Obsessive-compulsive Disorder - Writ Large | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 01.07.2004
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Obsessive-compulsive Disorder - Writ Large

King Ludwig II, often called mad King Ludwig, built more than his share of castles, and some of Bavaria's most famous ones. But why? A German psychologist thinks he had the answer: compulsive palace-building syndrome.


The Neuschwanstein castle - built due to a mental disorder?

Some people simply have that itch that can't be scratched. Some wash their hands repeatedly; others are constantly checking if the stove's turned off; or they eat lunch at precisely the same time every day.

Fewer feel compelled to build huge palaces over and over again. But Ludwig did.

He squandered a royal fortune due to a particular form of megalomania, according to Professor Heinz Häfner, founder of the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim, a compulsion to build castle after castle after castle.

He came to this conclusion upon studying the secret archives of Prince Franz of Bavaria, a descendant of King Ludwig. His findings about the mental state of this controversial 19th century figure will be published in the proceedings of Heidelberg Academy of Sciences.

King Ludwig was instrumental in bringing Bavaria into a unified Germany, but he is most remembered for his fairy tale-like Neuschwanstein castle, the inspiration for many a Disney film.

There were other castles: Herrenchiemsee, with a hall of mirrors longer than that at Versailles; Linderhof, with its artificial grotto over a lake; as well as Nymphenburg and Hohenschwangau. In the end, the expense of building them wrecked Bavaria financially.

Bayern mit Flagge

Despite his problems, the king is still loved in Bavaria.

The professor says the misunderstood king, who was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic by government ministers who were eager to oust him, suffered from an addiction like gambling or kleptomania.

The king would get a craving to build, turn all restless and excited, and could only be calmed by drawing up plans and visiting the construction site.

After a period of satisfaction, the cycle would start all over again. The king allegedly committed suicide in 1886, drowning in the Starnberg Lake near Munich, although many a conspiracy theory about murder exists. According to Professor Häfner, the king was lucid until his death, perhaps already dreaming up plans for the next gargantuan building project, or maybe resigned to death since he likely realized since the cash had run out, his building days had come to an end.