Neuschwanstein Castle

       
Neuschwanstein Castle

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Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to Richard Wagner. Contrary to common belief, Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and extensive borrowing, not with Bavarian public funds (see below).

The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886. Since then over 60 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle and later, similar structures.

The municipality of Schwangau lies at an elevation of 800 m (2,620 ft) at the south west border of the German state of Bavaria. Its surroundings are characterized by the transition between the Alpine foothills in the south (towards the nearby Austrian border) and a hilly landscape in the north that appears flat by comparison. In the Middle Ages, three castles overlooked the villages.

One was called Schwanstein Castle. In 1832, Ludwig's father King Maximilian II of Bavaria bought its ruins to replace them by 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.

Vorderhohenschwangau Castle and Hinterhohenschwangau Castle sat on a rugged hill overlooking Schwanstein Castle, two nearby lakes (Alpsee and Schwansee), and the village. Separated only by a moat, they jointly consisted of a hall, a keep, and a fortified tower house. In the 19th century only ruins remained of the medieval twin castles, but those of Hinterhohenschwangau served as a lookout place known as Sylphenturm.

In 1868, the ruins of the medieval twin castles were demolished completely; 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. But the Gatehouse was finished first. At the end of the year 1873 it was completed and fully furnished, allowing Ludwig to take provisional lodgings there and observe the further construction work. In 1874, direction of the civil works passed from Eduard Riedel to Georg von Dollmann. The topping out ceremony for the Palas was in 1880, and in 1884, the king could move into the new building. In the same year the direction of the project passed to Julius Hofmann, after Dollmann had fallen from the King's favor.
The palace was erected as a conventional brick construction and later encased with other types of rock. The white limestone used for the fronts came from a nearby quarry. The sandstone bricks for the portals and bay windows came from Schlaitdorf in Württemberg. Marble from Untersberg near Salzburg was used for the windows, the arch ribs, the columns and the capitals. The Throne Hall was a later addition to the plans and required a steel framework.
The transport of building materials was facilitated by scaffolding and a steam crane that lifted the material to the construction site. Another crane was used at the construction site itself. The recently founded Dampfkessel-Revisionsverein (Steam Boiler Inspection Association) regularly inspected both boilers.

For about two decades the construction site was the principal employer of the region. In 1880, about 200 craftsmen were occupied at the site, not counting suppliers and other persons indirectly involved in the construction. At times when the king insisted on particularly close deadlines and urgent changes, reportedly up to 300 workers per day were active, sometimes at night by the light of oil lamps. Statistics from the years 1879/1880 support an immense amount of building materials: 465 t (513 short tons) of Salzburg marble, 1,550 t (1,710 short tons) of sandstone, 400,000 bricks and 2,050 m3 (2,680 cu yd) of wood for the scaffolding.

In 1870 a society was founded for insuring the workers, for a low monthly fee, augmented by the king. The heirs of construction casualties (30 cases are mentioned in the statistics) received a small pension.
In 1884 the king could move into the (still unfinished) Palas, and in 1885, he invited his mother Marie to Neuschwanstein on the occasion of her 60th birthday. By 1886, the external structure of the Palas (hall) was mostly finished. In the same year, Ludwig had the first, wooden Marienbrücke over the Pöllat Gorge replaced by a steel construction.
Despite its size, Neuschwanstein did not have space for the royal court, but contained only the king's private lodging and servants' rooms. The court buildings served decorative, rather than residential purposes: The palace was intended to serve Ludwig II as a kind of inhabitable theatrical setting. As a temple of friendship it was also devoted to life and work of Richard Wagner, who died in 1883 before he had set foot in the building. In the end, Ludwig II only lived in the palace for a total of
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