After Napoleon defeated Prussia in 1807, 20 year old Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria began to plan a hall of fame honouring outstanding personalities of German origin.
Art historian Jörg Traeger summed up the idea behind the Walhalla as follows: "In the 19th Century the nation was a belief. Art expressed that belief."
Leo von Klenze, the architect, modelled the exterior on the Parthenon in Athens.
Meaning and significance
"Walhalla" means "hall of the dead". "German - Germanic" personalities may be considered for a place in this hall of fame twenty years after their death at the earliest.
Upon entering the hall, the visitorfinds himself facing an impressive collection of outstanding personalities. 128 marble busts and 64 commemorative tablets bear witness to achievements in German and European history, arts and science, music and painting (see Walhalla - official guide for more Information and individual biographies).
The tablets honour a proud succession of figures from Hermann the Cheruscan to Peter Henlein, inventor of the pocket watch. No authentic likenesses of these 64 personalities exist. It was therefore impossible to commission a bust.
First in the row of busts is the German King Henry l (the Fowler); last is Sophie Scholl (member of the White Rose resistance group).
The subtle use of multi-coloured marble for the floor and walls, an ornately structured ceiling decorated with figures from Germanic mythology, a freize of reliefs depicting scenes from early German history, caryatids and six Valkyries (by Chr. Daniel Rauch) combine to create a dynamic yet graceful interior.
The Walhalla was conceived äs an "open" monument. In other words, it was intended that more busts would be added in future. This has happened at irregulär intervals.
Admission procedure and Installation of a bust
Any German may submit a proposal.
The idea of honouring personalities "of the German tongue" without regard for national frontiers, elevates the community in the Walhalla to an early version of the European Union. King Ludwig l selected men and women from Sweden, Austria, England, Holland, Russia, Switzerland and the Baltic States.
The romantic act of transcending geopolitical barriers makes the Walhalla a symbol of unity between nations. In an age which has seen the emergence of a closely-knit European community of 27 states, which Interpretation of this monument and its significance could be more fitting?