Neuschwanstein Castle is a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds. The castle was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886. The Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany and one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland"s Sleeping Beauty Castle and later, similar structures.
In the Middle Ages, three castles overlooked the village. One was called Schwanstein Castle. In 1832, Ludwig"s father King Maximilian II of Bavaria bought its ruins to replace them with 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.
The inspiration for the construction of Neuschwanstein came to Ludwig from two journeys in 1867 — one in May to the reconstructed Wartburg near Eisenach, another in July to the Château de Pierrefonds, which Eugène 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 Tannhäuser and Lohengrin had made a lasting impression on him.
In 1868, the ruins of the medieval twin castles were completely demolished; 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, the gatehouse being finished first. At the end of 1882 it was completed and fully furnished, allowing Ludwig to take provisional lodgings there and observe the ongoing construction work. The topping out ceremony for the castle was in 1880, and in 1884, the king was able to move into the new building.
However, at the time of Ludwig"s death in 1886 the Neuschwanstein was far from complete. He only slept 11 nights in the castle. 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.
Due to its secluded location, the palace survived the two World Wars without destruction. It served until 1944 as a depot for Nazi plunder from France. After the wars Neuschwanstein became a global symbol of the era of Romanticism. Today, with 1.3 million visitors per year Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.