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Neuschwanstein Castle: The Creation Of King Ludwig II Of Bavaria

The brainchild of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle is an incredible architectural confection that evokes the Age of Chivalry and seems to have been drawn from a fairy tale. Its imposing white spires overlook rolling meadows, and set against a stunning backdrop of Alpine peaks, it is a breathtaking sight and one of the world's best-known castles.

Neuschwanstein Castle was constructed by King Ludwig II of Bavaria
Neuschwanstein Castle was constructed by King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Crowning a craggy Bavarian hill, Neuschwanstein Castle is located to the southwest of the German state of Bavaria, close to the Austrian border and above the picturesque and historic village of Füssen.

The site was previously occupied by two Medieval castles that by the mid-19th century were in ruins and a favourite haunt of the young prince Ludwig, whose father had built a Gothic-style castle close by as a summer residence for the royal family. As Ludwig grew up, he became entranced by romantic tales of knights and chivalry, and by the music of Richard Wagner, whose operas recall those mythic times. So much so, that when he ascended the Bavarian throne in 1864, one of Ludwig's first acts was to order the design of the first of what was intended to be a series of grand building projects.

With the king supervising every detail, a vision of the castle was painted by the artist and stage designer Christian Jank and architectural plans were drawn up from the drawings by Eduard Riedel.

Time and again these were rejected by Ludwig and new ever more extravagant designs were presented until finally, the king approved a concept that incorporated elements of the Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine architectural styles.

The beautiful Singer's Hall at Neuschwanstein Castle
The beautiful Singer's Hall at Neuschwanstein Castle

Building work commenced in 1868 with the destruction of the existing medieval ruins and, by 1873, the massive gatehouse was complete. With the king now in residence and continuing to oversee - and meddle in - every aspect of building and decoration, the castle rose quickly. Up to 300 workers at a time worked on the site, sometimes by lamplight during the night. The main castle was finished early in 1886, though further work continued elsewhere on the site.

Dominated by the large Palas (hall) the completed castle was a fantasy made real. Adorned with turrets, pinnacles, and spires, the exterior was finished with white limestone and featured marble windows, columns, and arches. Inside were apartments for the king, a grand throne room, Singers' hall, and Grotto, decorated with murals and friezes depicting scenes from Wagner's operas and furnished with heavily carved furniture.

King Ludwig only lived to spend 172 days in his spectacular creation. Widely believed to be suffering from mental illness, he was deposed on June 9, 1886, under order of a government commission, and died in mysterious circumstances a few days later.

Immediately after, Neuschwanstein Castle was opened to the public. Now held to be one of the finest examples of 19th-century Romanticism, the castle was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle and welcomes an average of 1.4 million visitors every year.

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