October 27


Herrenchiemsee Palace – the Bavarian Palace of Versailles

By Frank

October 27, 2023

Herrenchiemsee Palace, the “ Bavarian Versailles ”, was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria on a 240ha island in Lake Chiemsee.

The realization was preceded by a total of 13 planning phases . Construction of the “Bavarian Versailles” began in 1878 according to plans by Georg von Dollmann, architect and chief court building director under King Ludwig II.

The Herreninsel is the largest of the three islands in Lake Chiemsee. It is 2.5 km long and 2.1 km wide. There are only a few buildings on the Herreninsel such as Herrenchiemsee Castle, the Canons' Monastery, the Seekapelle and some farm buildings. The then resident Herrenchiemsee monastery was founded in the 7th century . Until the 19th century, the entire island was still owned by this monastery.

In the 18th century, the then owner Alois von Fleckinger wanted to sell the Herreninsel to a Württemberg timber dealer consortium who wanted to cut down the island's ancient forests . At the petition of the Chiemsee communities , King Ludwig II intervened and acquired the island in Chiemsee for 350,000 guilders in 1873.

While Linderhof Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle embody medieval chivalric romance , this castle was intended to be a monument to the revered Sun King, King Louis XIV of France. However, Ludwig II never aspired to a seat of government with court society, but had Herrenchiemsee Palace built as a private residence in whose spacious hallways and rooms he could spend time undisturbed .

With the new Herrenchiemsee Palace, he created a magnificent building after he returned from a trip to France in 1874. An image of Versailles, this palace was intended to become a “ temple of glory ” for King Louis XIV of France , whom the Bavarian monarch adored without limits.

AHA, cool...

Herrenchiemsee Island has two castles

Herrenchiemsee is probably the only island in the world with two castles . In addition to King Ludwig II's New Castle, there is also the Augustinian Canons' Monastery , which is also called the " Old Castle ".

To summarize in simple terms - the castle on the island of Herrenchiemsee is probably the only copy of the Palace of Versailles in France in the world. Structurally, it is smaller than Versailles, has a baroque facade and strictly symmetrical gardens. The planned 124 meter long side wings were never completed and were later demolished.

Herrenchiemsee Palace is the most magnificent of the Ludwig palaces, even if it is largely unfinished. 50 of the 70 rooms are in shell form; painted canvases only hid the unfinished rooms for about 10 days when King Ludwig II lived in his new castle.

Temple of Glory

As an image of Versailles, this palace was intended to be a “temple of glory” for King Louis XIV, whom the Bavarian monarch adored without limits. Here are a few interesting, even impressive facts:

  • The dining room houses a retractable dining table (" Tischlein-deck-dich "), which could be moved one floor lower for setting. However, there was no kitchen.
  • A wonderful experience is the Herrenchiemsee Festival , which annually transforms this hall, the Spiegelsaal, into a concert hall . An experience for your eyes and ears that you won't soon forget.
  • It goes without saying that the state bedroom was impressively and sumptuously designed and furnished. The state bedroom looked directly into the courtyard. The blue glass ball in front of the king's bed in particular exudes a certain magical light that is clearly different from that of the other rooms. The king's court theater master is said to have worked on painting the ball for almost a year before the light finally met the king's expectations.
  • (Ambassador Stairs in Versailles: Like all power-obsessed regents , Louis
  • The castle was equipped with what was then very modern technology . It had warm air heating (nowadays district heating) , which was supplied by a large boiler in the basement.


Hall of Mirrors

At 75 meters long, the Hall of Mirrors is larger than the one in Versailles and has 23 large mirrors instead of 17 . 1,848 candles were planned to illuminate the hall. Mirrors should make the room appear larger and reflect both daylight and the light from candle chandeliers and chandeliers to perfectly illuminate the room. The Halls of Mirrors were often designed as banquet halls and were the highlights in the sequence of rooms in the state rooms of the palaces. 17 large wall mirrors and 33 ceiling chandeliers, gold-decorated stucco work and wonderful ceiling paintings create a unique ambience. Every summer the concerts as part of the Herrenchiemsee Festival take place here.

Steam-powered material web

For the huge construction project, a steam-powered material conveyor was even installed from the ship's pier to the construction site and a total of 600 workers were hired. 9 million bricks and almost 5 kg of gold leaf were used.

Grand staircase

The magnificent staircase is covered by an ultra-modern glass roof construction that suggests an open sky.

The chandeliers can also be lowered mechanically so that they can be filled with candles; up to 40,000 candles were used per stay to make it easier for King Ludwig II, who was a night owl.

Material web rolling on track

Material web rolling on track

Herrenchiemsee staircase

Herrenchiemsee staircase

What's exciting to see?

The garden area

Herrenchiemsee Palace gardens

Herrenchiemsee Palace gardens

The castle also has a magnificent garden with large fountains - a real treat for the eyes. This opulence is hard to understand.

Just like the New Herrenchiemsee Palace, King Ludwig II wanted the park not to be a detailed copy of the Versailles complex. The plans were mainly limited to those areas that could be seen from the main rooms in the central wing of the palace - the state bedroom and the mirror gallery .

Work on the gardens began in 1882 - four years after the foundation stone of the castle was laid. A 120 x 240 meter garden . When the king died in 1886, the garden parts along the important main axis with their famous fountains and water features were completed; the Apollo fountain and the shipping pier remained unfinished.

Latona fountain with turtles and frogs

Latona Brunnen

The important part of the "Parterre d'eau", consisting of two large basins with the figures of Fama and Fortuna , the flower parterre with the Latona fountain (with water-spewing turtles and frogs) and the " Grand Canal " can still be admired today.

The park was illuminated electrically at the time, a world first.

The original plan was to recreate the park in the spirit of Versailles in the Graswangtal near Ettal. Since the existing area proved to be too small, Ludwig II acquired the Chiemsee island of Herrenwörth for his project in 1873. For this purpose, Linderhof Castle was built in Ettal.


On the ground floor is the marble bathroom , which holds around 60,000 liters of water when filled.

Mamorbad Herrenchiemsee

Mamorbad Herrenchiemsee

The old castle

Augustinian Canons' Monastery, aerial view

Old Castle, Augustinian Canons' Monastery

Herrenchiemsee is probably the only island in the world with two castles . In addition to King Ludwig II's New Castle, there is also the Augustinian Canons' Monastery , which is also called the "Old Castle". The Archbishop of Salzburg had the Augustinian Canons' Monastery built around 1130 . King Ludwig II acquired the monastery and then had private rooms set up in the complex. Since 2001 there has been a picture gallery with pictures by the painter Julius Exter in the north wing of the monastery complex. The former monastery is one of the oldest monastic complexes in Bavaria . In the course of secularization, the monastery on Herrenchiemsee was also closed in 1803.

The Constitutional Convention met in the “Old Castle” in 1948,

in which the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany was drawn up.

Just as the Palace of Versailles itself has always been at the center of history , the Herreninsel also moved into the field of historical significance in post-war Germany: From August 10th to 23rd, 1948, the Constitutional Convention presented the draft for today's Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany on the Herreninsel in the rooms of the former Augustinian Canons' Monastery - a two-week marathon, sweetened only with beer, wine and cigars.

In diplomacy textbooks you can read how beneficial and important remote places are for the art of negotiation . From August 10th to 23rd, politicians and constitutional experts met here to formulate a foundation of values for the future western state three years after the war.

The Basic Law cannot be understood without Herrenchiemsee. One almost wishes that fairytale King Ludwig had built a castle with 18 halls in honor of the constitution, one hall for each fundamental right...

About the author

It is more valuable to experience a place in detail than many small impressions of an incomprehensible whole.

Genius Loci - discovering, capturing and experiencing the spirit of a place. Perceive - understand - enjoy!

As a graduate industrial engineer with an additional MBA degree from a renowned university in England (EMBA, EQUIS and AACSB accredited), I have been showing other, often surprising, paths to success for more than 30 years at C-Level (Head of Marketing and Sales worldwide).

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