Bavaria

Patroness of the Bavarian state

Enthroned at an impressive height of 18 metres, Bavaria, patroness of the Bavarian state, presides over Munich from the edge of Theresienwiese. The monument, the first colossal statue to be made entirely of bronze since the classical period, is a true feat of engineering.

The Bavarian King Ludwig I commissioned the monumental statue in 1837. It is surrounded by the Hall of Fame, which houses busts of prominent Bavarians from the last few centuries. The ensemble was intended as a patriotic monument, reminding people of the accomplishments and glory of Bavaria.

Ludwig’s private and royal architect, Leo von Klenze, was tasked, along with sculptor Ludwig Schwanthaler, with designing the Bavaria statue. Munich-born metal caster Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and his nephew Ferdinand von Miller were commissioned with casting the statue in bronze.

By the time the statue of Bavaria was finally inaugurated in 1850, however, its creator Ludwig Schwanthaler was already dead and its commissioner, Ludwig I, was no longer king.

“Only Nero and I have produced such giant statues – no-one has done it since Nero’s time,” the Bavarian king commented at the time on his decision to construct the statue. And indeed, he was right – this was the first time since the classical period that a colossal artwork had been created using traditional metalworking processes. However, Bavaria has little in common with any classical statue when it comes to her appearance: wearing a bearskin, sword and oak wreath, and flanked by a lion, she makes a distinctly German display.

The casting of Bavaria is one of the true technical feats of the 19th century. When the head of Bavaria was raised from the sandpit on 11 September 1844, and lifted four metres above the ground, Miller was able to present a magnificent spectacle to the king. Stunned and speechless, Ludwig I watched as no fewer than 28 workers and two children – Miller’s sons Fritz and Ferdinand – climbed into the gigantic head For a long time, the king was convinced it was a trick.

By the time the statue of Bavaria was finally inaugurated in 1850, however, its creator Ludwig Schwanthaler was already dead and its commissioner, Ludwig I, was no longer king.

How much the lady must have seen, and been forced to see, since then! Peace demonstrations and revolutionary marches after the First World War, Nazi celebrations, bombs dropped on her beloved city, a plane crash, an attack, and even a sinkhole.

“Only Nero and I have produced such giant statues – no-one has done it since Nero’s time”
King Ludwig I.

Undoubtedly her favourite thing is to look down on the many kinds of public entertainment that take place on the Theresienwiese below, whether it be a circus, the Tollwood Winter Festival, the Central Agricultural Festival – or, of course, Oktoberfest. She has also emerged unscathed from repairs after the turn of the millennium. She does not really feel the hollow collisions inside her from dizzy people who are no longer quite as sure-footed as usual, but who still want to look down on the Wiesn from above. May she continue to look upon us for a long time to come!

However, Bavaria also has other faces. From the largest Bavaria to the oldest: both a copy and the original of Hubert Gerhard’s goddess Bavarica, over 400 years old, can be seen in Munich. A reproduction of the piece crowns the Temple of Diana in the Hofgarten. The original can be seen up close and personal just a few metres away among the bronze pillars of the Residenz.

From 2010 to 2018, Munich has been home to yet another Bavaria: Cabaret artist Luise Kinseher embodied this splendid Bavarian female figure in a tongue-in-cheek way once a year at the festival marking the ceremonial tapping of the Salvator keg. At this event, she read the riot act to the political bigwigs of the city, and impersonated Bavaria’s patroness as the loving, but strict Mama Bavaria.

www.schloesser.bayern.de

 

 

Photo: H. Gebhardt