Rococo Bavaria 9 - 20 Sept

Posted on Monday 5th November 2012

On 9th September some 24 members of the LAF and friends set off by coach from Leeds for this 12 day visit to southern Germany to look at Strictly Rococo art and architecture. No Mad King Ludwig, no German Expressionism. After an overnight stay at Ghent we spent the first three nights in the delightful city of Bamberg, strictly speaking in late-Gothic Franconia, in the converted 18th century hospital, but a wonderful base from which to visit Wurzburg, Vierzhenheiligen, Bayreuth and Pommersfelden. Here we enjoyed the works of (among many others) the architect Balthasar Neumann, the painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, the stuccoist and sculptor Antonio Bossi, and enlightened patrons such as Princess Wilhemina and the nepotistic Prince - Bishops of the Schonborn family. They broke us in to the full delights of the Rococo style as one in which all the arts blend to create a single unified whole, perhaps to be seen in its glory in Munich. Our erudite and charming guide here for two days was Dr Max Tillmann who took us us through the brilliant court style of the Electors Max Emanuel, Karl Albrecht and Max Josef among the treasures at the Bayersiches Museum, the Residenz, the Cuvillies Theatre, Nymphenburg (including of course the Amalienburg and where we also had special access to the upper rooms of the Badenburg), as well as at Schleissheim and Lustheim. By now thoroughly attuned to the extraordinary sophistication of the style we moved into the countryside to see its diffusion and adoption into the popular culture of the people. This was to be found in the churches, especially the pilgrimage churches and abbeys often set in beautiful verdant landscapes with the Alps as a backdrop: at Diessen, Ettal, the Wieskirche, Birnau, Zweifalten, Ottobeuron. All of them feasts for the eyes, joyful, extrovert, easy to read, accessible. For this part of our journey we were based on Lake Constance on island city of Lindau in a very comfortable hotel overlooking the toytown harbour, all adding to the slight sense of unreality which the visit had by now instilled in us. But there was still a final coup de foudre: travelling north via a lunchtime stop at Heidelburg we just made it in time to see Schloss Bruhl, near Cologne: an outpost of Bavaria in the Rhineland, built by Max Emanuel's son, the Archbishop-Elector Clems August von Wittelsbach, in the most Frenchified style of the early rococo - far outshining anything surviving in France. After staying the final night in an 18th century convent school turned hotel de luxe just across the border in Holland we bade good bye to the Holy Roman Empire, crossed the Channel and turned once again to the 21st century. Our thanks are due to James Lomax for devising the programme, Alexandra Loske our faithful guardian angel and Tony Broome our faultless driver from Britannia Tours of Otley.