King Ludwig Way: Pilgrim routes and churches
Established in 1977, the King Ludwig Way begins at the site of the ‘mad’ king’s mysterious death at Starnberger See.
From here the 120Km trail meanders through the pastureland, forests and the lake district of the Bavaria that King Ludwig’s so loved.
The route leads to his extravagant fairy-tale castles at Hohenschwangau, before ending at Fussen.
Along the way, you get used to seeing onion domed baroque churches and roadside crucifixes as well as piles of timber, awaiting conversion into fine furnishings or firewood; all of which appears before the snow-capped Ammergau Alps in the distance.
7 Must-See Churches and Monastaries
1. Andechs – a Benedictine monastery – now famed for its brewery
2. Deissen – with its mighty imposing cathedral
4. Hohenpeissenberg – where, almost 1000 metres above sea level, its monks founded a weather station that still operates today.
5. Rottenbuch – with its High Baroque 18th century church
6. Wieskirche – a masterpiece of 18th century Bavarian Rococo
7. Steingaden – where an abbey, dedicated to John the Baptist, was founded in the 12th century. It was later burned down and rebuilt before being finally dissolved. Yet the abbey church and one wing of the cloisters remain.\
Places of Pilgramage
This journey, from one holy sites to another, is intersected by, and in places runs alongside, two major European pilgrim routes.
First, ‘Jacobsweg’, one of the many routes from all over Europe converging on Santiago (some 2605Km away).
Second, the Via Romea, established in the 13th century, leads from Hamburg onto Italy, joining up with the more famous Via Francigena, to then reach Rome.
Two of the monastic sites mentioned above are in themselves places of pilgrimage.
At Hohenpeissenberg, in the church established here in the early 16th century, a carved image of the Mother of God attracted pilgrims in such numbers that a second church was built to accommodate them.
At Wieskirche, tears were seen upon a dilapidated wooden figure of the scourged Jesus in 1738.
The miracle attracted pilgrims such that a small chapel was built to accommodate them. However, it was soon realised that this was too small for the large number of pilgrims and so the grand church that exists here today was then built.
Despite the early 19th century ‘secularization of Bavaria’, this fine church and many others along the King Ludwig Way, with their ornate sculptures and murals, designed to ‘make the divine visible’, thankfully still exist.