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:
Ceský Sternberk Castle is an early Gothic castle which was constructed, named and still owned by members of the same family. Today it is a residence that bears a long historical and architectural heritage and represents an attractive tourist destination open to the public. It is considered one of the best preserved Gothic Bohemian castles.
The castle was initially built in 1241 by Zdeslav of Divisov, later called Zdeslav Sternberg. The development of new firearms in the 14th century posed an unexpected threat to the defensibility of the castle. Its 13th century architects hadn't foreseen the danger of long-range firearms and its reinforcement became a necessity. During this period the Ceský Sternberk castle's fortifications were improved through the construction in the north of a three-story tower, which was connected to the castle by a rampart. In 1467 the castle was seized by the royal armies of George of Podébrady. Later, the ruined castle was regained by Sternberk's aristocracy, who, by the turn of the 15th to 16th century, had reconstructed the castle, renewed its defensive system and expanded it with the construction of a new cylindrical tower in the south and the Dungeon in the north. The castle managed to survive the looting of the rebels in 1627, during the Thirty Years' War. With the death of Jan Václav in 1712, the Holicý branch of the Sternberg family died out and its ownership passed to other families, who in 1751 built the lower palace next to the surrounding wall.
The ownership of the castle was returned to the Sternberg family in 1841 when Zdenék of Sternberg from the Konopisté branch of the family bought it. It remained in Sternberg's ownership until 1949 when it was nationalized by the Communist government of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After the fall of Communism and the Velvet Revolution, in 1992, Ceský Sternberk castle returned to Jirí's son, the count Zdenék Sternberg, the current owner of the castle.
Ceský Sternberk Castle was originally built as a Gothic castle. Eventually it underwent several periods of reconstructions and further fortification and the Gothic architectural features were in parts concealed by the new reconstructions. Especially the interiors of the castle were realized under the Baroque and Rococo styles. In 1760, the master Carlo Brentano performed the elaborate stuccoing and renderings of the halls' interiors. The castle offers a rare collection of 545 copper engravings, depicting the entire history of the Thirty Years' War. Also, historical weapons and hunting trophies are exhibited within the castle's halls.