Hortus Palatinus

Salomon de Caus, 1620

Jean Salomon de Caus (1576-1626) was a French architect and hydraulic engineer, famous for working for the Elector Palatine of Heidelberg. He was born in Normandy into a Protestant and Huguenot family (a religious group of French Protestants who followed the Calvinist tradition of Protestantism) and moved at an early age to Great Britain because of religious conflicts, where he began his education. Later, between 1595 and 1598, he studied in Italy where had the opportunity to visit Bernardo Buontalenti's garden at Pratolino in Florence and the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, which gave him inspiration for several gardens and water features.

During the following years, he was working as an engineer and architect in Netherlands, Belgium, England, and Germany. His work in Britain for the Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick, included several places such as Richmond Palace, Greenwich Park, Wilton House, Somerset House, and Hatfield House. While in Germany his work focused mainly on Heidelberg Castle with the Elisabethentors and Hortus Palatinus.

After the death of the Prince of Wales in 1612, De Caus was invited by Frederick V and his wife, Elizabeth Stuart, to work at Heidelberg Castle in Germany. He began his work with gardens in 1614 and the following year published Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes in French and German, a treatise on hydraulics influenced by the texts of Heron of Alexandria. During these years, in 1618, the Thirty Years' War began in Europe. However, during 1619, De Caus also began writing his volume entitled Hortus Palatinus a frederico rege bohemia, electore palatino heidelberg e extructus, which was published in Frankfurt in 1620 and written both in French and German.

The volume Hortus Palatinus is a treatise on gardens with an in-depth look at the baroque Palatinate Garden at Heildberg Castle (or Garden of the Palatinate). The treatise contains information about what had already been built and the works that would still be built. It starts with a brief description on the topography and carries on to the architectural, horticultural and landscape components that made up the garden. By the end of the text, the print includes a plan, a sketch, and a series of drawings belonging to Matthaeus Merian (1593-1650), a Swiss engraver.

The garden was considered by that time the “eighth wonder of the world” and became very famous around Europe. In Portugal is possible to see the influence of Hortus Palatinus in the Palace of Fronteira in Lisbon. The palace was built in 1671 to the Mascarenhas’s family as a summer house but then converted and expanded when the family decided to move in. The garden is divided by enormous flowerbeds, containing a lake by the south, staircases on the sides and the busts of the Portuguese’s Kings. As for Salomon’s influence, this can be traced in sculptures such as a putto on a dolphin, a putto on a waterdog and people with aquatic animals.

Salomon’s treatise is particularly widespread. As far as the Iberic Peninsula is concerned, the French edition is present at the Portuguese National Library (BNP), at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and at the University of Navarra in Spain (in this case, it is the Latin edition by the Fondo Cicognara, Vatican Apostolic Library).

Editions & Translators

  • The book was first published in Frankfurt in 1620 and written both in French and German.


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[4] Picqué, C. (1879). Salomon de Caux gravant sa médaille (1st ed.). Bruxelles: Gobbaerts.

[5] Rodrigues A. D., A escultura de jardim das Quintas e Palàcios dos Séculos XVII e XVIII em Portugal, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia e Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa 2011.