Introduction of Bavaria
Duchy, kingdom, and republic, presently the largest state of Germany, located in the SE, bordered by Baden-Wutttemberg on the W, the Czech Republic on the E, and Switzerland and Austria on the S. Munich is its capital, with Nuremberg an important second city. Its deep penetration by the Danube River and its valley has provided a natural avenue for both migration and invasion.
First occupied by the Celts, it was taken by the Romans under Drusus (38 b.c.–9 b.c.) and became part of the provinces of Raetia and Noricum. In the breakup of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, it was devastated by the Lombards under Odoacer. Following this, the Marcomanni and Baiuoarii moved westward along the Danube Valley to settle in the Bavarian region between c. a.d. 490 and 520. From the sixth to the eighth centuries Bavaria was dominated by the Frankish kingdom. When Charles Martel defeated the Frankish duke Fassilo III in 788, it became part of the Carolingian Empire. Christianization of the region was begun by Scottish and Irish monks and completed by St. Boniface in the eighth century. With the division of Charlemagne’s empire in 817 and 843, Bavaria joined the East Frankish kingdom until 911 when it began a period of rule by indigenous sovereigns. In the High Middle Ages Frederick I Barbarossa, the Hohenstaufen emperor, restored Bavaria to Henry the Lion, then deposed him, and in 1180 gave the duchy to Otto of Wittelsbach, who initiated a dynasty that would rule Bavaria until 1918. Indeed, the Wittelsbachs demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness, initiative, and adaptation. With the onset of the Thirty Years’ War, Duke Maximilian I was in the vanguard of the Catholic League, a service that later yielded him the rank of elector and the territory of the Upper Palatinate in 1648.
Over and over again Bavaria’s agricultural abundance and strategic location made it a particularly desirable prize. The 18th century brought invasions in the wars of the Spanish, Austrian, and Bavarian successions. With invasion by Napoleon and the French in 1799, Bavarian elector Maximilian IV Joseph joined Napoleon, united all the family land s, became a member of the Confederation of the Rhine, and was made Bavarian king Maximilian I. In 1813, with Napoleon nearing defeat, Maximilian broke his alliance, joined the allies, and returned from the Congress of Vienna in full possession of all of present Bavaria.
Bavarian power during the 19th century was held successively by three Wittelsbachs who shared a love for the arts: King Louis I, Maximilian II, and Louis II. Their combined efforts and support established Munich as the cultural center that flourishes to the present day. With Otto von Bismarck’s achievement of German unification in 1871, Bavaria became a state in the German Empire.
Following World War I the Bavarian king Louis III, last of the Wittelsbachs, was deposed by Kurt Eisner, who established a short-lived socialist republic. Eisner was assassinated a few months later, and a communist revolution erupted, only to be bloodily suppressed by the German army. A center for movements of both the radical left and right in the first part of the 20th century, Bavaria nevertheless joined the Weimar Republic. Early in the 1920s, however, Hitler’s National Socialism was born in Munich. Though his famous Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 failed, Bavaria came under Hitler in 1933 when he acceded to power in Germany. Following World War II Bavaria became part of the U.S. zone of occupation until 1949, when it joined the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). Bavaria is now a major industrial center. In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a native of Bavaria, was elected pope as Benedict XVI.