroque garden, the upper door to the cloister was bricked up and filled in for many years. The cloister was reopened and painstakingly restored during the renovations.
An imposing entrance
Influenced by some of the world’s most famous baroque artists, the castle’s imposing hallway is laid with Rorschach sandstone and features two grand fireplaces, as well as magnificent baroque stucco. There are stuccos of this type throughout Schloss Hauptwil, featuring cherubs, fruit, grapes, crops and grain.
This part of Switzerland was home to many incredible artists in the baroque period. One of these was Johann Georg Gigl, who was born on 28th September 1710 in Schönwag-Forst in Upper Bavaria and died in August 1765 in St Gallen, Switzerland. You can find an example of Johann Georg Gigl’s breathtaking work in St Michael’s Catholic Church in Niederbüren.
It took over 2,000 hours to clean and restore the castle’s stuccos to their former glory.
The dining room was built and furnished in the Empire Style between 1805 and 1812.
The castle’s tearoom is famed for being the place where the anonymous pamphlet ‘Unmassgebliche Vorschläge eines Thurgauischen Volks-Freundes,’ translated into English as ‘Modest Suggestions from a Friend of the Thurgau People,’ was written.
The pamphlet is widely, and accurately, attributed to Hans Jacob Gonzenbach who played a key role in the campaign to liberate Thurgau.
The gardens at Schloss Hauptwil
The castle gardens are made up of a baroque garden, a herb garden, a lily pond and a courtyard, as well as a wild meadow orchard to the East of the park. A traditional baroque garden has many elements. They always appear in this order:
- Parterre - a formal, highly symmetrical garden made up of enclosed beds, separated by gravel
- Hedges of ornamental shrubs.
- Woods containing, or symbolising, Copper Beech
Other important elements are a central fountain, teahouse and garden pavilion.
The fountain and griffin
A mythical animal with the body of a lion and the head, wings and claws of an eagle, the griffin is the symbol of the Matuschka von Greiffenclau family and it appears across the Hauptwil estate, including on the fountain in the baroque garden.
Between 1706 and 1708, Prince-bishop Johann Philipp von Greiffenclau built the Four Tubes Fountain in Würzburg, Germany. In the middle of the foundation is a soaring dolphin with a griffin on its tail featuring the prince-bishop’s coat of arms. The original fountain features four more such figures, each representing the four rivers in Franconia: the Main, the Tauber, the Sinn and the Saale.
In Thurgau we do not have the infrastructure for a fountain as big as the Four Tubes and so ours is a little smaller (but no less resplendent), with just the dolphin and one griffin.
The beautiful stained glass in the teahouse features the coats of arms adopted by the Greiffenclau daughters when they married into Swiss families, as well as one belonging to the Siemer family. Siemer is the maiden name of the current Countess, Eva-Maria, and was established after one of her ancestors killed ‘sieben Gegner’ (seven opponents) in a fight. The victory is represented in the coat of arms by seven boar teeth. The crests include the Coat of Arms of the Count’s von Stauffenberg with whom several family members of the Count’s Matuschka, Count’s Matuschka v.Greiffenclau and Baron von Haeften joint against the National Socialists aiming to bring down Adolf Hitler on July 20th, 1944.