Land in south eastern Germany, and former Duchy, Electorate and Kingdom, and one of the longest lasting political units in European history, though its borders have changed.
The present Land of Bavaria (Bayern) stretches northwards from the Allgäuer, Bayerischer and Salzburger Alps to lands beyond the River Main. In the northwestern corner is the city of Aschaffenburg on the River Main; in the northeast are the upper waters of the Rivers Saale and Eger (Ohøe in Czech), which are tributaries of the Elbe and so flow to the North Sea; in the southeast are the Alps around Berchtesgaden; in the southwest Bavaria has some miles of shore on Lake Constance (Bodensee), the lake through which the Rhine flows.
The rains that fall on the greater part of the Land however flow not to the North but to the Black Sea. The Danube flows across the middle of Bavaria, from Neu-Ulm to Passau, receiving on its right bank the waters of the Iller, Lech, Isar and Inn, which all rise in the Alps, and on its left bank those of the Wörnitz, Altmühl, Naab, Regen and Ilz.
The Alps occupy the southernmost districts, but their foothills reach northwards towards Munich. In the east is the Böhmerwald (Bohemian Forest), which separates Bavaria from the Czech Republic. In the southeast is the Bayerischer Wald, high, wooded country, between the Danube and the Regen, which separates it from the Böhmerwald. Running northeast from the Danube near Donauwörth is the Frankischer Alb, from the northwestern slopes of which the rivers run to the Main, and from the southeastern to the Danube. These and the other hills make Bavaria a high country, in Upper Bavaria mostly over 3000 feet, and in much of Lower Bavaria still over 1500 feet. Though Bavaria is a high land it is not broken up into fragments by its hills. It is focused on the valleys of the Danube and the Main.
This double focus is recent, recent at any rate in terms of Bavaria’s long survival. It was only in the early years of the 19th century that Bavaria extended to the valley of the Main, when the Bavarian Elector, soon to be King, benefited from his association with Napoleon. It was then that (East) Franconia, the northern and northwestern districts of the present Land, became Bavarian; then too that Bavaria moved westwards to take the lands of eastern Swabia.
It was in this Napoleonic era that Bavaria also extended southwards and eastwards, to take in Tirol and the Vorarlberg, Salzburg and the lands of the Innviertel. Unlike the northward and westward advances these were recoveries of old territories lost by Bavaria (the Innviertel as recently as 1779); and also unlike the advances into Franconia and Swabia they proved ephemeral, because they were at the expense of Austria, a greater power than Bavaria, but temporarily reduced in circumstance by French victories.
Rather more than a thousand years ago Bavaria extended into what are now the Danubian lands of Austria, at least as far as the River Enns, and at times as far as the Wienerwald. It also extended beyond the Alps, southwards across the Tirolean passes into lands which are now in northern Italy, and southeastwards to Carinthia, where Bavaria looked east to Hungary and south to the Balkans. It thus held within its lands much of the present-day Republic of Austria. When the Duchy of Bavaria was at its greatest extent to south and east, the Duke was also, for about a quarter of a century, involved in northeastern Italy and in the marches that protected against invasion from the east. The close association with northeastern Italy soon passed, but otherwise the wider Bavaria continued until the beginning of the 19th century in the ecclesiastical province of Salzburg, founded in 798 as the province for Bavaria and for the missionary work in the Avar lands recently subjected by Charlemagne.
Besides these extensions into neighbouring territory, Bavaria has also been joined with lands not contiguous with any of its territory, lands on the middle Rhine and lower Neckar, the lands of the Palatinate. It was only in 1945 that the last administrative connection between Bavaria and part of this region was finally severed.
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ Early Bavaria
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ Carolingian Bavaria
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ The Luitpolding Dukes and their successors, 907-976
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ The Duchy, 995-1180
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ Wittelsbach gains and partitions
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ The Electors of Bavaria
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ The Kingdom of Bavaria
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ Weimar and the Third Reich
- Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ The Land since 1945