Hohenschwangau Castle

Hohenschwangau, Germany

Hohenschwangau Castle was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. The fortress Schwangau, which was first mentioned in historical records dating from the 12th Century, stood high up on a rock on the site of the present 19th century Neuschwanstein castle. The knights, later counts of Schwangau were ministerialis of the Welfs. Hiltbolt von Schwangau (1195-1254) was a minnesinger. Margareta von Schwangau was the wife of minnesinger Oswald von Wolkenstein.

The present day Hohenschwangau ('Upper Schwangau') castle was first mentioned in 1397, though under the name of Schwanstein. Only in the 19th century the names of the two castles have switched. It was built on a hill above lake Alpsee, below the older fortress. Between 1440 and 1521 the Lords had to sell their fief with Imperial immediacy to the Wittelsbach dukes of Bavaria, but continued to occupy the castle as Burgraves. In 1521 they became owners again but had to sell their land in 1535. The purchaser, Johann Paumgartner, a wealthy Augsburg merchant, had the lower castle reconstructed by Italian architect Lucio di Spazzi who already worked on the Hofburg, Innsbruck. He kept the exterior walls and the towers but rebuilt the inner parts until 1547, on a floor plan that still today exists. The older Schwangau fortress however continued to fall into ruins. Paumgartner, after having been elevated to the rank of baron, died in 1549 an his sons sold their new castle to Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria.

The Wittelsbachs used the castle for bear hunting or as a retreat for agnatic princes. In 1743 it was plundered by Austrian troops. In the German mediatization the county of Schwangau became officially a part of the Electorate of Bavaria in 1803. King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria sold the castle in 1820. Only in 1832 his grandson Maximilian II of Bavaria, then crown prince, bought it back. In April 1829, he had discovered the historic site during a walking tour and reacted enthusiastically to the beauty of the surrounding area. He acquired the dilapidated building - then still known as Schwanstein - in 1832, abandoning his father's wish that he should move into the old castle (Hohes Schloss) in the nearby town of Füssen. In February 1833, the reconstruction of the castle began, continuing until 1837, with additions up to 1855. The architect in charge, Domenico Quaglio, was responsible for the neogothic style of the exterior design. He died in 1837 and the task was continued by Joseph Daniel Ohlmüller (died 1839) and Georg Friedrich Ziebland. More than 90 wall paintings represent the history of Schwangau, as well as medieval German romances such as Parzival and the story of Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan, on which Richard Wagner later based his operas Lohengrin of 1848 and Parsifal of 1882, sponsored by Ludwig II who had grown up with these stories at Hohenschwangau.

Hohenschwangau was the official summer and hunting residence of Maximilian, his wife Marie of Prussia, and their two sons Ludwig (the later King Ludwig II of Bavaria) and Otto (the later King Otto I of Bavaria). The young princes spent many years of their adolescence here. Queen Marie who loved to hike in the mountains created an alpine garden with plants gathered from all over the alps. The King and the Queen lived in the main building, and the boys in the annex. The Queen's cousin, Frederick William IV of Prussia, had Stolzenfels Castle on the Rhine rebuilt at the same time in the Gothic Revival style.

King Maximilian died in 1864 and his son Ludwig succeeded to the throne, moving into his father's room in the castle. As Ludwig never married, his mother Marie was able to continue living on her floor during the summer months. King Ludwig enjoyed living in Hohenschwangau, however mostly in the absence of his disliked mother, especially after 1869 when the building of his own castle, Neuschwanstein, began on the site of the old Schwangau fortress, high above his parent's castle.

After Ludwig's death in 1886, Queen Marie was the castle's only resident until she in turn died in 1889. Her brother-in-law, Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria, lived on the 3rd floor of the main building. He was responsible for the electrification in 1905 and the installation of an electric elevator. Luitpold died in 1912 and the palace was opened as a museum during the following year.

During World War I and World War II, the castle suffered no damage. In 1923, the Bavarian Landtag recognised the right of the former royal family to reside in the castle. From 1933 to 1939, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and his family used the castle as their summer residence, and it continues to be a favourite residence of his successors, currently his grandson Franz, Duke of Bavaria. In May 1941, Prince Adalbert of Bavaria was purged from the military under Hitler's Prinzenerlass and withdrew to the family castle Hohenschwangau, where he lived for the rest of the war.

More than 300,000 visitors from all over the world visit the palace each year.

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Details

Founded: 1833-1857
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: German Confederation (Germany)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Laurie Laberge (5 months ago)
Great castle to visit. We had a nice guided visit with an audio guide in English and a guide to answer questions. It was interesting and didn't take too long. Our group was only composed of 4 people, us included, so it was really nice. Great view from the castle too and a quick bus ride from and to Füssen. Be sure to check the return bus schedule as they are not really frequent.
Nicki Patta (6 months ago)
Very beautiful castle, with an amazing view as well. If you are really interested in history visiting this is a must. However, if you just like to take nice photos and enjoy your day in the nature, don't buy tickets for the inside tour. It's really nothing much. Go all the way up and I promise, your outside walk is more than enough.
joan vanvelzen (7 months ago)
We enjoyed the horse drawn ride to the castle viewing point. The castle is well maintained and just as beautiful as the fairytale photo imagines presented. The bus ride was also nice, seeing the castle from another angle. We enjoyed the restaurant in the quaint village parking area.
Gideon Apponsah (10 months ago)
A romantic climb to a romantic sight. It's so green around here together with the Alpsee. The lake is so serene and clean. Without a ticket, one can go to the courtyard, visit and take pictures. I'm not sure if I was only fortunate or not. I was told initially that I will need a ticket. The castle is well maintained and lovely in close up view.
Deni Web (11 months ago)
If you want to visit the castle inside, you will have to buy the ticket either online or at the place. It costs for one adult 21,00€ + 2,50€ for service fee (more expensive than the ticket for Neuschwanstein which is 13,50€ + 2,50€ for one adult). Nevertheless if you just go there and visit the surroundings for free the place is beautiful and you will not regret. There are a few restaurants, kiosks, and places to do picnic on the lake. Perfect for a one day trip.
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