Schloss Herrenchiemsee: Die Kronleuchter können mechanisch herabgelassen werden
The Fairy Tale King and technology

Ludwig II left a legacy of four magnificent buildings. His love of technology is reflected in the Herrenchiemsee New Palace

Herrenchiemsee Palace: Behind the Scenes

As a great admirer of Louis XIV of France, Bavaria’s King Ludwig II came up with a plan towards the end of the 19th century: he decided to create his own personal Versailles. At the same time, the communities around the lake submitted a petition to the king. In it, they asked him to protect the island of Herreninsel from deforestation.

This brought the island to the monarch’s attention and he decided he would build his own “Temple of Fame” here in the form of a French-style palace. Herrenchiemsee New Palace on the island of Herreninsel.

The final building is actually the 14th version of the design, which was built from 1878 onwards, based on the plans of architect Georg von Dollmann. Herrenchiemsee New Palace is a piece of architectural history, even though it remains incomplete to this day: building work was halted in 1885.

Herrenchiemsee New Palace today: a glimpse of past Imperial Majesty

Since 2012, Veronika Endlicher has been one of four castle wardens at Herrenchiemsee New Palace. Together with her colleagues, the history graduate runs the guided tours and organises staff for the popular palace tours.

The 38-year-old has been passionate about old imperial buildings since studying history at university. She is particularly fascinated by the complex construction history of Herrenchiemsee New Palace and the person of King Ludwig II.

Despite all the romance, the Bavarian Fairy Tale and self-styled Moon King was a visionary who was ahead of his time in many ways. His innovative and novel ideas are reflected in many elements of his castles, including Herrenchiemsee.

Schloss Herrenchiemsee: Die Länge des Spiegelsaals übertrifft sogar das Versailler Original

Visitors come from far and near to enter into a bygone era: the rooms are large and high, while the interior is opulent in style with a predominance of gold. “Herrenchiemsee New Palace is the most splendid of all the residences of Ludwig II,” says Veronika Endlicher, who worked here as a guide herself during her student days.

“This Palace is the most splendid of all the residences of Ludwig II”

The most striking feature is the monumental staircase under a roof constructed of iron and glass. The use of materials such as iron was still relatively new for castles of that period. Ludwig II also commissioned special systems for heating both the water and the interior rooms. Even the king’s dining table is operated mechanically: the so-called “Tischlein-deck-dich” (Wishing Table) can be lowered, enabling him to eat his meals without being served.

The chandeliers in the magnificent Mirrored Hall can also be lowered. Like its predecessors, the castles of Neuschwanstein and Lindenhof, Herrenchiemsee is a modern fairy-tale palace full of technical refinements.

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Schloss Herrenchiemsee: Das Schloss steckt voller technischer Raffinessen

A flying machine, a royal sleigh and a university

The technical playfulness of Ludwig II was apparent not only in his building projects: the king wanted to fly over Lake Alpsee near Hohenschwangau Castle in a flying machine, the Pfauenwagen. However, this plan was also thwarted due to technical difficulties.

Not so the gilded royal sleigh, which was the first vehicle in the world to be fitted with a battery-powered light bulb. It is now on display in the Marstallmuseum in Nymphenburg Castle.

“Another factor that marks him out as a visionary is his patronage of technology,” adds Veronika Endlicher. For example, the king founded the Polytechnikum in Munich and used his projects – which were very modern at the time – to support electrical engineering. “He had specific ideas and took advantage of the latest technology to put them into practice,” explains the castle warden.

More information about the Herrenchiemsee New Palace: herrenchiemsee.de

Guided tour of Herrenchiemsee Palace (only in German)

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