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One of Württemberg's late medieval palaces

Urach Residential Palace

Portrait of Barbara Gonzaga in a mural by Andrea Mantegna. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain
The first Duchess of Württemberg

Barbara Gonzaga

Barbara Gonzaga von Mantua (1455–1503) came to Urach as the bride of Count Eberhard V, where they celebrated their glamorous wedding in 1474. She brought splendor and Italian flair to Urach, while simultaneously, language barriers and cultural hurdles made life in her new home difficult.

Detail of the mural in the Hall of Palms, Urach Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Janna Almeida

The Hall of Palms was painted for the wedding.

How is Barbara Gonzaga connected to Urach?

Barbara came to Urach in 1474 when she married Count Eberhard V the Bearded. The rather modest life in Urach was nothing like her earlier life in Mantua. There, she was used to a glamorous royal household and lively discourse with artist and scholars. With her abundant dowry, she brought a little Italian glamor to Urach and to the Württemberg court, which she presided over as of 1495, the region's first duchess. She introduced Urach to a variety of previously unknown herbs as well as asparagus, and planted these in her garden.

How was the wedding celebrated?

The arrival of the magnificent bridal procession and Barbara's massive retinue was greatly anticipated in Urach. Eberhard's residential city decked itself out for the bride and the grand, multiple-day wedding celebration. The festivities became a singular demonstration of the grooms royal identity. Eberhard's pride in his newly acquired wife and family was put on display at tremendous logistical, economic and artistic expense.

Stained glass window reproductions from the choir of the collegiate church in Tübingen, today in the palace church of the old palace in Stuttgart. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The bride and groom, Barbara and Eberhard.

What was Barbara and Eberhard's marriage like?

Eberhard and Barbara's marriage was concluded in mutual agreement. The bride and groom were bound by a deep affection, even if a language barrier existed between them at first. Inspired by his wife, Eberhard grew into a great admirer of Italy and humanism, through which Renaissance culture was introduced to Württemberg. The death of their only daughter when she was only a few months old, weighed visibly on the relationship.

Valuable pendant belonging to Barbara Gonzaga. Image: Landesmuseum Württemberg, credit unknown

Barbara Gonzaga brought splendor to the Urach court.

What was her family background?

Barbara had German roots through her mother, Barbara von Brandenburg. Barbara grew up in the Renaissance spirit at the cosmopolitan court of her father, Ludovico II, Margrave of Mantua. She met scholars and artists. Barbara did not feel at home at the modest Württemberg court. She was homesick for Italy and her family her entire life. Her hopes of returning home after Eberhard's death never came to fruition. She died in 1503 in Böblingen.

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