Herrenchiemsee is a complex of royal buildings on Herreninsel, an island in the Chiemsee, Bavaria's largest lake, 60 km south east of Munich. Together with the neighbouring island of Frauenchiemsee and the uninhabited Krautinsel it forms the municipality of Chiemsee.
After being purchased by King Ludwig II of Bavaria the former Herrenchiemsee monastery was converted into a royal residence known as the Old Palace (Altes Schloss), while the king built Herrenchiemsee Palace also known as the New Palace (Neues Schloss), the largest of his palaces.
Herrenchiemsee Abbey (Old Palace)
According to tradition, the Benedictine abbey of Herrenchiemsee was established about 765 by Duke Tassilo III of Bavaria at the northern tip of the Herreninsel. New findings however indicate an even earlier foundation around 620/29 by the missionary Saint Eustace of Luxeuil.
In 969 Emperor Otto I consigned the abbey to the Archbishops of Salzburg, who in about 1130 re-established Herrenchiemsee as a monastery of Canons Regular living under the Augustinian rule. In 1215, with the approval of Pope Innocent III, Prince-Bishop Eberhard von Regensberg made the monastery church the cathedral of a diocese in its own right, the Bishopric of Chiemsee, including several parishes on the mainland and in Tyrol.
In the course of the German Mediatisation, Herrenchiemsee Abbey was secularised in 1803 and the Chiemsee bishopric finally dissolved in 1808. The island was then sold; various owners demolished the cathedral and turned the abbey into a brewery. Plans for the complete deforestation of the island were blocked by King Ludwig II, who acquired Herrenchiemsee in 1873. He had the leftover buildings converted for his private use, the complex that later became known as the "Old Palace", where he stayed surveying the construction of the New Herrenchiemsee Palace.
From 10 to 23 August 1948, the representatives of eleven German states of the Western Zones and West Berlin met at the Old Palace as the Verfassungskonvent (Constitutional Convention) to prepare the work for drafting the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) with a view to the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Herrenchiemsee Castle (New Palace)
The unfinished New Palace was designed by Christian Jank, Franz Seitz, and Georg von Dollmann and built between 1878 and 1885. Between 1863 and 1886 16,579,674 Marks were spent on construction. Using a 0.2304 troy ounce (7.171 g) 1890 '20 Mark' gold coin as a benchmark, this equates to 190,998 oz of gold, which at October 2013 prices was worth approximately £154,000,000 (US$250,100,000).
Ludwig only had the opportunity to stay within the Palace for a few days in September 1885. After his death by drowning at just 40 in the following year, all construction work discontinued and the building was opened for the public. In 1923 Crown Prince Rupprecht gave the palace to the State of Bavaria.
Unlike the medieval themed Neuschwanstein Castle begun in 1869, the Neo-Baroque New Palace stands as a monument to Ludwig's admiration of King Louis XIV of France. Its great hall of mirrors' ceiling is painted with 25 tableaux showing Louis XIV at his best.
The palace was shaped in an 'W' with wings flanking a central edifice. Only 16 of the 70 rooms were on the ground floor. It was to have been an equivalent to the Palace of Versailles, but only the central portion was built before the king died and construction was discontinued with 50 of the 70 rooms still incomplete. It was never intended to be a perfectly exact replica of the French royal palace and in several places even surpasses it. Like Versailles, the Hall of Mirrors has 17 arches, the Hall of Peace and the Hall of War on either side have three windows each. The window niches at Herrenchiemsee are wider than those at Versailles, making its central facade a few metres wider. The dining room features an elevator table and the world's largest Meissen porcelain chandelier. Technologically, the building also benefits from nearly two centuries of progress. While the original Versailles palace lacked toilets, water, and central heat, the New Palace has all of these, including a large heated bathtub.
Being built on an island it is only accessible by water, today via a system of small ferries. As a result, and of being unfinished, Herrenchiemsee always remained slightly in the shadow of Neuschwanstein.
The formal gardens are filled with fountains, a copy of the Versailles Bassin de Latone, and statues in both the classical style typical of Versailles and the fantastic romanticism favored by King Ludwig. Statues reminiscent of antiquity are found throughout the gardens, overwrought in the grand style of Richard Wagner's romantic operas.
- Dr. Michael Petzet, König Ludwig II und die Kunst" (King Ludwig II and the Arts), Munich, Germany, 1963.
Media related to Schloss Herrenchiemsee at Wikimedia Commons
- Herrenchiemsee Page of Bavarian Palace Department (English): http://www.herren-chiemsee.de/englisch/n_palace/index.htm
- Herrenchiemsee Page of Bavarian Palace Department (German): http://www.herren-chiemsee.de/deutsch/n_schloss/index.htm
- Herrenchiemsee, the bavarian Versailles: http://www.tuttobaviera.it/english/herrenchiemsee-castle.html