On 21 October 1961, at 4 o'clock in the morning, fire broke out in the Princes Building and spread rapidly. The town's voluntary fire brigade immediately arrived on the scene and at first seemed to be winning the battle against the flames. However, the fire then continued to the wooden floors between the storeys where it was impossible to control. It then erupted into the air and at the same moment the Princes' Building was engulfed in a sea of flames.
Fire engines from the professional fire brigades of Munich and Regensburg rapidly provided reinforcements, and the technical relief organization (Technisches Hilfswerk), the army and the Bavarian Red Cross arrived to give further assistance. A quick rescue operation saved the contents of the Kapelle and the archives. The interior of the Princes' Building collapsed in the fire and the St George Knights' Hall above the chapel burned out. Through their ceaseless efforts the fire brigade succeeded in containing the fire. Falling chimneys pierced the arcades and injured three firemen, one of them fatally. It was not until the early afternoon of 21 October that the fire was finally extinguished. The cause, as reported by the investigating committee, was an immersion coil for boiling water that had been left unattended.
The burnt out Princes' Building
The interior of the Princes' Building, the suites of rooms from the time of Duke Wilhelm V, painted by Sustris and his assistants with additions by Franz Joseph Geiger, were destroyed, as were the accommodation furnished for King Ludwig II and the St George Knights' Hall above the chapel dating from the reign of Duke Ludwig X. The chapel and all it contained was saved. So also were the Italian extension with its cabinets and the Fools' Staircase, although here restoration was necessary.
Immediately after the fire, the Bavarian Palace Department initiated measures to save the building. These were carried out by the Landshut Building Control Office. After the roofs were replaced and the work on the shell was completed, including the extremely difficult task of shoring up the entire complex with concrete supports, the restoration work could begin. In subsequent years a large number of highly detailed restoration measures were carried out.
Thorough restoration of the castle chapel, which had suffered secondary damage in the fire, was begun in 1966, which included returning it to its pre-19th-century form. In 1968 the restored ground floor rooms, the chapel and the Old and New Knights' Halls were reopened to the public. These were followed in 1973 by the rooms on the two upper floors, the White Hall with its side rooms and a restaurant in the basement of the Princes' Building.
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