The history of the Parliament building
The State Parliament of Lower Saxony has had its seat in the Hanover 'Leineschloss' since 1962. It is where elected representatives from all parts of Lower Saxony meet for plenary sessions, committee meetings and party meetings. The members of staff of the various parliamentary parties and the administrative body of the State Parliament also have their offices here. The building is situated on the river Leine and reflects the historical changes of past centuries in a very special way. Unlike any other building it portrays the fate of Lower Saxony, its capital and its people. Today it ranges amongst the most beautiful buildings in Hanover. In a way, the 'Leineschloss' and its more recent history is also a reflection of the changes that Germany has undergone when it comes to the execution of power: once the centre of absolute power of the ruling dynasty, it has become the seat of the democratically elected representative body of the people, the State Parliament of Lower Saxony.
In 1637, during the period of the Thirty Years' War, Duke George of Calenberg, after having chosen Hanover as his residence, ordered the demolition of the old Franciscan monastery of which first mention can be found around 1300. In its place the first 'Leineschloss' was built. It was not designed to be a splendid palace but a practical half-timbered building. From 1680, the annex of the 'Schlossopernhaus', demolished again in 1854, was built by the Elector Ernst August in the exact location of the present plenary chamber. The opera house had 1300 seats, and Hanover was able to boast the most beautiful and magnificent building of its type in Germany at that time. In 1714, the year the Elector George Ludwig became George I of Great Britain and Ireland - the beginning of the personal union between Britain and Hanover - the 'Leineschloss' became a "residence without a regent" for 123 years. It was used but rarely, and then only for official purposes by the ruling monarchs.
During the French occupation of Hanover from 1803 to 1813 the 'Leineschloss' saw the darkest days of its history up to that point in time. Napoleon's occupational army stripped the castle totally and left the building to rot. During this period the geographical structure of Lower Saxony changed considerably. The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) brought about the restructuring of Europe and definite borders. Prior to the Congress, Hanover had become a Kingdom under George III, who was ruling monarch of Great Britain and Ireland as well as Elector of Hanover. At the time, the Kingdom comprised ten former principalities and earldoms as well as seven provincial state parliaments.
In 1814, the Prince Regent George, son of George III, in his position as representative of the King of Hanover, called a "General Assembly of the Corporations of the Kingdom of Hanover". In their rules of procedure - referred to as 'regiment', the term 'state parliament' was already used. It was to act as an advisory body on matters concerning the state. Thus, the first representational assembly of had been formed for the entire state. It could also be seen as a first cautious attempt at establishing a parliamentary system, limited however to the upper classes. The passing of the constitution in 1833 brought about fundamental changes to the rights and the structure of the Assembly of Corporations in favour of the bourgeois and the newly-freed peasants. The budget right, a public purse which originated from a general revenue fund and a royal fund, as well as the right of legislative initiative, made the Assembly of Corporations into a first building block for the present parliamentary democracy.
During the period between 1816 and 1842/51, the 'Leineschloss' underwent basic reconstruction under the management of architect Georg Ludwig Friedrich Laves, one of the most significant representatives of classicism. The faÃ§ade of the building was of a uniform design, characterized by classicism. The building was supplemented by an impressive portico, which still proudly stands today.
When the personal union with Britain came to an end and Ernst August became ruling monarch in 1837, Hanover once again became a royal residence. However, construction work on the castle was not continued because the Assembly of Corporations refused to give its consent to the immense costs such an undertaking would incur. Therefore, the 'Leineschloss' was used almost entirely for official purposes. The new construction of the Welf Castle in Herrenhausen by King George V and the annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover by Prussia in 1866 put an end to further plans of reconstruction.
In 1921, the 'Leineschloss', no longer used for the purpose originally
planned, became part of the administration of the City of Hanover. Plans were drawn up to house several museums and to utilize parts of it for the storage of artwork. To a certain extent, this plan was realized by the National Socalists towards the end of 1936. The castle was designated as a mixture of a military memorial site and an arms' museum, thus misusing the building for ideological purposes, in order to prepare the nation for an imminent war. During the years of inflation, parts of the building had been utilized as a soup kitchen and day rooms for the needy. On July 26, 1943 the 'Leineschloss' was destroyed almost entirely during an American air raid. For ten years it remained a ruin - only its outer walls had survived partly intact. One wing was used by some Hanoverian companies as emergency quarters during the period after the war.
After World War Two, following "Decree No. 55" of British military rule, the present state of Lower Saxony was formed from the formerly independent states of Brunswick, Hanover, Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe. After the first elections of the State Parliament on April 20, 1947, the State Parliament of Lower Saxony used the Stadthalle of Hanover as its temporary quarters.
The tender for the new construction of the 'Leineschloss' was won by the Hanoverian architect Dieter Oesterlen in 1954. The 'Leineschloss' was redesigned to become the present Parliament building, following his architectural plans. Building work began in 1957, and the foundation stone was laid in 1958. The State Parliament building was officially opened on September 11, 1962.
The former royal castle of Hanover has long since become the seat of the State Parliament of Lower Saxony - a seat of democracy. The valuable historical structure, as far as intact, has been preserved as a sign of respect to traditional state history. The interior, however, has been redesigned following state-of-theart architectural and functional aspects.
Today the 'Leineschloss' is Lower Saxony’s central location for political analysis as well as political communication. It is a centre which works for the benefit of the people following the ideas of democratic freedom.