Neuschwanstein Castle, the most visited tourist attraction in Germany, became a symbol of the country and the inspiration for Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty Castle” in Disneyland. It was included in “The New 7 Wonders of the World.”
The castle was built in neoclassical style in Bavaria, in 1866, at the wish of Louis II, also called “the mad king”. At first it was known as the new Hohenschwangan, in honor of the place where Louis II spent much of his childhood. The name was changed after the King’s death. The name of the castle can be translated as “the new stone swan”.
It was created out of pure fantasy: a beautiful romantic composition of towers and walls in perfect harmony with the surrounding mountains and lakes. The castle is a great tribute to fantasy and imagination. The name comes from the Lohengrin castle, “Swan Knight” in German mythology, the protagonist of a work written by Wagner. When construction began, the king set two conditions:
1. To be built by Bavarian workers and with local materials, which led to the creation of a strong craft industry in Bavaria. The castle became one of the largest industrial enclaves in Germany.
2. Seen from the outside, to be like the castles from the stories that have enchanted Louis II in his youth, while the interior to contain all the technological advances of the era.
The castle’s position in the Alps was extraordinary: from the rooms you could contemplate the wonderful mountain views, including a lovely waterfall that fitted perfectly in the magnificent spectacle unfolding before your eyes. The images are hard to describe in words, but the mind and soul know how to cherish their value.
The King’s inspiration came during a visit to France, where he saw the castle of Pierrefonds. France, through art and history, was a source of imagination for Louis. Putting his ideas into practice and with the help of production designer Christian Jank, all the technical solutions and interior decorations were put into place. After the whole plan was drafted, architect Eduard Riedel made it all happen. 200 permanent workers were involved in the construction of the impressive castle. The first cornerstone was laid in 1869 and the construction lasted 17 years.
Inside the castle you can find some rooms that represent “moments” from Wagner. A proof of this is “the room of troubadours or singers” – the largest in the entire castle – specially created for presenting the composer’s works. It is unfortunate that none of Wagner’s works were ever presented here.
Louis never got to see the castle completed, remaining only a dream for him. Like other palaces, the king wanted to have a small cave constructed with metal reinforcement and cement, which allowed him to isolate himself from the world and live in his world of myths.
Louis II leaves Munich and settles at the castle in 1884, supervising the construction. More specifically, he was standing on a ladder which was his favorite place to track the progress of the construction.
In 1886 he is declared no longer able to lead Bavaria. On July 13, 1886, the king was walking around the castle in the company of his psychiatrist. Then a strange thing happened: both were found drowned in the lake, generating suspicions about how they died.
The construction stopped for 6 years until 1892. The sketches and original project have been simplified in order to be completed, because Louis had a debt of 14 million marks to the bank that financed him. The king’s descendants sold the castle to the Bavarian government for a sum that currently equals the annual income made from the tourists who visit it. During his life, Louis II did not allow visits to the castle, but after his death, the family agreed to allow them so that they could pay off the debts.
For some people, Louis II seemed a madman who spent his fortune on a castle, but for others, including his compatriots, they see him as person who gave Germany one of its most beautiful buildings. It is certain that the king loved legends and he ended up turning into a myth.
Today Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular castles in Europe. Every year, 13 million people visit “the King’s fairytale castle”. During the summer, 6,000 people pass through the rooms that were intended only for the king.
Louis II, although he did not fulfill his duty as a king because he spent all of his time with construction projects, he remained in the history of art and construction as a great genius, which was inspired by legends and myths, leaving behind works unequaled in form, structure, beauty and settlement.
The beauty of this castle invites you to dream and contemplate every place and corner that lives in perfect balance with its art and technology.