Walhalla Memorial - History

History

By 1806, Napoleon's First French Empire had annexed German lands along the Rhine River and the North Sea, and Central German states formed the Confederation of the Rhine, which sided with Napoleon. Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, then formally dissolved the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and instead styled himself Emperor of Austria. The War of the Fourth Coalition pitted German forces on both sides against each other, and Napoleon again prevailed.

In 1807, 20-year-old Crown Prince Ludwig of the Kingdom of Bavaria, newly elevated by Napoleon, had the idea of reminding all Germans of their common heritage — of the great figures and events in ethnic German history. He commissioned several sculptors to create busts of famous individuals of his choice. Johann Gottfried Schadow's bust of Nicolaus Copernicus was among the first to be completed, in 1807. Further suggestions for individuals to be honored were solicited in 1808 from Swiss historian Johannes von Müller.

The building is noted to have cost £666,666 to construct according to 'Pictorial Travels Continentally Described' (Circa 1892).

By the time of Crown Prince Ludwig's coronation as King Ludwig I of Bavaria in 1825, 60 busts had been completed. In 1826 he commissioned a memorial to be built above the Danube River, near Regensburg, modeled after the Parthenon in Athens. The southern pediment frieze features the 1815 creation of the German Confederation; the northern — scenes from the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.

At Walhalla's inauguration on October 18, 1842, there were 96 busts, plus 64 plaques for persons or events of which no portrait was available on which to model a sculpture. As being "of the German tongue" was the main selection criterion for the original 160 persons representing the 1,800 years of German history, the King included persons from, or who had been active in, modern-day Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and the Baltic States.

Whereas the Valhalla of Norse mythology was home to those gloriously slain in battle, Ludwig's Walhalla was intended not only for warriors but also for scientists, writers, and clerics, and specifically included both men and women. Decades before the German Empire was founded in 1871, "German" was understood as "Germanic". Included were Gothic, Langobardic, Anglo-Saxon, Austrian, Dutch and Swiss German figures, as well as persons who had gained fame mainly in other countries or for non-German governments.

As successor to the King, the government of Bavaria decides on additions. Proposals may be made by anyone, but only persons who have been dead at least 20 years are eligible (this had been doubled in 1912). Only 31 busts have been added since its opening, on an irregular basis, for a total of 191, twelve of them female.

In Munich, an additional Hall of Fame for Bavarians was established in 1853 — the Ruhmeshalle München. Nine of the Bavarian enshrinees have since been made Walhalla enshrinees. Thus, their busts in Ruhmeshalle, which were destroyed in 1944 during World War II, have not been recreated. Instead, a plaque with their names tells of their transfer to Walhalla. Additionally, King Ludwig I, who commissioned the Befreiungshalle and other monuments, is enshrined both at Walhalla and the Ruhmeshalle.

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