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Munich Residenz

The Munich Residenz is the former seat of government and royal residence of the Wittelsbach rulers¹ of Bavaria. What began as a small fortress built in 1385 on the northeastern part of the old city, just outside of the city walls, expanded over the centuries to become a sprawling palace with 130 rooms and ten courtyards. The Munich Residenz was heavily damaged during World War II but has since been rebuilt.

Below: The Munich Residenz in the 18th century.

The main facade, the Köningsbrau (“the King’s building”), was built during the time of King Ludwig I, between 1825-1835. This is where you’ll find the entrance to the Museum and the Treasury.

The Antiquarium is the oldest room in the Munich Residenz. It was commissioned by Duke Albrecht V in 1571 for his collection of antique sculptures. It is the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps.

From 1581 to 1600, Duke Albrecht V’s successors, son Duke Wilhelm V and grandson Maximilian I, transformed the Antiquarium into a hall for festivities and banquets.

The Ancestral Gallery was commissioned by Karl Albrecht in 1726. Karl was Elector of Bavaria from 1726-1745, King of Bohemia from 1741-1743, and Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles VII) from 1742-1745. He wanted to impress upon others the importance of the Wittelsbach lineage, connections, and the legitimacy of his claim.

Build me a gallery, and don’t skimp on the gilt! The more gilt the better. Rich people love that sh*t.

Including Charlemagne, Charles the Great, in your ancestral gallery is one way to try and convince others of your power and the nobility of your lineage. But Karl did become Holy Roman Emperor in 1742, almost two decades after he commissioned this Hall, so who am I to judge his methods?

Hat belonging to Johann Karl Friedrich von Ostein; Munich, 1745. He was the Archbishop and Elector of Mainz.

Cool shield.

The Court Chapel, built on the orders of Maximilian I. Maximilian I was also known as “Maximilian the Great.” He reigned as Duke of Bavaria from 1597-1623, and Elector of Palatine and Bavaria from 1623-1651. He had a lot of the rooms in the Munich Residenz that I focus on in this post commissioned.

The Rich Chapel, consecrated in 1607, was a private place of worship for Maximilian I and his wife, Elisabeth of Lorraine. This is also where he kept his collection of precious relics—the bodily remains of saints.

I liked the blue and gold ceiling.

The floor.

Below is one of the relics that Maximilian I would have kept in the Rich Chapel. The collection is kept in a separate room now. There are lots of them. They creep me out a little. But I thought I’d include one picture anyway.

Below is another statue of Mary standing on a crescent moon. This one has a snake crawling up around it. Beware of Protestant heresy!

A silver dinner service.

The Imperial Hall. Maximilian I’s work.

The Four White Horses Hall, also commissioned by Maximilian I, takes its name from a painting that no longer exists. The painting was of Apollo in his chariot being drawn by four white horses. The Hall was built in 1614. In 1799, the Hall was replaced by apartments built for Bavaria’s first King, Maximilian Joseph IV, and his wife Karoline of Baden. That’s when the painting disappeared. After the rooms were damaged in World War II, the Four White Horses Hall was reconstructed. The room was furnished with original paintings and tapestries that had been preserved, except for the missing Apollo painting.

Below is a rather bleak information plaque that made me laugh. Kind of a metaphor, no? Man was ruler of the world, but now that is lost.

Below is the elaborate ceiling of the room that houses the Imperial Staircase. Also Maximilian I. (I forgot to take a picture of the stairs. They were white).

The next series of rooms are known as The Charlotte Rooms. The instruments in the Music Room belonged to Maximilian Joseph IV.

The furniture in the next two bedrooms originally belonged to Maximilian Joseph IV and Karoline of Baden. The room shows how royalty lived in the apartments of the Residenz.

Archduchess Maria Leopoldine of Austria-Este (1776-1848), Electress of Bavaria, second wife of Elector Charles Theodore. (And Maximilian Joseph IV’s mother).

View of Munich from the East in 1761, by Bernardo Belloto. Can you see the towers of the Frauenkirche in the distance?

The rooms that follow are known as The Rich Rooms. Karl Albrecht, who also commissioned the Ancestral Gallery, had these rooms designed and furnished from 1730-1737. The room with the red velvet wall hangings is the Audience Room.

The Green Gallery was used for festive gatherings in which only selected members of the court were invited. It is also a picture and mirror gallery, and features elegant chandeliers.

Game recognizes game. That’s a nice flower crown.

What. The Actual. F.

I can’t un-see that. And now, neither can you.

Why does the dragon have breasts?

This porcelain ornament belonged to Louis XIV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. This is probably interesting only to me, but I don’t care.

All right, now we get to return to my favourite, King Ludwig II.

In 1869, Ludwig II commissioned the building of an opulent conservatory or winter garden on the roof of the Festival Hall Building. It contained an artificial lake, and a 70-metre long free-standing hall with a vaulted ceiling. The Himalayas were painted as a backdrop. The metal and glass ceiling was at the cutting edge of technological innovation at the time.

The conservatory was closed in 1886 because, well, having a lake installed on the top floor of a building is not conducive to keeping the lower floors in good repair. But the Residenz has an exhibition about it, with some pictures that were taken while it was open.

Below: Drawings that were used in the planning of the conservatory.

The lake.

A picture with two swans and the lake in the front left corner, and the massive amount of plants that the conservatory contained. A Moorish kiosk in the background. There was also an Indian fisher-hut of bamboo, and an exotic looking tent.

The painting of the Himalayas.

A better view of the lake, with a small boat.

Below is an idealized image of the conservatory and its features.

I hope you enjoyed the tour! I have a separate post coming up featuring the beautiful, well, treasures of the Munich Treasury.


¹A brief overview of Residenz occupants that I mention in this post, and their relationship to the Munich Residenz:

Albrecht V: Duke of Bavaria, reign 1550-1579. He had the Antiquarium built (the big Renaissance Hall).

Wilhelm V: Duke of Bavaria, reign 1579-1597. Albrecht’s son.

Maximilian I: reign as Duke of Bavaria 1597-1623; reign as Elector of Palatine and Bavaria, 1623-1651. Wilhelm’s son. 1st wife Elisabeth of Lorraine (1595-1635). Second wife Maria Anna of Austria (1635). Occasionally referred to as “Maximilian the Great.” Ruled during the Thirty Years’ War. Built the Court Chapel, the Rich Chapel, the Imperial Hall, the Imperial Staircase, the Four White Horses Hall, and the Stone Rooms.

Karl Albrecht: Elector of Bavaria, reign 1726-1745; King of Bohemia, reign 1741-1743; Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles VII), 1742-1745. Great grandson of Maximilian I. First person NOT born of the House of Hapsburg to become Emperor in three centuries, but was connected to the house by blood and marriage. Had the Ancestral Gallery and Rich Rooms built, including the Green Gallery.

Maximilian Joseph IV (Bavarian Elector) and I (Bavarian King): Elector of Bavaria, reign 1799-1806; First King of Bavaria, reign 1806-1825. (I hope he sent Napoleon a fruit basket for that). First wife Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt. Second wife Karoline of Baden. Father of Ludwig I. The furniture in the Charlotte Rooms belongs to him. He had the Four Horses Hall converted into a royal apartment.

Ludwig II: King of Bavaria, reign 1864-1886. Had the second conservatory built on the roof of the Festival Hall Building. Went a little overboard.

²Unfortunately, the apartments belonging to the King and Queen were undergoing conservation work when I visited, so I wasn’t able to see them. I did get to see some other beautiful and—interesting—aspects of the palace.

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