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We had so many days of pretty bad weather and now it had been raining for 2 solid days in Munich. I really just wanted to go back to the hotel but it was so early in the afternoon. My husband persuaded me to go to the Reisdenz, the former royal residence. I'm so glad he did!
The Residenz is located in the centre of the old town of Munich. It was the seat of power for the Bavarian dukes and kings for 500 years.
About 130 rooms are on display and they are so ornate. I loved the long portrait gallery with over 100 portraits completely decorated in gold, the king’s chapel, the Antiquarium (Hall of Antiquities – a huge room!), and the queen’s bedroom. (Apparently in those days the king and queen slept in separate rooms, wings, or even floors of a palace. Their rooms had secret doors so they could meet.) There were many beautiful pieces of jewelry in the treasury, but the crowns were amazing.
We rented the audio guides which allowed us to hear all about the Residenz while going at our own pace. I highly recommend getting the audio guides – you learn so much more about a place then just going on your own or with a guidebook!
Open 9-6, 9 Euros Combo Residenz/Treasury
This tip is more photographs of the Residenz treasury, the Schatzkammer. Again, I refer readers to fellow VTer nicolaitan for excellent descriptions of the Residenz. I hope that you will enjoy my photographs as well.
I have many photographs of the Schatzkammer, but I feel that in order to capture the essence of this unique place the reader must actually go to Munich and experience it first hand.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
This palace in the old city of Munich is the former home of the Wittelsbach dynasty (rulers of Bavaria) which lasted from 1385 to 1918. One day I will do a web page about this huge palace, but for purposes of these tips, I will only cover a the Schatzkammer (treasury) and some of the rooms. As mentioned, the palace is enormous, but the wealth of the Wittelsbach family was equally enormous. One need only visit the treasury to understand the immense wealth. The Schatzkammer contains the antiquities (crown jewels, crowns, precious ornamental objects, etc) of the Wittelsbach's. The value is mind-boggling.
I apologize for the photographs that are out of focus. Tripods are not allowed.
For those readers that are interested, I recommend that you read the pages written by fellow VTer, nicolaitan, who has researched both the Residenz and Nymphenburg Palace (the Wittelsbach summer repose outside on the city). I hope that the reader finds time for both of us.
This 10 room suite is included within the Konigsbau wing of the Residenz but requires a separate ticket ( treasury or residenz alone 6 Eu, combo ticket 9 Eu ). The Treasury displays the treasures of the Wittensbach dynasty. Begun by Duke Albrecht V in 1565, the first patron of the arts in the family, the collection of valuables has been enlarged by succeeding rulers. It comprises an amazing collection of sacred and secular jewelled objects, porcelain, ivory, and etched rock crystal as well as the royal jewels of Bavaria and other countries. It can be worth hours of visitation time. Note - some of the most revered and valuable items in the display are in Room 1. While the objects throughout are spectacular, especially the etched rock crystal, the historical and economic value of the items appears overall to diminish as the room numbers rise. However, the beauty of the displays is topnotch from beginning to end. The Treasury is a spectacular collection.
Image 1 is of perhaps the most valuable piece in the Treasury, an early English Queen's crown. Image 4 is blurred - St George Slaying the Dragon, a gold piece covered in every known precious stone.
The included labelled images are the best I was able to obtain with an eye to the most important objects in the museum. Photography is not encouraged as elsewhere in the Residenz, needless to say.
Audioguides - Munich as a generalization has some of the best audioguides I have ever used. The guide for the Residenz is great, for the Treasury perhaps number 1 of all time. They are comprehensive, graded in detail, interesting, and add immeasurably to the visit.
The wings of the Residenz are separated by multiple courtyards of varying size and shape. The elongated 8-sided Fountain Court ( image 3 )parallels the Antiquarium. At one time the palace entrance and a site for sports contests, the center is now occupied by an impressive statue of Otto I - an early Wittelsbach duke.
The Grotto Court ( images 1 and 2) is on the other side of the Antiquarium and derives its name from the most peculiar structure at one end, a huge fountain made predominantly from shells. The featured player is Mercury the Roman God of finance ( image 2 ). The fountain was apparently filled with red wine back when, spouting of out the mouths and other sites on the individual structures. This is a strange fountain, totally but apparently accurately reconstructed after WWII.
Ornate Rooms ( Part II )
The Cabinet of Mirrors and Porcelain adjacent the Bedchamber of the Elector Karl Albrecht was my favorite room in the Residenz. Mirrors in the early 18th Century were prized and expensive showpieces and this room is lined with long mirrors reflecting the extensive gold detail on the white stucco walls. Ornate cabinets are filled with fine porcelain pieces not maintained in the porcelain collection. Another room reconstructed after WWII, it is considered an extremely accurate reproduction.
The Ornate Rooms ( Part I )
The Residenz wing which surpasses all others is unforgettable. Elector Karl Albrecht, in his drive to Holy Roman Emperor, left little to doubt about his fortune and power in this series of design masterpieces built between 1730-33 and totally reconstructed after WWII.
Images 1 and 2 are the state bedroom, used only for display and the public viewing of his rising in the morning and going to bed at night - an adopted French custom. The decor was extremely costly, including imported French furniture and a remarkable bed setting.
Beyond the bedroom were two private cabinets for the Elector and the two most elaborate rooms in the Residenz to my eye. Image 2 is the Cabinet of Miniatures with gold detail set against red lacquered walls in the Japanese style popular at the time. Inserted are 129 miniature oil paintings by German and other European painters of the 16-18th Centuries. A large mirror set in the back wall gives the appearance of infinity for the room extending backward into the remainder of the Ornate Rooms.
The Residential Suites
In a palace built over several centuries, there are several grandiose opulent residential wings initially intended for use by the Elector and Electress. Different sections of the palace are open for AM and PM visits and frankly, after a while, most seem to run together in the memory with one notable exception in the tip following. Since most are post WWII reconstructions of both the rooms and furniture, this may be more easily understood, although the reproductions are stated to be quite accurate.
We noticed that the layout of the residential wings seemed to follow a set pattern, alluded to but not defined in the available literature. First is a reception and waiting area for guests, then an lush audience room for the Elector. There may or may not be an intervening room prior to the bedroom. The most amazing rooms are one or two small rooms deep to the bedroom called cabinets for the private enjoyment of the occupant.
Each of the wings has a specific name based on history. The Papal suite is named following the visit of Pope Pius VI in 1782, the Charlotte wing after an early 18th Century princess with an eye toward design, and the Trier wing after the frequent visits of an 18th Century archbishop from that city.
Many of the images from these wings are blurred and unsuitable as proscriptions against photography were more carefully observed in these areas than elsewhere in the palace. I have posted several - as described, it is difficult to be sure from which wing. However they all illustrate the rich decor of these wings both in wall and ceiling coverings and in furniture.
Of particular note is the ornate white piece with gold trim in the center of the first image. This supplied the en suite heating. Throughout our travels, the detail work in heating devices has been noteworthy. We had several images, unfortunately most blurred, of these space heaters.
No self-respecting 18th Century royal family was without an inhouse creator of fine porcelain artwork. For the Wittenbachs, it was the Nymphenburg porcelain works right across the poind form the Nymphenburg palace. Status is a strange bedfellow. The porcelain collection at the Residenz is housed in adjoining rooms featuring larger pieces, exquisite plates many of which feature medieval images, and most famously the miniatures commissioned by Ludwig I in the 1820's. He feared that time would fade and degrade the famous paintings and believed that painting the images on durable porcelain would retain their beauty forever. The paintings are still around, but the copied plates are remarkable works of art. On the adjoining images 3 and 4 note reproductions of Albrecht Durer's self-portrait and the Mona Lisa among others.
Ahnengalerie ( Ancestral Gallery )
On first glance, the Ancestral Gallery seems little more than an attempt to glorify the past rulers and consorts of the Wittenbach dynasty. But Karl Albrecht, HRE elector, had much more in mind. By detailing the importance and far flung alliances created by marriage, it also sent an important political message. In 1742, he was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor Karl VII.
The gallery was built in the 1730's with paintings of over 100 Wittenbach rulers set into a carved gold gilt background designed by Miroffsky. This long room, lined with windows on one side, is absolutely stunning, and a fit end to the planned circuit through the Residenz.
Black Hall (Schwarzer Saal)
A pre-existing hall was altered in 1623 by Maximilian I with the installation of very impressive imitation marble door portals, explaining the name. It is, however, most famous for the ceiling paintings from 1602 by Werl. The flat roof was painted to give the illusion of a much higher ceiling, an illusion that works only if one stands directly in the center, but is perfect from that position. I know - I did it. Just get right under the big chandelier. Move even a few feet and the whole effect is lost.
Werl's work is considered the first Baroque work of its kind in Germany, drawing on an Italian practise of covering an entire ceiling with an illusion. Following the destruction of WWII, the original oil paintings on canvas were replaced by frescoes (painted on plaster ).
The Black Hall gets little publicity, but I was taken with this strange room where nothing seems to fit. The boldly checked floor, the false doors and falser out of place portals - somehow it all works. Don't rush through it too quickly.
Overview and History
The huge Residenz palace was the home and office for the ruling Wittenbach dukes, electors, and kings from 1385 until abdication in 1918. Comprising over 100 rooms, several courtyards, and a theater, its varied architectures and styles reflect the taste and the fashions spanning this period. Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical styles predominate but since every ruler felt obligated to add at least a little piece here and there, the overall result is intermixed and just a little confusing to those not well versed in architecture. The palace reflects both the cultural ambitions of the ruling family and their well-planned demonstration of power and wealth.
The first occupant was Duke Stephan III (1375-92). Maximilian I (1597-1651), created the first major wing, the Alte Residenz, which lines Residenzstrasse. The most interesting facade is on the second great wing, the Konigsbau, commissioned by Ludwig I, and modelled after Florence's Pitti Palace. The third or Festsaalbau wing faces north to the Hofgarten and is closed to visitors. The Fountain Court was added in 1610 and William V added the famed Grotto Courtyard in the late 16th Century. The palace suffered significant damage during WWII, but many of the precious antiquities had been removed to safety and survivied. Restoration began immediately after the war and continued into the 1980's. Added together, the Residenz is one of Germany's largest palaces and features multiple thematic museums, great halls and small precious rooms, and beautiful courtyards. The current museum is largely in the Konigsbau wing commissioned by Ludwig II.
The Residenz requires a considerable investment of time and appreciation. Therefore, few tour groups stop here and one can enjoy the many exhibits in peace and quiet, often alone in whole suites of rooms. Plan on spending several hours at a minimum to enjoy this world class palace.
One of the Residenz highlights, the Antiquarium is the oldest surviving room in the Residenz. It was commissioned by Duke Albrecht V for his extensive collection of antique sculptures and built between 1568 and 1661. The architect was Italian and the resulting Renaissance hall at 200 feet is the largest of its kind in northern Europe. It suffered significant damage in WWII with a direct bomb hit on the roof but has been completely restored.
The walls are lined with busts and other statues in the classic ancient Greek style. Some are indeed originals both from Albrecht V and others added later. Some are copies. The extremely status-conscious Wittenbachs likened themselves to the ancient Greeks and some of the statues may be of family members insinuated amongst the others.
Perhaps even more famous are the wall and ceiling paintings between the 17 paired windows and on the high arched ceiling. In the late 16th Century dukes Wilhelm V and Maximilian I reconstructed the room as a banquet hall, installing a fireplace and a raised podium at one end. The roof paintings are seated female figures depicting Fame and Virtue. Even more interesting are the vault and wall pictures of towns and palaces in 16th Century Bavaria.
How the Bavarian royal family lived...
The Residenz building is a short walk from the Marienplatz. Built starting from 1385, it was eventually home to the Wittelsbachs - the Bavarian royal dynasty - until their abdication in 1918. The word extravagant is totally inadequate to describe this incredible set of buildings and their decorations which are are a mixture of renaissance, baroque, roccoco and neo-classical.
You can just take a walk through some of the courtyards within the massive Residenz complex but I strongly recommend a tour of the gilded rooms and the treasury (which houses the 'crown jewels' of the Wittelsbach family).
Three particular highlights are the throne rooms, the Ancestral Galllery and the 66 metre long Antiquarium.
The heavily secured treasury contains several of the priceless artefacts amassed by the Wittelsbach family over the years.
- Museum Visits
- Castles and Palaces
The Munich Residence is a complex of buildings and courtyards that was the home of the Wittelsbach dynasty of dukes, electors and finally kings of Bavaria from 1385 to 1918, when the last Wittelsbach ruler was deposed. There are over 130 rooms representing many different styles and eras.
The Residenz is of course included in Munich's ever-popular cycling tours, as shown in the first photo.
Second photo: Apothekenhof.
Third photo: Grottenhof.
Fourth photo: One of the many rooms in the Residenz.
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