In the small chapel of the former residence of the Dukes of Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach there is nothing to indicate that - until recently - careful hammering, painting and plastering was taking place in the southwest part of the chapel. Above, on the front side of the apse, the "Engelskonzert" [Concert of Angels] shines just as beautifully as when Hermann Wislicenus created the painting more than 150 years ago. The historic building, which has a diverse history of construction and usage, will reopen this spring after more than ten years of planning and restoration work. "Then the design of the chapel from 1868 can be experienced again," says restorer Birgit Busch with delight. Particularly challenging was the removal of steel girders and 8- to 10-millimeter thick checker plates built into the chapel in 1964 to house a four-story book archive. The most important tool for the disassembly: a thick sheet metal nibbler from TRUMPF.
"It's a nice feeling to be able to see the entire structure again from the chapel floor." Birgit Busch managed the restoration of the historic gem with a lot of heart and soul. It was not an easy task. "The building has suffered many injuries and wounds that we have carefully treated," she explains. "We worked our way down from the top, starting with the ceiling work and finally restoring the badly damaged floor." The cooperation between the skilled crews on the construction site was reportedly outstanding. Wall sockets had to be repaired, varnish was removed from the wooden ceilings, natural stones were renewed, the stained glass windows and 15 historical chandeliers needed to be cleaned and processed. Gallery railings and missing doors were redesigned and added. A fire alarm and a basic heating system were also installed, and the electrical system was brought up to date. Plasterers worked on the restoration of the stucco marble. Busch: "There are only a few craftsmen left who can do this kind of work."
The employees of Spezialbau Erfurt GmbH (35 employees) are also highly qualified. In 2018, the company was commissioned by the Klassik Stiftung [Classical Foundation] to dismantle the steel in the chapel. A colossal undertaking. CEO Jens Ludwig: "The building owners made clear to us what was most important: The historical substance, such as columns and murals, may under no circumstances be damaged during the work process". How would this be possible? As steel structures, the mezzanines were 90 percent welded. The floor panels alone comprised approximately 320 square meters of sheet steel. "We have to mechanically cut all the steel into portable units and transport them away individually," Ludwig explained to his clients. But which tool could be used to cut up the base plates efficiently yet gently? Laser flame cutting was obviously out of the question due to the heat and smoke generated by this method. Hacksaws and angle grinders, whose flying sparks cannot be controlled, were also ruled out.
Company CEO Ludwig scoured the internet and came across a technical article about the thick sheet metal nibbler TruTool N 1000 from TRUMPF. The machine can be operated at a working speed of 1.6 meters per minute to cut sheets up to ten millimeters thick. Perfect for working in the Thuringian chapel, right? Jens Ludwig contacted TRUMPF specialist consultant Michael Fritzsche who, a few days later demonstrated the nibbler to him on-site - and convinced him. "TruTool N 1000 cuts through sheet metal almost as smoothly as the famous knife through butter," says Ludwig with a smile. No, it's not quite that easy, "but the machine is a pleasure to handle despite its weight of almost 15 kilograms." With the nibbler, the specialists from Erfurt were able to cut the thick sheets into manageable sizes. "Eventually we had to bring the parts from the top floor down in a container," emphasizes Ludwig. The investment paid off for him: "It's truly the only tool that allowed us to get the job done." He is convinced: "This tool could be used to demolish a tank, for example."
Birgit Busch is enthusiastic about the work done by the Erfurt specialist crew: "I take my hat off to them. What they have done on a physical level is very impressive as well." The experienced restorer admits that she was so relieved when the steel work was finished that she treated herself to a glass of champagne. She will raise a glass again in the spring when the first visitors actually step back inside the palace chapel and admire its beauty. Birgit Busch is proud of the restoration: "We have a beautiful space again. I am very honored that I was chosen to lead this project."
1806 – 1847: Planning and construction phase. Building owner: Carl Alexander August Johann, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.
1847: Dedication of the castle chapel on Palm Sunday. In the decades that followed, the grand-ducal family used the chapel for church services, weddings and funeral services.
1867: Hermann Wislicenus decorates the upper end of the apse with a painting of an angel concert.
1950: The space is transformed into a concert hall, the so-called Bach sanctuary.
1964: A four-story steel framework for storing books from the National Research and Memorial sites is installed.
2004: Relocation of the book holdings to a new depot of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library.
2010 - 2012: The first plans for the restoration are made and initial steps are implemented.
2018: The Deutschen Stiftung Denkmalschutz [German Monument Protection Foundation] gives the Klassik Foundation a donation of 1.4 million euros for the renovation.
2019: The planning and work is resumed.
2021: The steel framework which was installed almost 60 years ago is removed.
2023: Reopening of the palace chapel
Image left side: © Jens Hauspurg / Klassik Stiftung Weimar