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:
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