The Siegerlandmuseum in Siegen’s “Upper Palace” (Oberes Schloss) boasts a large collection divided into four sections. The main focus of the permanent exhibition is the regional economic history. Parts of the mineral collection are shown in the former cab-gateway (see photo above). It is one of Germany’s largest and most famous mineral collections. With a length of approximately 100 meters (~328 ft./~109 yd.), visitors can observe examples of miners at work. The approximately 2,500 years of iron winning and processing represent the foundation of the regional economy. Iron was traditionally smelted in wind ovens (an original from the “La Tène” period dated to 150 BC is exhibited in the exhibition). Starting in the 14th century, water-powered hammer mills and metallurgical plants were used. The second pre-industrial energy-source was coal. A particular form of forest management called “Hauberg” was practiced in the Siegerland region in order to create charcoal to smelt iron with.
By following the central staircase, you will come to the section dedicated to the noble Houses of Orange-Nassau and Nassau-Siegen. The collection of portraits focuses on the family of “The Silent” William I of Orange. He was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish crown which sparked the “Eighty Years’ War” (1568-1648) and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces of The Netherlands in 1648. Graphics illustrate both his career and family life. After crossing the ‘Hall of Orange’ you will enter the oldest part of the palace: The “Gothic Hall”. The typical “fishbone” pattern floor with a central column characterizes this hall. The Siegen City Council offers a special service in this part of the castle: A marriage (civil ceremony) with historical ambiance. Manfred Webel (born 1965), a contemporary artist, designed this wedding room personally. Webel is a sculptor and painter based in Eastern Westphalia. His concept reflects on humanity and human relationships of all kinds.
After passing the “Torture chamber” containing a suit of armour and a collection of helbards on the left hand side of the spiral staircase (this room was formerly owned by the Archbishop of Cologne) you will reach the 3rd exhibition level, dedicated to Count Johann Moritz (1604-1679). He is the most important representative of the House of Nassau–Siegen. After serving the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as governor in Brazil for eight years, he became governor of the Duchy of Cleve at behest of the elector of Brandenburg, Friedrich Wilhelm. Works of art from the 17th century can be seen in the rooms around the “Slate Hall” which got its name from its dark, slate-covered floor. As sovereign of the principality of Nassau-Siegen, Johann Moritz donated Siegen’s landmark in 1658: the gilded coronet of the Reformed Nikolai (St Nicholas) church.
An additional wing of the museum is dedicated to the paintings of Rubens. These pieces are representative of the most famous painter of the Flemish Baroque, who was born in Siegen in 1577. Seven paintings and a large collection of etchings and copperplate engravings show the enormous production of this multifaceted artist. (In order to preserve the collection, only a few selected pieces are currently on display). Rubens was successful in all disciplines of art, and our collection is completed by paintings of his immediate environment, the ‘Antwerp school’, like a “Drunken Silenus” by Jacob Jordaens. Sileni are followers of Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine.
In a 4th section of the museum you can discover 19th century period rooms. A kitchen, a bedroom and selected items of “Biedermeier” furniture grant insight into interiors of the past. The collection contains porcelain, pottery and glass objects from the period. A physharmonica (keyboard instrument resembling a small harmonium) which was in possession of the father and teacher of famous piano player Clara Schumann (1819-1896), piano factory owner Friedrich Wieck, is a true rarity among the musical instruments.
The museum also offers a coffee & tea room, a multi-function seminar room and a museum education room.
The “Upper Palace” (Oberes Schloss)
There was probably a medieval castle atop Siegen’s ‘Siegberg’ hill already by 1200 AD, which served as base for the House of Nassau. From the outset, the castle was jointly owned by both the counts of Nassau and the archbishop of Cologne. This shared reign is mirrored by the castle’s division into two wings. According to a document from 1343, the castle’s wing towards the river Sieg (“Bischofshaus”) belonged to the archbishop of Cologne, while the wing facing the “Weiss” brook (“Grafenhaus”) was owned by the counts of Nassau. In 1421, the counts of Nassau gained full dominion over both town and castle. In 1607, the castle became the permanent residence of the House of Nassau-Siegen; from 1623 till 1738 the dynasty’s Catholic branch resided here. From 1743 on, the building was used as an administrational site by several central state authorities.
After the death of count Johann VII in 1623 (who belonged to the continental Reformed church), a second aristocratic domicile called Nassau Court (Nassauischer Hof) was established on the premises of a former Franciscan monastery in order to host the Reformed branch of the House of Nassau-Siegen. After the Nassau Court was destroyed in the great fire of Siegen in 1695, a new “Lower Palace” (‘Unteres Schloss’) was built from 1698-1714.
During the Napoleonic era (1806-1813), Siegen was connected to the Kingdom of Prussia. In this context the “Upper Palace” was used as an administration building before it was sold by the Royal Prussian fiscal authority to the municipality of Siegen in 1888. In the following period, the palace served as an office building, partially as an orphanage and finally, since 1905, as a museum.
After being partially destroyed in 1944, the castle was reconstructed with its striking roof lantern and weather vane from 1685. Today, the Siegerlandmuseum is dedicated to the exhibition of art and regional history.
Guided tours are available and can be booked by calling the museum’s front office (phone +49 271 23041-13) or by email. Tour are available in German, or in English, French, Dutch, Spanish or Russian with advanced booking.