Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th century Bavarian castle. Located in Germany, near Hohenschwangau and Füssen in southwest Bavaria, the castle was built by Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner, the King’s inspiring muse. It is the most photographed building in Germany, although photography of the interior is not permitted, and is one of Germany‘s most popular tourist destinations.
The foundation stone of the building was laid September 5, 1869. Neuschwanstein was designed by Christian Jank, a theatrical set designer, rather than an architect, which says much regarding Ludwig’s intentions and explains much of the fantastical nature of the resulting building. The architectural expertise, vital to such a perilously-sited building, was provided first by the Munich court architect, Eduard Riedel, and latterly by Georg Dollman and Leo Von Klenze.The castle was originally called “New Hohenschwangau Castle” until the king’s death, when it was re-named Neuschwanstein, the castle of the Swan Knight, Lohengrin, of Wagner’s opera of the same name. In origin, the castle has been the Schwanstein, the seat of the knights of Schwangau, whose emblem had been the swan.
Scope of the castle
The castle comprises a gatehouse, a Bower, the Knight’s House with a square tower, and a Palas, or citadel, with two towers to the Western end. The effect of the whole is highly theatrical, both externally and within. The king’s influence is apparent throughout and he took a keen personal interest in the design and decoration.The suite of rooms within the Palas contains the Throne Room followed by Ludwig’s suite, followed by the Singers’ Hall and by the Grotto. Throughout, the design pays homage to the operas of Richard Wagner, a reflection of Ludwig’s love for Wagner’s work, and perhaps for Wagner himself. However, many of the interior rooms remain undecorated; only 14 rooms were finished before Ludwig’s death.
Ludwig II declared insane
Neuschwanstein was partly unfinished when, in 1886, the King was declared insane by a State Commission under Dr von Gudden and arrested at the castle. The King could hardly control himself as he asked von Gudden “how can you declare me insane? You have not yet examined me!” Taken to Schloss Berg, he was found on June 13, 1886, in shallow water in Lake Starnberg, drowned, along with von Gudden, the psychiatrist who certified him. The exact circumstances of his death remain unexplained.
The castle is owned by the state of Bavaria, unlike Hohenschwangau which is owned by Franz, Duke of Bavaria. It inspired the building of another Wittelsbach castle, Schloss Ringberg. Neuschwanstein is a contemporary of the slightly older Portuguese Pena Palace in Sintra, sometimes referred to as ‘the Portuguese Neuschwanstein’ (ca. 1840).The nearby Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge) over Pöllat Gorge, named after Marie of Prussia, provides a view of one of Neuschwanstein’s façades (above).Neuschwanstein is to appear on a German Bundesländer series of €2 commemorative coins in 2012.In 2007, it was a finalist in the selection of the New Seven Wonders of the World.