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National Monuments and Nationalism in 19th Century Germany

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Hans A. Pohlsander

No century in modern European history has built monuments with more enthusiasm than the 19th. Of the hundreds of monuments erected, those which sprang from a nation-wide initiative and addressed themselves to a nation, rather than part of a nation, we may call national monuments. Nelson’s Column in London or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris are obvious examples. In Germany the 19th century witnessed a veritable flood of monuments, many of which rank as national monuments. These reflected and contributed to a developing sense of national identity and the search for national unity; they also document an unsuccessful effort to create a «genuinely German» style. They constitute a historical record, quite apart from aesthetic appeal or ideological message. As this historical record is examined, German national monuments of the 19th century are described and interpreted against the background of the nationalism which gave birth to them.

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CHAPTER VI Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Walhalla, the Befreiungshalle,and Related Monuments 129

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Chapter VI Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Walhalla, the Befreiungshalle, and Related Monuments1 Among German national monuments the Walhalla is the most impor- tant, at least to one observer.2 Certainly it is aesthetically more pleas- ing and ideologically more acceptable than the Niederwalddenkmal or the Hermannsdenkmal, which will be considered later. The story of the Walhalla, Germany’s “Hall of Fame,” begins with King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786–1868, r. 1825–1848). His grandson Ludwig II (1864–1886), called “Mad King Ludwig” by some, may be better known, because of his eccen- tricities, his association with Richard Wagner, and the mystery surround- ing his death. The musical Ludwig 2, performed at Füssen every summer, keeps his memory alive. And much more has been written about Ludwig II than about Ludwig I. But it is Ludwig I who is of the greater impor- tance, although some aspects of his personality and of his reign have rightly been criticized.3 As a patron of the arts he was unequaled.4 The Bayerische Ruhmeshalle, designed by Leo von Klenze, and Ludwig von Schwanthaler’s statue of Bavaria, both in Munich’s Theresienwiese and both mentioned 1 In writing this chapter I have enjoyed the invaluable assistance of Herr Robert Raith, Walhalla-Verwalter. 2 Traeger, Die Walhalla 13. Sonja Hildebrand in Nerdinger, Leo von Klenze 250, more modestly calls it “one of the most important national monuments of Germany.” Rich bibliography ibid. 256–58. An excellent concise introduction to the Walhalla is avail- able on the internet: Bernhard...

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