The Münchner Residenz, or Munich Residence, is the former main home of the Bavarian royal family. More of a castle complex than a single building, the Residenz is the largest city palace in all of Germany and has thus much to offer to its visitors. Built and expanded over centuries, it combines Renaissance, Baroque, Roccoco and Classicist elements.
The complex of buildings forming the Residenz in Munich's city centre contains ten courtyards and displays some 130 rooms. The three main parts are the Königsbau (near Max-Joseph-Platz), the Alte Residenz (Old Residence; towards the Residenzstraße) and the Festsaalbau (Banqueting Hall Building; towards the Hofgarten). Parts of it are open to the general public and so I visited a while ago together with the lovely Lady and the Rose while we were both in Munich.
The first parts of what later became the Residenz were built in the year 1385. They were financed by the township of Munich as a sanction for a failed uprising against Duke Stephan III of Bavaria of the House of Wittelsbach. What began in in the late 14th century as a castle at the north-eastern corner of the town, the Neuveste (new citadel) was transformed over the centuries into a magnificent palace, its buildings and gardens extending further and further into the town.
The history of Munich's Residenz as a representative palace starts during the reign of Duke Wilhelm IV (1508 to 1550) when he expanded the Neuveste with the so-called Rundstubenbau. He also ordered the first court garden to be set up. Wilhelm's successor, Duke Albrecht V, built one of the most memorable rooms of the Residenz: The Antiquarium (third picture of this post) was erected to designs by Jacopo Strada and Simon Zwitzel in order to house the ducal collection of Classical sculptures.
The Antiquarium was soon more lavishly furnished and decorated under the reign of Duke Wilhelm V. In addition, the Wittelsbach ruler also commissioned the four-winged Grottenhof, the Witwenstock as a widow seat for Duchess Anna, the building housing the Black Hall and the Erbprinzentrakt (Heir's Tract). Not all of them, however, do survive until this day.
While each of the rulers calling the Residenz their home added their own distinct part to the palace, perhaps Maximilian I (1573-1651) was the most ambitious of all these men. His accomplishments and embellishments of the palace are numerous. Among his contributions are the Court Chapel, the Ornate Chapel, the Ladies-at-Court rooms and the origins of the Court Garden. He also began the construction of buildings around the area of the Fountain Court and the Emperor’s Court, including the Kaisertreppe (Emperor's Staircase), the Kaisersaal (Emperor's Hall, seen below), the Vierschimmelsaal (Four Greys Room), the Steinzimmer (Stone Rooms) and the Trierzimmer (Trier Room).
Its large dimensions satisfied Maximilian's successors up to 19th century. In the meantime, the Wittelsbachs contented themselves with interior upgrading and smaller extensions such as the wing for the Grüne Galerie (1730) and the Residenz's theatre, the Cuvilliés-Theater, (1751).
It was Elector Maximilian Joseph IV, who reigned from 1799 to 1825 and from 1806 as King Maximilian Joseph I, who had major changes done to the palace. Between 1799 and 1816, the Hofgartenzimmer (Court Garden Rooms), designed by Charles-Pierre Puille and Andres Gärtner, were built to replace the Kaisersaal and Vierschimmelsaal but, as proven by the photos all around this text, they have not survived. Maximilian Joseph also commissioned the Staatsratszimmer (State Council Room), which also did not survive, as well as remodellings of the Hercules Hall and the Charlottenzimmer (Charlotte Rooms), and the construction of the Königliches Hof- und Nationaltheater (Royal Court and National Theatre) to designs by Karl von Fischer and Leo von Klenze.
It was also Leo von Klenze who was commissioned by King Ludwig I to draw up plans for the Königsbau (King's Tract), including the royal apartments and the Nibelungensälen (Nibelung Rooms), as well as the Festsaalbau (Banqueting Hall Building, seen in the first picture of this post), two of the three main parts of the Residenz.
King Maximilian II, Ludwig I's successor, had a winter garden, which was later destroyed, constructed between the Königsbau and the Nationaltheater to designs by Franz Jakob Kreuter and August von Voit. And while his son, Ludwig II, might be the legendary Swan King and possibly the - at least today - most famous one of all Wittelsbach rulers, he concentrated his building activities on his own castles, the world-famous Schloss Neuschwanstein, Schloss Linderhof and Schloss Herrenchiemsee.
That's not to say that King Ludwig II tried to implement some of his architectural ideas in the Residenz. For example, the Swan King had a winter garden (seen on the right picture above) erected on top of the Festsaalbau. The glas roof was free-floating, up to 9 metres high and about 70 metres long. In the winter garden on top of the building you could find an oriental jungle featuring exotic plants and a lake. However, after Ludwig's death, it was soon demolished as upkeep was expensive and the water had already caused some damage to the Residenz.Alte Schatzkammer (Old Treasury) built and his son, King Ludwig III, brought modern standards to the Residenz. He had electric lighting, central heating, modern plumbing, a lift and other technical improvements installed at the place that had been home of the Bavarian rulers for more than five centuries. But it wasn't to last for long: On November 7, 1918, King Ludwig III vacated the Residenz following Kurt Eisner's proclamation of the Republic of Bavaria.
Two years later, in 1920, the free state of Bavaria decided to open the Residenz up as a museum. In 1944, the palace was heavily damaged. The Münchner Residenz had once boasted 23,000 square metres of roofing, but in the aftermath of the bombing, just 50 square metres remained. Reconstruction started soon after the war’s end and continued up to 2003.
Good to know:
Many parts of the Münchner Residenz are open as a museum these days. The tour of the Residenzmuseum leads you through about 130 rooms depicting the court life and living arrangements throughout various centuries. In addition, there is the Schatzkammer, or Treasury, which we will cover in a seperate post. The Residenz opens daily, apart from January 1, Fat Tuesday, December 24, 25 and 31. Opening times between March 28 and October 18 are 9am to 6pm, between October 19 and March 27 from 10am to 5pm. Admission for the Residenzmuseum alone is 7 euros. More information here.