King Ludwig’s Walhalla

King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786–1868) was the grandfather of Ludwig II (1845–1886) who eclipsed him in popular memory as the “Märchenkönig:” patron of Richard Wagner, Neuschwanstein castle, mysterious early death. Ludwig I was rather more mundane but left a much greater cultural legacy, simultaneously industrializing Bavaria – site of the first German railway in 1835 – and reshaping Munich with the neoclassical architecture that was all the rage in his days.

One remarkable piece outside Munich is the Walhalla memorial, built by Leo von Klenze in 1830–1842 on a hillside above the Danube near Regensburg. The Walhalla is modeled after the Parthenon in Athens and houses numerous busts and plaques that commemorate famous Germans, using a rather loose definition of “German” that starts with ancient Germanic tribes and extends to anyone claiming German ancestry. It’s a famous tourist site, so I recently went there with the Sony Alpha 7R plus SEL-2470Z zoom lens to take a copious amount of pictures.

Aside from several exterior shots I also photographed all the busts and plaques in the memorial, and wrote out the names on the busts which can be hard to read in the photos. You could use them in a trivia game, “Which supposedly famous German have you never heard of?”

Certainly, all the usual suspects from Kaiser Barbarossa to Ludwig van Beethoven are there, but also many obscure figures that only specialized historians would recognize today. Busts have been continually added by subsequent Bavarian governments, so don’t be surprised to see Albert Einstein or Sophie Scholl. Click on any image to open a full-screen gallery view with descriptions and Exif data.

2017-03-09: Moved gallery from Google Photos to my own host.

3 thoughts on “King Ludwig’s Walhalla”

  1. Hello, I’d like to ask you something about “photography without people” in the place of Walhalla. Can you join me with private message on the facebook account [Standa Habrůvka] please?

  2. Thanks for poasting, what a remarkable structure! I’ve wondered why it is that such things cannot be built today. What has changed? Obviously the mentality and goals of the leadership but do economics factors hinder such constructions today? Maybe the sort of labor that was available for precision stone work in 1850 is today mostly tied up in various white collar industries. Whatever the case it’s a marvel and in such great condition.

    1. Yes, I think it’s the manual stone work that’s the obstacle. Large representative structures are still being built today but in concrete and steel, not brick by brick. That’s certainly an economic change, qualified labor is much more expensive now compared to machines and materials than it was back then. There are still houses being built with real brick walls but that’s small-scale luxury construction. Bavaria could probably afford building another Walhalla in the same style but realistically wouldn’t – too wasteful. All the better that we have this one!

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