Set amid magnificent mountain scenery on the shores of the Schwansee (Swan Lake), the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle was built in 1869-91 for the eccentric Bavarian King Ludwig II , to a plan by the theater designer Christian Jank. On deciding to build this imposing residence, the king had undoubtedly been inspired by Wartburg Castle in Thuringia, which he visited in 1867. But Neuschwanstein is no ordinary castle-behind the pale gray granite exterior, which combines a variety of styles, the interior is equipped with several late 19th-century technological innovations.
Today, King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845~6) is known above all for his extravagant building projects, which include the royal villa of Linderhof, near Neuschwanstein, and the palace at Herrenchiemsee in eastern Bavaria. While Neuschwanstein was an attempt to re-create the building styles of the Middle Ages (castle building), Herrenchiemsee was inspired by the Chateau de Versailles in France.
Linderhof was originally a hunting lodge which, from 1869 onward, was repeatedly rebuilt, its interior shaped largely by Ludwig’s fantasy world. The main inspiration here, as at Herrenchiemsee, was the French Rococo style of Louis XIV, as is evident from the Gobelin tapestries that adorn the Tapestry Room.
A MODERN CASTLE
The medieval character of Neuschwanstein is illusory, for hidden behind the facade is what was, for the period, state-of -the-art technology. The royal chambers, for example, all have central heating and there is running water on every floor with both hot and cold water in the kitchens. There is a dumb waiter linking the kitchens with the dining room. The third and fourth floors of the castle even have telephone jacks and an electric bell system, which Ludwig could use to summon his servants and adjutants (assistants).
Ludwig’s choice of interior decor was inspired by the operas of German composer Richard Wagner ( 1813-83). Yet, although Ludwig commissioned set painter Christian Jank to create the interior design, most of the murals depict scenes taken not from operas, but from the same medieval sagas that Wagner himself used as a source. They feature Tannhauser, a poet Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan, and Parsifal, King of the Holy Grail. Murals in the Singing Room show one of the legendary singing contests held at Wartburg Castle in the 13th century. Scenes from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin (1846-48) decorate the King’s Chambers. Josef Jljgner and Ferdinand Piloty were among the artists employed.
The gilded interior of the throne room is reminiscent of Byzantine temples and the palace church of All Saints in the Residence in Munich.
Two-story arcades surround the castle.
Completed in 1872. this served as temporary accommodation for the king. He had an apartment on the second floor.
The Sangersa al was modeled on the singing room at Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.
Like many other rooms in the palace, the dining room includes fabulous pictures, intricately carved panels and beautifully decor a ted furniture, all bearing witness to the skill and artistry of 19th century craftsmen.
The heart of the castle was supposed to have been a mighty 295-ft (90-m) high tower with a Gothic castle church. It was never built, but in 1988 its planned position was marked in white stone.
Neuschwanstein is the archetypal fairy-tale castle. It has provided the inspiration for countless toy models, book illustrations, and movie sets.
This three-story structure connects the gatehouse with the main building; itwas intended to house state and service rooms.
THE SWAN MOTIF
Ludwig was fascinated by swans (hence his early identification with Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan), not only as a symbol of purity, but also because he regarded himself as successor to the Lords of Schwangau, whose heraldic beast was the swan. Unsurprisingly, the swan motif dominates the castle’s interior decor.
LUDWIG’S CHILDHOOD HOME
In 1832, Ludwig’s father bought the remains of a 12th-century fortress In the Bavarian village of Schwangau. He rebuilt it in Neo-Gothic style as Hohenschwangau Castle. As a child, Ludwig was captivated by its frescoes, which depict various legends.
1868: Ludwig makes known his plans to build a newcastle.
1869: The foundation stone is laid. The king hopes the work will take just three years.
1873: The gatehouse is constructed; the king lives there for a number of years.
1880: A ceremony marks the completion of all five floors.
1884: Ludwig occupies the castle but dies soon after in mysterious circumstances.
1886: Seven weeks after Ludwig II’s death, the castle is opened to visitors.
1891: The castle is completed, but many of the rooms are left bare.