Herrenchiemsee is a complex of royal buildings on the Herreninsel, an island in the Chiemsee, Bavaria’s largest lake, 60 km south east of Munich. Together with the neighbouring island of Frauenchiemsee and the uninhabited Krautinsel it forms the municipality of Chiemsee. The Augustine Monastery Herrenchiemsee, later converted into the Old Palace (Altes Schloss), and Herrenchiemsee Palace, also known as the New Palace (Neues Schloss), are the most famous of these buildings and the largest of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s palaces.
Herrenchiemsee Benedictine Abbey was established about 765 at the northern peak of the Herreninsel by Duke Tassilo III of Bavaria. In 969 Emperor Otto I granted to the Archbishops of Salzburg, who about 1130 re-established Herrenchiemsee as a monastery of Canons Regular living under the Augustinian rule. With approval of Pope Innocent III, Prince-Bishop Eberhard von Regensberg in 1215 made the monastery church the cathedral of a diocese in its own right, the Bishopric of Chiemsee including several parishes on the mainland and in Tyrol. In the course of the German Mediatisation in 1803 Herrenchiemsee Abbey was secularised and the Chiemsee bishopric finally dissolved in 1808. The island then was sold, various owners demolished the cathedral and turned the abbey into a brewery.
Plans for the complete deforestation of the island were blocked by King Ludwig II, who acquired Herrenchiemsee in 1873. He had the leftover buildings converted for his private use, the complex that later became known as the “Old Palace”, where he stayed surveying the construction of the New Herrenchiemsee Palace. From 10 to 23 August 1948, the representatives of eleven German states of the Western Zones and West Berlin met at the Old Palace as the Verfassungskonvent (Constitutional Convention) to prepare the work for drafting the Basic Law(Grundgesetz) with a view to the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The unfinished New Palace was designed by Christian Jank, Franz Seitz, and Georg von Dollmann and built between 1878 and 1885. Between 1863 and 1886 a total of 16,579,674 Marks was spent constructing Herrenchiemsee. An 1890 ’20 Mark’ gold coin contained 0.2304 troy ounce (7.171 g) of gold. Therefore, 16,579,674 Marks would equate to 190,998 oz of gold, which at recent gold prices (March 2007) is worth approximately £70,500,000GBP or (August 2007) $125,400,000 USD.Ludwig only had the opportunity to stay within the Palace for a few days in September 1885. After his death in the following year, all construction work discontinued and the building was opened for the public. In 1923 Crown Prince Rupprecht gave the palace to the State of Bavaria.
The formal gardens are filled with fountains, a copy of the Versailles Bassin de Latone and statues in both the classical style typical of Versailles and in the fantastic style typical of romanticism that was favored by King Ludwig. Statues reminiscent of classical antiquity are found throughout the gardens, overwrought in the grand style of Richard Wagner’s romantic operas.