The Great Barrel
(Grosses Fass)

The best view of the Barrel Building is from the Grosser Altan, or Great Terrace. The Gothic windows installed when the functional building was constructed in the 16th century were entirely out of fashion. The reason why its builder, Johann Kasimir, uncle and guardian of Frederick IV, chose them remains a mystery to this day. A giant barrel was installed in the building’s basement in 1591: it was big enough to hold 130,000 litres of Palatinate wine.

The original Great Barrel fell victim to the turmoil of the Thirty Years’ War. In 1664, it was replaced by an even larger barrel which could hold 200,000 litres. Nearly 100 years later, Prince-Elector Karl Theodor, who had long since taken up residence in Mannheim Palace, had the third and current Great Barrel constructed. 220,000 litres of wine was stored here. One surprising detail: a staircase led to a platform above the barrel which was probably used as a dance floor.

Little Perkeo was brought to the Heidelberg court from South Tyrol by Prince-Elector Carl Philipp at the start of the 18th century. As a court jester, he provided entertainment for court society with his pranks and jokes. He is famous for his ability to hold his liquor and there are several stories to back it up. A painted wooden figure of Perkeo now stands guard over the Great Barrel.

One very practical feature: During celebrations, wine could be pumped through a pipe directly from the Great Barrel into the neighbouring Ladies’ Building and King’s Hall.