by Terry Melanson (08/11/2008)
The above was painted by Anton Wilhelm Tischbein (1730-1804) in 1783. The scene depicts the grounds of the spa – the ruined castle, the kitchen and the carousel in the background. In the foreground (right) is the hereditary prince William IX of Hesse-Kassel (1743-1821) with six year-old son William. William IX, at the time, was the ruler of the principality of Hanau, subsequently becoming William IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel – after his father Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel had died in 1785 – and then William I, Elector of Hesse.
The castle as it looks today (from the German Wilhelmsbad entry at de.wikipedia)
The Hanau-Wilhelmsbad spa, fashionable from 1777 to 1785, was the location of the Masonic Congress in the summer of 1782 (16 July – 29 August). William IX made it his summer retreat, and the ruined castle, prominent in the painting, was where high-degree Masons from the whole of Europe had deliberated the fate of the rite of Strict Observance.
Photographer “Big Mike” in Germany, has this to say about the castle:
The Ruined Castle built between 1779 and 1781 close to the spa baths, although separated on its artificial island behind gnarled oaks, is the earliest pseudo-medieval castle on the European continent to have been purpose-built for a landscaped park in the form of a ruin. In fact, it served Wilhelm, the invested heir to Hesse-Kassel, as a summer residence. Its apparently dilapidated tower has been deliberately designed to bewilder the visitor, for it accommodates an elegant apartment on its ground floor and a magnificent domed hall with portraits of ancestors by Anton Wilhelm Tischbein on its upper floor.
There’s also a pyramid on the grounds, erected in 1784, in honor of William IX’s son Friedrich who died prematurely just shy of his twelfth birthday; designed by Franz Ludwig von Canerin.
William IX wasn’t a Freemason, but his brother Prince Karl, Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel (1744-1836), was. Karl was the chief organizer of the conference, and second in command to Grand Master (Magnus Superior Ordinis; ‘Eques a Victoria’) Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Wolfenbüttel (1721-92) – Illuminatus, February 1783.
The following is a list of the official deputies of the Strict Observance who attended the gathering: