Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle (German: Schloss Neuschwanstein, pronounced is a 19th-century Gothic Revial palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwanagau near Fussen in southwest Bavaria, Germany.The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner.
The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886.Since then over 60 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle.More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle and later, similar structures.

The municipality of Schwangau lies at an elevation of 800 m (2,620 ft) at the south west border of the German state of Bavaria. Its surroundings are characterized by the transition between the Alpine foothills in the south (towards the nearby Austrian border) and a hilly landscape in the north that appears flat by comparison. In the Middle Ages, three castles overlooked the village.
One was called Schwanstein Castle.In 1832, Ludwig's father King Maximiliana II of Bavaria bought its ruins to replace them by the comfortable neo-Gothic palace known as Hohenschwangau Castle. Finished in 1837, the palace became his family's summer residence, and his elder son Ludwig (born 1845) spent a large part of his childhood here.
Vorderhohenschwangau Castle and Hinterhohenschwangau Castle sat on a rugged hill overlooking Schwanstein Castle, two nearby lakes (Alpsee and Schwansee), and the village. Separated only by a moat,they jointly consisted of a hall, a keep, and a fortified towe house. In the 19th century only ruins remained of the medieval twin castles, but those of Hinterhohenschwangau served as a lookout place known as Sylphenturm.
The ruins above the family palace were known to the crown prince from his excursions. He first sketched one of them in his diary in 1859. When the young king came to power in 1864, the construction of a new palace in place of the two ruined castles became the first in his series of palace building projects. Ludwig himself called the new palace New Hohenschwangau Castle – only after his death was it renamed Neuschwanstein.The confusing result is that Hohenschwangau and Schwanstein have effectively swapped names: Hohenschwangau Castle replaced the ruins of Schwanstein Castle, and Neuschwanstein Castle replaced the ruins of the two Hohenschwangau Castles.

Concept and ethos

Neuschwanstein embodies both the contemporaneous architectural fashion known as castle romanticism (German: Burgenromantik), and Ludwig II's immoderate enthusiasm for the operas of Richard Wagner.

In the 19th century many castles were constructed or reconstructed, often with significant changes to make them more picturesque. Palace-building projects similar to Neuschwanstein had been undertaken earlier in several of the German states and included Hohenschwangau Castle, Lichtenstein Castle, Hohenzollern Castle and numerous buildings on the River Rhine such as Stolzenfels Castl.The inspiration for the construction of Neuschwanstein came from two journeys in 1867: One in May to the reconstructed Wartburg near Eisenasch,another in July to the Chateau de Pierrefonds, which Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was transforming from a ruined castle into a historistic palace.

The king saw both buildings as representatives of a romantic interpretation of the Middle Ages as well as the musical mythology of his friend Richard Wagner.Wagner's operas Tannhauser and Lohengrin had made a lasting impression on him.
In February 1868, Ludwig's grandfather Ludwig I died, freeing the considerable sums that were previously spent on the abdicated king's appanage.This allowed him to start the architectural project of building a private refuge in the familiar landscape far from the capital Munich, so that he could live his idea of the Middle Ages.
The building design was drafted by the stage designer Christian Jank and realized by the architect Eduard Riedel.For technical reasons the ruined castles could not be integrated into the plan. Initial ideas for the palace drew stylistically on Nurember Castle and envisaged a simple building in place of the old Vorderhohenschwangau Castle, but they were rejected and replaced by increasingly extensive drafts, culminating in a bigger palace modelled on the Wartburg.The king insisted on a detailed plan and on personal approval of each draft.His control went so far that the palace has been regarded as his own creation rather than that of the architects involved.
Whereas contemporary architecture critics derided Neuschwanstein, one of the last big palace building projects of the 19th century, as kitsch, Neuschwanstein and Ludwig II's other buildings are now counted among the major works of European historicism.For financial reasons a project similar to Neuschwanstein – Falkenstein Castle – never left the planning stages.
The palace can be regarded as typical for 19th century architecture. The shapes of Romanesque (simple geometric figures such as cuboids and semicircular arches), Gothic (upward-pointing lines, slim towers, delicate embellishments) and Byzantine architecture and art (the Throne Hall décor) were mingled in an eclectic fashion and supplemented with 19th century technical achievements. The Patrona Bavariae and Saint George on the court face of the Palas (main building) are depicted in the local Luftmalerei style, a fresco technique typical for Allgau farmers' houses, while the unimplemented drafts for the Knights' House gallery foretell elements of Art Noveau.Characteristic for Neuschwanstein's design are theater themes: Christian Jank drew on coulisse drafts from his time as a scenic painter.
The basic style was originally planned to be neo-Gothic but was primarily built in Romanesque style in the end. The operatic themes moved gradually from Tannhäuser and Lohengrin to Parsifal.


In 1868, the ruins of the medieval twin castles were demolished completely; the remains of the old keep were blown up.The foundation stone for the Palace was laid on September 5, 1869; in 1872 its cellar was completed and in 1876, everything up to the first floor. But the Gatehouse was finished first. At the end of the year 1873 it was completed and fully furnished, allowing Ludwig to take provisional lodgings there and observe the further construction work. In 1874, direction of the civil works passed from Eduard Riedel to Georg von Dollmann. The topping out ceremony for the Palas was in 1880, and in 1884, the king could move into the new building. In the same year the direction of the project passed to Julius Hofmann, after Dollmann had fallen in disgrace.

The palace was erected as a conventional brick construction and later encased with other types of rock. The white limestone used for the fronts came from a nearby quarry.The sandstone bricks for the portals and bay windows came from Schlaitdorf in Wurttemberg. Marble from Untersberg near Salzburg was used for the windows, the arch ribs, the columns and thecapitals.The Throne Hall was a later addition to the plans and required a steel framework.

The transport of building materials was facilitated by a scaffolding and a steam crane that lifted the material to the construction site. Another crane was used at the construction site itself. The recently founded Dampfkessel-Revisionsverein (Steam Boiler Inspection Association) regularly inspected both boilers.
For about two decades the construction site was the principal employer of the region.In 1880, about 200 craftsmen were occupied at the site,not counting suppliers and other persons indirectly involved in the construction. At times when the king insisted on particularly close deadlines and urgent changes, reportedly up to 300 workers per day were active, sometimes at night by the light of oil lamps. Statistics from the years 1879/1880 support an immense amount of building materials: 465 t (513 short tons) of Salzburg marble, 1,550 t (1,710 short tons) of sandstone, 400,000 bricks and 2,050 m3 (2,680 cu yd) of wood for the scaffolding.

In 1870 a society was founded for insuring the workers, for a low monthly fee, augmented by the king. The heirs of construction casualties (30 cases are mentioned in the statistics) received a small pension.
In 1884 the king could move into the (still unfinished) Palas, and in 1885, he invited his mother Marie to Neuschwanstein on the occasion of her 60th birthday.By 1886, the external structure of the Palas (hall) was mostly finished.In the same year, Ludwig had the first, wooden Marienbrücke over the Pöllat Gorge replaced by a steel construction.

Despite its size, Neuschwanstein did not have space for the royal court, but contained only the king's private lodging and servants' rooms. The court buildings served decorative, rather than residential purposes:The palace was intended to serve Ludwig II as a kind of inhabitable theatrical setting.As a temple of friendship it was also devoted to life and work of Richard Wagner, who died in 1883 before he had set foot in the building. In the end, Ludwig II only lived in the palace for a total of 172 days.



The effect of the Neuschwanstein ensemble is highly theatrical, both externally and internally. The king's influence is apparent throughout, and he took a keen personal interest in the design and decoration. An example can be seen in his comments, or commands, regarding a mural depicting Lohengrin in the Palas; "His Majesty wishes that … the ship be placed further from the shore, that Lohengrin's neck be less tilted, that the chain from the ship to the swan be of gold and not of roses, and finally that the style of the castle shall be kept medieval."

The suite of rooms within the Palas contains the Throne Room, Ludwig's suite, the Singers' Hall, and the Grotto. Throughout, the design pays homage to the German legends of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight. Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig spent much of his youth, had decorations of these sagas. These themes were taken up in the operas of Richard Wagner.Many rooms bear a border depicting the various operas written by Wagner, including a theater permanently featuring the set of one such play. Many of the interior rooms remain undecorated, with only 14 rooms finished before Ludwig's death. With the palace under construction at the King's death, one of the major features of the palace remained unbuilt. A massive keep was planned for the middle of the upper courtyard but was never built, at the decision of the King's family.
The foundation for the keep is visible in the upper courtyard.

Neuschwanstein Castle consists of several individual structures which were erected over a length of 150 metres on the top of a cliff ridge. The elongate building is furnished with numerous towers, ornamental turrets, gables, balconies, pinnacles and sculptures. Following Romanesque style, most window openings are fashioned as bi- and triforia. Before the backdrop of the Tegelberg and the Pöllat Gorge in the south and the Alpine foothills with their lakes in the north, the ensemble of individual buildings provides varying picturesque views of the palace from all directions. It was designed as the romantic ideal of a knight's castle. Unlike "real" castles, whose building stock is in most cases the result of centuries of building activity, Neuschwanstein was planned from the inception as an intentionally asymmetric building, and erected in consecutive stages.Typical attributes of a castle were included, but real fortifications – the most important feature of a medieval aristocratic estate – were dispensed with.


The palace complex is entered through the symmetrical Gatehouse flanked by two stair towers. The eastward-pointing gate building is the only structure of the palace whose wall area is fashioned in high-contrast colors; the exterior walls are cased with red bricks, the court fronts with yellow lime stone. The roof cornice is surrounded by pinnacles. The upper floor of the Gatehouse is surmounted by a crow-stepped gable and held Ludwig II's first lodging at Neuschwanstein, from which he occasionally observed the building work before the hall was completed. The ground floors of the Gatehouse were intended to accommodate the stables.
he passage through the Gatehouse, crowned with the royal Bavarian coat of arms,leads directly into the courtyard. The courtyard has two levels, the lower one being defined to the east by the Gatehouse and to the north by the foundations of the so-called Rectangular Tower and by the gallery building. The southern end of the courtyard is open, imparting a view of the surrounding mountain scenery. At its western end the courtyard is delimited by a bricked embankment, whose polygonally protracting bulge marks the choir of the originally projected chapel. A flight of steps at the side gives access to the upper level.

The most striking structure of the upper court level is the so-called Rectangular Tower (45 metres). Like most of the court buildings, it mostly serves a decorative purpose as part of the ensemble. Its viewing platform provides a vast view over the Alpine foothills to the north. The northern end of the upper courtyard is defined by the so-called Knights' House. The three-story building is connected to the Rectangular Tower and the Gatehouse by means of a continuous gallery fashioned with a blind arcade.From the point of view of castle romanticism the Knights' House was the abode of a stronghold's menfolk; at Neuschwanstein, estate and service rooms were envisioned here. The Bower, which complements the Knights' House as the "ladies' house" but was never used as such, defines the south side of the court yard. Both structures together form the motif of the Antwerp Castle featuring in the first act of Lohengrin. Embedded in the pavement is the floor plan of the planned palace chapel.

The western end of the courtyard is delimited by the Palas (hall). It constitutes the real main and residential building of the castle and contains the king's stateroom and the servants' rooms. The Palas is a colossal five-story structure in the shape of two huge cuboids that are connected in a flat angle and covered by two adjacent high gable roofs. The building's shape follows the course of the ridge. In its angles there are two stair towers, the northern one surmounting the palace roof by several stories with its height of 65 metres. With their polymorphic roofs, both towers are reminiscent of the Chateau de Pierrefonds.The western Palas front supports a two-story balcony with view on the Alpess , while northwards a low chair tower and the conservatory protract from the main structure. The entire Palas is spangled with numerous decorative chimneys and ornamental turrets, the court front with colorful frescos. The court-side gable is crowned with a copper lion, the western (outward) gable with the likeness of a knight.


Had it been completed, the palace would have had more than 200 interior rooms, including premises for guests and servants as well as for service and logistics. Ultimately, no more than about 15 rooms and halls were finished. In its lower stories the Palas accommodates administrative and servants' rooms and the rooms of today's palace administration. The king's staterooms are situated in the upper stories: The anterior structure accommodates the lodgings in the third floor, above them the Hall of the Singers. The upper floors of the west-facing posterior structure are filled almost completely by the Throne Hall. The total floor space of all floors amounts to nearly 6000 square metres.

Neuschwanstein houses numerous significant interior rooms of German historicism. The palace was fitted with several of the latest technical innovations of the late 19th century. Among other things it had a battery-powered bell system for the servants and telephone lines. The kitchen equipment included a Rumford oven which turned the skewer with its heat and so automatically adjusted the turning speed. The hot air was used for a calorifere central heating system. Further novelties for the era were running warm water and toilets with automatic flushing.

The largest room of the palace is the Hall of the Singers, followed by the Throne Hall. The 27 metres by 10 metres Hall of the Singers is located in the eastern, court-side wing of the Palas, in the fourth floor above the king's lodgings. It is designed as an amalgamation of two rooms of the Wartburg: The Hall of the Singers and the Ballroom. It was one of the king's favorite projects for his palace. The rectangular room was decorated with themes from Lohengrin and Parzival . Its longer side is terminated by a gallery which is crowned by a tribune, modelled after the Wartburg. The eastern narrow side is terminated by a stage which is structured by arcades and known as the sängerlaube. The Hall of the Singers was never designed for court festivities of the reclusive king.Rather, like the Throne Hall it served as a walkable monument in which the culture of knights and cortly love of the Middle Ages was represented. The first performance in this hall took place in 1933: A concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Richard Wagner's death.

The Throne Hall, 20 metres by 12 metres, is situated in the west wing of the Palas. With its height of 13 metres it occupies the third and fourth floors. Julius Hofmann  modelled it after the Allerhilige-Hofkirche in the Munich Residenz.On three sides it is surrounded by colorful arcades, ending in an apse that was intended to hold Ludwig's throne – which was never completed. The throne dais is surrounded by paintings of Jesus, the Twelve Apostle and six canonized kings. The mural paintings were created by Wilhelm Hauschild.The floor mosaic was completed after the king's death. The chandelier is fashioned after a Byzantine crown. The Throne Hall makes a sacral impression. Following the king's wish, it amalgamated the Grail Hall from Parzival with a symbol of the divine divine right of kings, an incorporation of unrestricted sovereign power, which Ludwig as the head of a constitutional monarchy no longer held.

Apart from the large ceremonial rooms several smaller rooms were created for use by Ludwig II. The royal lodging is on the third floor of the palace in the east wing of the Palas. It consists of eight rooms with living space and several smaller rooms. In spite of the gaudy décor, the living space with its moderate room size and its sofas and suites makes a relatively modern impression on today's visitors. Ludwig II did not attach importance to representative requirements of former times, in which the life of a monarch was mostly public. The interior decoration with mural paintings, tapestry , furniture and other handicraft generally refers to the king's favorite themes: the grail legend , the works of Wolfram von Eschenbach, and their interpretation by Richard Wagner.

The eastward drawing room is adorned with themes from the Lohengrin legend. The furniture – sofa, table, armchairs and seats in a northward alcove – is comfortable and homelike. Next to the drawing room is a little artificial grotto that forms the passage to the study. The unusual room, originally equipped with an artificial waterfall and a so-called rainbow machine, is connected to a little conservatory. Depicting the Horselberg  grotto, it relates to Wagner's Tannhäuser, as does the décor of the adjacent study. In the park of Linderhof Palace the king had installed a similar grotto of greater dimensions. Opposite the study follows the dining room, adorned with themes of courtly love. Since the kitchen in Neuschwanstein is situated three stories below the dining room, it was impossible to install a wishing table (dining table disappearing by means of a mechanism) as at Linderhof Palace and Herrenchiemsee. Instead, the dining room was connected with the kitchen by means of a service lift.

The bedroom adjacent to the dining room and the subsequent house chapel are the only rooms of the palace that remain in neo-Gothic style. The king's bedroom is dominated by a huge bed adorned with carvings. Fourteen carvers worked more than four years on the bed canopy with its numerous pinnacles and on the oaken panelings. It was in this room that Ludwig was arrested in the night from 11 to 12 June 1886. The adjacent little house chapel is consecrated to Saint Louis, after whom the owner was named.
The servants' rooms in the basement of the Palas are quite scantily equipped with massive oak furniture. Besides one table and one cabinet there are two beds of 1.80 metres length each. Opaque glass windows separated the rooms from the corridor that connects the exterior stairs with the main stairs, so that the king could enter and leave unseen. The servants were not allowed to use the main stairs, but were restricted to the much narrower and steeper servants' stairs.


The king's wishes and demands expanded during the construction of Neuschwanstein, and so did the expenses. Drafts and estimated costs were revised repeatedly. Initially a modest study was planned instead of the great throne hall, and projected guest rooms were struck from the drafts to make place for a Moorish Hall, which could not be realised due to lack of resources. Completion was originally projected for 1872, but deferred repeatedly.

Neuschwanstein, the symbolic medieval knight's castle, was not Ludwig II's only huge construction project. It was followed by the rococo style Lustschloss of Linderhof Palace and the baroque palace of Herrenchiemsee, a monument to the era of abosultism. Linderhof, the smallest of the projects, was finished in 1886, and the other two remain incomplete. All three projects together drained his resources. The king paid for his construction projects by private means and from his civil list income. Contrary to frequent claims, the Bavarian treasury was not directly burdened by his buildings. From 1871, Ludwig had an additional secret income in return for a political favor given to Otto von Bismarck. 

The construction costs of Neuschwanstein in the king's lifetime amounted to 6.2 million marks,almost twice the initial cost estimate of 3.2 million marks.As his private means were insufficient for his increasingly escalating construction projects, the king continuously opened new lines of credit.In 1876, a court counselor was replaced after pointing out the danger of insolvency. By 1883 he already owed 7 million marks, and in spring 1884 and August 1885 debt conversions of 7½ million marks and 6½ million marks, respectively, became necessary.

Even after his debts had reached 14 million marks, Ludwig insisted on continuation of his architectural projects; he threatened suicide if his creditors seized his palaces.In early 1886, Ludwig asked his cabinet for a credit of 6 million marks, which was denied. In April, he followed Bismarck's advice to apply for the money to his parliament. In June the Bavarian government decided to depose the king, who was living at Neuschwanstein at the time. On June 9 he was incapacitated, and on June 10 he had the deposition commission arrested in the gatehouse. In expectation of the commission, he alerted the gendarmerie and fire brigades of surrounding places for his protection.A second commission headed by Bernhard von Gudden arrived on the next day, and the king was forced to leave the palace that night. Ludwig was put under the supervision of von Gudden. On June 13, both died under mysterious circumstances in the shallow shore water of Lake Starnberg near Castle Berg.


After Ludwig's death                                                                
At the time of Ludwig's death the palace was far from complete. The external structures of the Gatehouse and the Palas were mostly finished, but the Rectangular Tower was still scaffolded. Work on the Bower had not started, but was completed in simplified form by 1892, without the planned female saints figures. The Knights' House was also simplified. In Ludwig's plans the columns in the Knights' House gallery were held as tree trunks and the capitals as the corresponding crowns. Only the foundations existed for the core piece of the palace complex: a keep of 90 metres height planned in the upper courtyard, resting on a three-nave chapel. This was not realized, and a connection wing between the Gatehouse and the Bower saw the same fate. Plans for a castle garden with terraces and a fountain west of the Palas were also abandoned after the king's death. 
The interior of the royal living space in the palace was mostly completed in 1886; the lobbies and corridors were painted in a simpler style by 1888. The Moorish Hall desired by the king (and planned below the Throne Hall) was not realized any more than the so-called Knights' Bath, which, modeled after the Knights' Bath in the Wartburg, was intended to render homage to the knights' cult as a medieval baptism bath. A Bride Chamber in the Bower (after a location in Lohengrin), guest rooms in the first and second floor of the Palas and a great banquet hall were further abandoned projects. In fact, a complete development of Neuschwanstein had never even been planned, and at the time of the king's death there was not a utilization concept for numerous rooms.

When Ludwig II died in 1886, Neuschwanstein was still incomplete. The king never intended to make the palace accessible to the public. But no more than six weeks after the king's death the regent Luipold ordered the palace opened to paying visitors. The administrators of Ludwig's estate managed to balance the construction debts by 1899. From then until World War I, Neuschwanstein was a stable and lucrative source of revenue for the House of Wittelsbach , indeed Ludwig's castles were probably the single largest income source earned by the Bavarian royal family in the last years prior to 1914. To guarantee a smooth course of visits, some rooms and the court buildings were finished first. Initially the visitors were allowed to move freely in the palace, causing the furniture to wear quickly.

When Bavaria became a republic in 1918, the government socialized the civil list. The resulting dispute with the House of Wittelsbach led to a split in 1923: Ludwig's palaces including Neuschwanstein fell to the state and are now managed by the Bavaria Palace Department, a division of the Bavarian finance ministry. Nearby Hohenschwangau Castle fell to the Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds,whose revenues go to the House of Wittelsbach.The visitor numbers continued to rise, reaching 200,000 in 1939.

Due to its secluded location, the palace survived the two World Wars without destruction. Under the Reichsleiter Rosenberg Institute for the Occupied Territories (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg für die Besetzen Gebiete), a suborganization of the Nazi Party, it served until 1944 as a depot for Nazi plunder from France. The works of art were catalogued photographically. (After World War II 39 photo albums were found in the palace, documenting the dimension of the robbery. The albums are now stored in the United States National Archives.)

At the end of the war the German Reichsbank deposited gold in the palace, which in the last days of the war was taken to an unknown place.

In April 1945, the SS considered blowing up the palace to prevent the building itself and the artwork it contained from falling to the enemy. However, the plan was not realized by the SS-Gruppenfuhrer who had been consigned the task, and at the end of the war the palace was surrendered undamaged to representatives of the Allie forces.Thereafter the Bavarian archives used some of the rooms as a provisional store for salvaged archivalia, as the premises in Munich had been bombed.

Neuschwanstein is a global symbol of the era of Romanticism. The palace served as a model for the Sleeping Beuty Castle of Disneyland and became a location for films such as Helmut Kautnr's Ludwig II (1955) and Luchino Visconti's Ludwing Ludwig (1972) or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

In 1977, Neuschwanstein Castle became the motif of a West German definitive stamp, and it is to appear on a €2 commemorative coin for the German Bundeslander series in 2012. In 2007, it was a finalist in the widely publicized on-line selection of the New .The palace is not on the list of UNESCO World  Seven Wonders of the World. In 2009, a plan was discussed to make it a transnational candidate jointly with Ludwig's Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee palaces and two similar palaces in Romania: Peles Castle and Pelisor Castle.

Today, with 1.3 million visitors per year Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.For security reasons the palace can only be visited during a 35-minute guided tour. There are also special guided tours that focus on specific topics. In the peak season from June until August, Neuschwanstein has up to 6000 visitors per day, and guests without advance reservation may have to wait several hours. Ticket sales are processed exclusively via the ticket center in Hohenschwangau.As of 2008, the total number of visitors was more than 60 million. In 2004, the revenues were booked as €6.5 million.

A meteorite that reached Earth spectacularly on April 6, 2002, at the Austrian border near Hohenschwangau was named Neuschwanstein after the palace. Three fragments were found: Neuschwanstein I (1.75 kg, found July 2002) and Neuschwanstein II (1.63 kg, found May 2003) on the German side, and Neuschwanstein III (2.84 kg, found June 2003) on the Austrian side near Reutte.The meteorite is classified as an enstatite chondrite with unusually large proportions of pure iron (29%), enstatite  and the extremely rare mineral sinoitr  (Si2N2O).

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