Documentary: The Immortal Count of Saint Germain
The fascinating saga of the Count of Saint-Germain, who dazzled the courts of Europe for over 100 years, leading some to believe he was immortal.
The Comte de Saint Germain (born 1712?; died 27 February 1784) was a European courtier, with an interest in science and the arts. He achieved prominence in European high society of the mid-1700s. In order to deflect inquiries as to his origins, he would invent fantasies, such as that he was 500 years old, leading Voltaire to sarcastically dub him “The Wonderman”.
His birth and background are obscure, but towards the end of his life he claimed that he was a son of Prince Francis II Rákóczi of Transylvania. His name has occasionally caused him to be confused with Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain, a noted French general, and Robert-François Quesnay de Saint Germain, an active occultist.
In 1779 St. Germain arrived in Altona in Schleswig. Here he made an acquaintance with Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel, who also had an interest in mysticism and was a member of several secret societies. The Count showed the Prince several of his gems and he convinced the latter that he had invented a new method of colouring cloth. The Prince was impressed and installed the Count in an abandoned factory at Eckernförde he had acquired especially for the Count, and supplied him with the materials and cloths that St. Germain needed to proceed with the project. The two met frequently in the following years, and the Prince outfitted a laboratory for alchemical experiments in his nearby summer residence Louisenlund, where they, among other things, cooperated in creating gemstones and jewelry. The Prince later recounts in a letter that he was the only person in whom the Count truly confided. He told the Prince that he was the son of the Transylvanian Prince Francis II Rákóczi, and that he had been 88 years of age when he arrived in Schleswig.
The Count died in his residence in the factory on the 27th February 1784, while the Prince was staying in Kassel, and the death was recorded in the register of the St. Nicolai Church in Eckernförde. He was buried March 2 and the cost of the burial was listed in the accounting books of the church the following day. The official burial site for the Count is at Nicolai Church (German St. Nicolaikirche) in Eckernförde. He was buried in a private grave. On April 3 the same year, the mayor and the city council of Eckernförde issued an official proclamation about the auctioning off of the Count’s remaining effects in case no living relative would appear within a designated time period to lay claim on them. Prince Charles donated the factory to the crown and it was afterward converted into a hospital.
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