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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Neuschwanstein Castle | 19th-Century eclectic Romanesque Revival Style | Historicizing Interiors and Architectural Carving



Neuschwanstein Castle

 Neuschwanstein Castle

Last summer I visited Southern Germany and the Bavarian Alps; a beautiful region with fast flowing rivers that pass through the mountainous landscape. This area is home to several 19th century fairy tale castles, like for example the world famous Schloss Neuschwanstein
Therefore, a trip to this beautiful part of Germany would not be complete without a visit to this enchanting castle.


I still remember it as if it were yesterday. 

As a 10 year old I would often head of to the local library on Sunday mornings to go through picture books. On the second floor of this 17th century building, constructed in the typical Meuse area “Maaslandse” Renaissance style, located in the historic centre of Maaseik in Belgium, there were several hundreds of theme-oriented compilation books and encyclopedia. 
In those days there were no computers nor internet, so the library became my “secret world”; the only place where I could fantasize about far away countries, beautiful buildings, archeology and history. One of the pictures I will always remember is that of  Neuschwanstein Castle.

The town of Fussen, view from the roof terrace of our hotel

Füssen

The fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein is located in the vicinity of Füssen. The historic, picturesque town of Füssen is situated on the left bank of the river Lech. Füssen is surrounded by several large and smaller lakes. The surroundings are exceptionally beautiful and the mountainous terrain is ideal for hiking. Furthermore, the town of Füssen is the ending point of the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse in German), a touristic “theme route” that starts in Würzburg and connects a number of scenic towns and castles. It is definitely worth a visit!

Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau.

In the immediate vicinity of Füssen there are two famous 19th century castles namely Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau.
 Both castles are widely known across the world. If you consider visiting one of these castles in summer, you will have to endure long queues and waiting times to get in. 

The waiting time at the ticket office is approximately one hour. It is therefore highly recommended to reserve a ticket in advance.
Needless to say this place is usually swarming with tourists. As a consequence both castles lost much of their original charm and character.  
 
Schloss Hohenschwangau

Schloss Neuschwanstein was built on a steep rock towering 200 meters over the valley below. 
There are many ways to reach Schloss Neuschwanstein; I opted for a short scenic 30 minute walk to the Marienbrücke (Mary Bridge). This bridge over the Pöllat gorge offers a magnificent panoramic view of this great landmark. It was truly a breathtaking sight, stirring up melancholic emotions as this was the exact same picture I remembered from my library visits in Maaseik (Belgium) almost 40 years ago. Schloss Neuschwanstein is undoubtedly one of the most photographed castles in Germany. 
I was definitely not alone on this bridge. ;)



Ludwig II

Schloss Neuschwanstein, a Romanesque revival palace, was built in the second half of the 19th century. It was commissioned by king Ludwig II of Bavaria, who was later on declared insane by his own cabinet. It is without any doubt the most famous building ever commissioned by Ludwig II, attracting well over 1.3 million visitors every year; making it Germany’s most popular touristic destination. 
Construction started in 1869 and the king envisioned a Romantic interpretation of a medieval knight’s castle. The palace was designed by theater architect and scenic designer Christian Jank. Eduard Riedel and Georg von Dollmann were responsible for the management of the civil works. Construction was seized immediately when king Ludwig died in 1886.



The castle was originally named Neue Burg Hohenschwangau. Its current name was not introduced until after Ludwig’s death in 1886. The first name referred to the castle of the lords of Schwangau. This medieval fortress was built on the exact same location as Schloss Neuschwanstein, and was called Schwanstein. Makes sense right?
Ironically, the castle - which was in fact meant for only one inhabitant - was opened for tourists only 6 weeks after Ludwig’s death. It has been a major touristic destination in Europe ever since. 

Tourists can walk up to the castle or they can be transported by a horse drawn carriage (just like the king). The fact that Schloss Neuschwanstein is often called a fairy tale castle is probably due to the fact that the castle of Sleeping Beauty in Disneyland California is based on the architectural design of Schloss Neuschwanstein. Walt Disney visited Neuschwanstein before he started construction on his first theme park.

A visit to Neuschwanstein Castle

Too bad it is not allowed to take photographs of the castle's interior. However, some pictures of the neo-Gothic-Romanesque interiors can be found on the internet without a problem.

Of the many beautiful rooms and chambers the Byzantine coronation hall with its exquisite mosaic floor is probably the most impressive. The living rooms of the king are all lavishly decorated with paintings and various other treasures. In the beginning of the 19th century there was a renewed interest in medieval architecture; especially Gothic but also Romanesque styles were reintroduced. 



19th century Germany was typified by a period of Castle Romanticism, of which Castle Hohenschwangau, Castle Lichtenstein, Castle Hohenzollern and countless other palaces and fortresses in the Rhine area are excellent examples. At first the influence of the Romanesque style could be noticed in the assimilation of Romanesque style features in Neoclassical buildings. The Romanesque style façade was especially popular. 



As both Gothic and Romanesque style features were never completely copied, but instead integrated in one building, this type of architecture is often labeled as eclectic. When construction of Schloss Neuschwanstein was finished, the building had more than 200 rooms of which only 15 were completed. 
The anterior structure includes the premises for guests and servants, while the king’s staterooms and lavish halls were situated in the upper stories. The total floor space of all rooms amounts to nearly 6000 square meters.



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AN INTERACTIVE TOUR



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Translation : Koen verhees 


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