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THE CASTLES OF LUDWIG II

L U D W I G ' S   C A S T L E S








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Ludwig was notably eccentric in ways that made serving as Bavaria’s head of state problematic. He disliked large public functions and avoided formal social events whenever possible, and preferred a life of fantasy that he pursued with various creative projects.
He last inspected a military parade on 22 August 1875 and last gave a Court banquet on 10 February 1876.
These idiosyncrasies caused tension with the king's government ministers, but did not cost him popularity among common Bavarians.
The king enjoyed travelling in the Bavarian countryside and chatting with farmers and labourers he met along the way.
He also delighted in rewarding those who were hospitable to him during his travels with lavish gifts.
He is still remembered in Bavaria as 'Unser Kini', which means "our darling king" in the Bavarian dialect.
Ludwig also used his personal fortune (supplemented annually from 1873 by 270,000 marks from the Welfenfonds to fund the construction of a series of elaborate castles.
In 1867 he visited Viollet-le-Duc's work at Pierrefonds, and the Palace of Versailles in France, as well as the Wartburg near Eisenach in Thuringia, which largely influenced the style of their construction.
These projects provided employment for many hundreds of labourers and brought a considerable flow of money to the relatively poor regions where his castles were built.
Figures for the total costs between 1869 and 1886 for the building and equipping of each castle were published in 1968: Schloß Neuschwanstein 6,180,047 marks; Schloß Linderhof 8,460,937 marks (a large portion being expended on the Venus Grotto); Schloß Herrenchiemsee (from 1873) 16,579,674 marks Guide books of the time give 20 German marks = £1 sterling.
In 1868, Ludwig commissioned the first drawings for two of his buildings.

The first was Schloss Neuschwanstein, or "New Swanstone Castle", a dramatic Romanesque fortress with soaring fairy-tale towers situated on an Alpine crag.
The second was Herrenchiemsee, a replica of the palace at Versailles, France, which was sited on the Herren Island in the middle of the Chiemsee Lake, and was meant to outdo its predecessor in scale and opulence, although only the central section was ever built.
The following year, he finished the construction of the royal apartment in the Residenz Palace in Munich, to which he had added an opulent conservatory or Winter Garden on the palace roof.
It was started in 1867 as a quite small structure, but after extensions in 1868 and 1871 the dimensions reached 69.5mx17.2mx9.5m high.
It featured an ornamental lake complete with skiff, a painted panorama of the Himalayas as a backdrop, an Indian fisher-hut of bamboo, a Moorish kiosk, and an exotic tent.
The roof was a technically advanced metal and glass construction.
The Wintergarden was closed in June 1886, partly dismantled the following year and demolished in 1897.

In 1869, Ludwig oversaw the laying of the cornerstone for Schloss Neuschwanstein on a breathtaking mountaintop site overlooking his childhood home, the castle his father had built at Hohenschwangau.
The walls of Neuschwanstein are decorated with frescoes (see right) depicting scenes from the legends used in Wagner's operas, including the somewhat less than mystic Meistersinger, but not scenes from the operas themselves.
After plans for a monumental festival theatre for Wagner's opera in Munich was thwarted by Court opposition, he supported the construction 1872-6 of the Festspielhaus in the town of Bayreuth, and attended the dress rehearsal and third public performance of the complete Ring Cycle in 1876.

In 1878, construction was completed on Ludwig’s Schloss Linderhof, an ornate palace in neo-French Rococo style, with handsome formal gardens.
The grounds contain the Venus Grotto lit by electricity, where Ludwig was rowed in a boat shaped like a shell (see left).
After seeing the Bayreuth performances Ludwig had built in the forest near Linderhof Hunding's Hut (Hundinghütte) (based on the stage set of the first act of Wagner's Die Walküre) complete with an artificial tree and a sword embedded in it.

In Die Walküre, Siegfried's father Siegmund, pulls the sword from the tree.
Hunding's Hut was destroyed in 1945 but a replica was constructed at Linderhof in 1990 (see left).
In 1877 a small hermitage (Einsiedlei des Gurnemanz) (see right) as in the third act of Wagner's Parsifal was erected near Hunding's Hut, with a meadow of spring flowers, where the king would retire to read.
(A replica made in 2000 can now be seen in the park at Linderhof.)

Nearby a Moorish Kiosk, purchased at the Paris World Fair in 1878, was erected alongside the mountain road.
Sold in 1891 and taken to Oberammergau it was purchased by the government in 1980 and re-erected in the park at Linderhof after extensive restoration.
Inside the palace, iconography reflected Ludwig's fascination with the absolutist government of Ancien Régime France. Ludwig saw himself as the "Moon King", a romantic shadow of the earlier "Sun King", Louis XIV of France.
From Linderhof, Ludwig enjoyed moonlit sleigh rides in an elaborate eighteenth century sleigh, complete with footmen in eighteenth century livery.
Also in 1878, construction began on his Versailles-derived Herrenchiemsee.
In 1879 he travelled to England and visited Sir Richard Wallace, to whom he had written for advice on England's medieval architecture.
Wallace advised Ludwig to take a tour of the English countryside in order to survey a variety of ecclesiastical buildings, that he might draw inspiration from them for future building projects.
In a letter to Wallace, Ludwig expressed particular admiration for the buildings of Hertfordshire, which he toured extensively.
In the 1880s, Ludwig’s plans proceeded undimmed.

He planned construction of a new castle on the Falkenstein (see left) near Pfronten in the Allgäu (a place he knew well: a diary entry for 16 Oct. 1867 reads "Falkenstein wild, romantic") (based on the tower of St Mary's Church, Baldock), a Byzantine palace in the Graswangtal and a Chinese summer palace by the Plansee in Tyrol (see right).
By 1885, a road and water supply had been provided at Falkenstein but the old ruins remained untouched; the other projects never got beyond initial plans.






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Adolf Hitler visiting Schloß Herrenchiemsee
c1930s






Adolf Hitler visiting Schloß Herrenchiemsee
c1930s


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Bavaria, formally the Freistaat Bayern (Free State of Bavaria), is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of the country.
With an area of 70,548 square kilometres (27,200 sq mi), it is the largest German state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany.
Bavaria is Germany's second most populous state (after North Rhine-Westphalia) with almost 12.5 million inhabitants, more than any of the three sovereign states on its borders.
Bavaria's capital is Munich.
One of the oldest states of Europe, it was established as a duchy in the mid first millennium.
In the 17th century, the Duke of Bavaria became a Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire. The Kingdom of Bavaria existed from 1806 to 1918, and Bavaria has since been a free state (republic).
Modern Bavaria also includes parts of the historical regions of Franconia and Swabia.
Bavaria is renowned for its beautiful alpine scenery, which forms a superb backdrop for the magical castles built by the former King, Ludwig II.



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