Neuschwanstein Castle (German: Schloss Neuschwanstein , lit. New Swan Stone palace ; pronounced [nɔʏˈʃvaːnʃtaɪ̯n]) is a 19th-century Bavarian palace on a rugged hill near Hohenschwangau and Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to Richard Wagner, the King's inspiring muse. Although public photography of the interior is not permitted, it is the most photographed building in Germany and is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.
Ludwig did not allow visitors to his castles, but after his death in 1886 the castle was opened to the public (in part due to the need to pay off the debts Ludwig incurred financing its construction). Since that time over 50 million people have visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. About 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared in several movies, and was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park and for the Cinderella Castles at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland.
The palace is owned by the state of Bavaria, unlike nearby Hohenschwangau Castle, which is owned by Franz, Duke of Bavaria. The Free State of Bavaria has spent more than €14.5 million on Neuschwanstein's maintenance, renovation and visitor services since 1990.
The foundation stone of the building was laid September 5, 1869. Neuschwanstein was designed by Christian Jank, a theatrical set designer, rather than an architect, which says much regarding Ludwig's intentions and explains much of the fantastical nature of the resulting building. The architectural expertise, vital to a building in such a perilous site, was provided first by the Munich court architect Eduard Riedel and later by Georg Dollmann, son-in-law of Leo von Klenze.
The palace was originally called New Hohenschwangau Castle until the king's death, when it was re-named Neuschwanstein, the castle of the Swan Knight Lohengrin, of Wagner's opera of the same name. In origin, the palace has been the Schwanstein, the seat of the knights of Schwangau, whose emblem had been the swan.
Neuschwanstein was near completion when, in 1886, the King was declared insane by a State Commission under Dr. von Gudden and arrested at the palace. The King could hardly control himself as he asked von Gudden, "How can you declare me insane? You have not yet examined me!" Taken to Schlossberg, he was found on June 13, 1886, in shallow water in Lake Starnberg, drowned, along with von Gudden, the psychiatrist who certified him. The exact circumstances of his and von Gudden's deaths remain unexplained. It is generally thought that Ludwig's deposition was brought about by the Wittlesbachs in response to his extravagance with the dynasty's private funds in projects such as Neuschwanstein.
The palace comprises a gatehouse, a Bower, the Knight's House with a square tower, and a Palas, or citadel, with two towers to the Western end. The effect of the whole is highly theatrical, both externally and internally. The king's influence is apparent throughout, and he took a keen personal interest in the design and decoration. An example can be seen in his comments, or commands, regarding a mural depicting Lohengrin in the Palas; "His Majesty wishes that … the ship be placed further from the shore, that Lohengrin's neck be less tilted, that the chain from the ship to the swan be of gold and not of roses, and finally that the style of the castle shall be kept medieval."
The suite of rooms within the Palas contains the Throne Room, Ludwig's suite, the Singers' Hall, and the Grotto. Throughout, the design pays homage to the German legends of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight. Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig spent much of his youth, had decorations of these sagas. These themes were taken up in the operas of Richard Wagner. Many rooms bear a border depicting the various operas written by Wagner, including a theater permanently featuring the set of one such play. Many of the interior rooms remain undecorated, with only 14 rooms finished before Ludwig's death. With the palace under construction at the King's death, one of the major features of the palace remained unbuilt. A massive keep was planned for the middle of the upper courtyard but was never built, at the decision of the King's family. The foundation for the keep is visible in the upper courtyard.
Painting of the Throne Room, looking from the throne
The finished rooms include the throne room, which features a glass gem-encrusted chandelier; all Twelve Apostles, painted on the wall that surrounds the pedestal for the throne - the actual throne was never finished; and Jesus, behind the pedestal. The King's master suite includes a four-post bed hand carved of wood, the canopy of which is carved as the cathedral towers from every cathedral in Bavaria, a secret flushing toilet (which flushes with water collected from an aqueduct) and a running sink in the shape of a swan. The palace also includes an oratory, accessible from the dressing room and the master suite, which features an ivory crucifix, a room made to look like a cavern, a full kitchen equipped with hot and cold running water and heated cupboards, servants' quarters, a study, a dining room and the Singers' Hall. The Singers' Hall is a venue for performances by musicians and playwrights. The King built it for Wagner as a place to write and perform plays. The King died before watching a performance in the Singers' Hall, but it has been used since the King's death.
Despite its medieval look, the construction of Neuschwanstein required the modern technology of the day, and the palace is a marvel of technological structural achievements. Steam engines, electricity, modern venting, plumbing and heating pipes are all part of the structure.
It is now almost forgotten that Ludwig II was a patron of modern inventions and that he pioneered the introduction of electricity into public life in Bavaria. His new palaces were the first buildings to use electricity (i.e. the Venus Grotto at Linderhof) and other modern conveniences. Through his building activities, Ludwig kept many particular crafts alive, the knowledge and expertise of which would have died out otherwise, and he provided work and income to artisans, builders, plasterers, and decorators.