The Hercules monument is an important landmark in the German city of Kassel. It is located in the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (Wilhelmshöhe Mountainpark) in northern Hesse, Germany.
Hercules is a copper statue depicting the ancient Greek demigod Heracles (Gr. Ηρακλής, German Herkules). The statue is located at the top of a Pyramid, which stands on top of the Octagon; the statue and the other parts of the monument were constructed at different times. Today "Hercules" refers not only to the statue, but the whole monument, including the Octagon and Pyramid. The monument is the highest point in the Wilhelmshöhe Bergpark.
The monument is located in Bad Wilhelmshöhe, on the Eastern ridge of the Habichtswald. It was built in an artificial dell of the Karlsberg (526m above sea level) on the most western and at the same time highest location (515 m) of the line of sight Schloss Wilhelmshöhe – Hercules.
On 23 June 2013 the Mountainpark and the Hercules were proclaimed as world heritage site during the UNESCO meeting in Phnom Penh.
Construction of the Bergpark began in 1696. The Hercules statue was built in the years 1701 to 1717 and is based on the design of the Italian Giovanni Francesco Guerniero. The entire complex is the northernmost part of the park and is an important baroque aspect of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. It has more than 200 steps leading up to the top.
For the first time the water features took place on 3 June 1714. Today during the summer (from May until October every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon) visitors can attend this event. Additionally, every first Saturday of the months of June, July, August and September this event takes place during the evening with lights of different colors illuminating the water, the fountain and the different monuments. Every time about 350.000 liters (92,000 gallons) of water are needed and visitors can follow the water's way starting from the Hercules monument and ending at the big lake of the castle Wilhelmshöhe. The water runs down the cascades, the Steinhöfer's waterfall, the devil's bridge, until it tumbles down the aqueduct before finally arriving at the lake of the castle where a fountain of about 50 meters ends the spectacle. This whole system relies on natural pressure from reservoirs and underground pipes whose locks are opened manually. This system has been in place for more than 300 years.
Octagon and statue
The Hercules monument has a total height of 70.5 meters. 32.65 meters are accounted for by the Octagon; 29.60 meters for the Pyramid and 8.25 meters for the Hercules statue itself. The height difference between top of the statue and the bottom of the cascades is 179 meters.
The Cascades are a 250m long stone structure that forms gigantic waterstairs.
The complete structure (Octagon and Cascades) are made of Tuff that was sourced from quarries nearby. This soft material has the advantage of a good workability but weathers quickly, particularly by frost-related erosion. This rapid weathering process has been a structural issue for the statue in its 300 years of existence. In late 2005 a complete restructuring process of the entire monument, including the Hercules statue, was initiated. Initially projected to be completed in 2009, the restoration of the statue and monuments has been estimated to cost more than 24 million Euro and will last through 2018.
- Giovanni Francesco Guerniero, Delineatio Montis, Cassel 1706
- Faksimile, Leipzig 1988 (auch Stuttgart 1988)
- Paul Heidelbach, Die Geschichte der Wilhelmshöhe. Klinkhardt & Biermann, Leipzig, 1909
- Faksimile, Ed: Dieter Carl, Vellmar 2005
- Christiane Lukatis (ed.), Herkules. Tugendheld und Herrscherideal. Das Herkules- Monument in Kassel- Wilhelmshöhe., Eurasburg 1997, ISBN 3-932353-06-4
- Thomas Ludwig, Der Herkules in Kassel, 2004, ISBN 3-7954-1668-X
- Google Sketchup Model of the castle
- Video of the waterfeatures (Not available to view outside of Germany)