Hofburg Imperial Palace in Wien
Hofburg Palace is a palace located in Vienna, Austria, that has housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It currently serves as the official residence of the President of Austria. It was the Habsburgs' principal winter residence, as the Schönbrunn Palace was their preferred summer residence.
The Hofburg area has been the documented seat of government since 1279 for various empires and republics. The Hofburg has been expanded over the centuries to include: various residences (with the Amalienburg), the chapel (Hofkapelle or Burgkapelle), museums (the Naturhistorisches Museum & Kunsthistorisches Museum), the Imperial Library (Hofbibliothek now the Prunksaal), the treasury (Schatzkammer), the national theatre (Burgtheater), the riding school (Hofreitschule), the horse stables (the Stallburg and Hofstallungen)and the Hofburg Congress Center.
The Hofburg faces the Heldenplatz ordered under the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph, as part of what was to become a Kaiserforum that was never completed.
Numerous architects have executed work at the Hofburg as it expanded, notably the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese (the Leopoldischiner Trakt), Lodovico Burnacini and Martino and Domenico Carlone, the Baroque architects Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach (the Reichschancelry Wing and the Winter Riding School), Johann Fischer von Erlach (the library), and the architects of the grandiose Neue Burg built between 1881 and 1913.
The Hofburg in Vienna is the former imperial residence. From 1438 to 1583 and from 1612 to 1806, it was the seat of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, thereafter the seat of the Emperor of Austria until 1918. Today it is the official seat of the Austrian Federal President.
The oldest sections originate from the 13th century and were primarily constructed by the last of the Babenbergers or by Ottakar II of Bohemia. Previously the castle of the Austrian rulers had been located on the square called "Am Hof," which is near the Scottish Monastery (Schottenstift).
These oldest sections of the castle form a square, surrounding what corresponds somewhat to today’s Swiss Court (Schweizerhof). There situated are a gothic chapel (Burgkapelle), from the fifteenth century, and the treasury (Schatzkammer), which holds, among other objects, the Imperial Insignia of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichskleinodien) and that of the Empire of Austria. The Imperial Music Chapel (Hofmusikkapelle) is also located in this area. This Swiss Court was built during the reign of Emperor Ferdinand I in the style of the Renaissance. Its famous red-black Swiss Gate (Schweizertor) displays the many titles of Emperor Ferdinand I and the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The lower section of this wing once accommodated the imperial kitchen.
Although not physically connected to the rest of the complex, the Imperial Stables (Stallburg) of the Hofburg were originally built as a residence for the then crown prince Maximilian II. It is said that Ferdinand I did not wish to house his son under his roof, being that Maximilian had veered towards Protestantism. This structure later accommodated the art collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, the art-inclined brother of Emperor Ferdinand III. This collection forms the core of the later Kunsthistorisches Museum from 1889. Only later were the Imperial Stables used to house the imperial horses, and even today it is still used by the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule).
Across from the Swiss Gate is the Amalienburg, named after Amalie Wilhelmine, the widow of Joseph I. However, this wing had already been in use for more than a century, constructed as the Viennese residence of Emperor Rudolph II in the style of the late Renaissance. Of note is the small tower with its dome and the astronomical clock on its façade.
The connection between the Amalienburg and the Swiss Court is the Leopold Wing which was first erected in the 1660s under Emperor Leopold I. The architect was Filiberto Lucchese, but after the Siege of 1683 by the Turks, the wing was rebuilt by Giovanni Pietro Tencala with an additional floor installed. Through its architecture, this wing still bears a connection to the Late Renaissance. It is in this wing that the offices of the Federal President are located. The lower section of this wing as well as that of the Amalienburg served as the enormous wine cellar for the Hofburg.
Imperial Chancellory Wing
An additional father-son collaborative project resulted in the Winter Riding School (Winterreitschule) across from the Stallburg (and where the first Austrian parliament sat in 1848) and in the Imperial Chancellory Wing (Reichskanzleitrakt) across from the Leopold Wing. The latter was originally planned by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt and accommodated, in addition to the Aulic Council (Reichshofrat), the offices of the Imperial Vice Chancellor (Reichsvizekanzler), who was the de facto prime minister of the Holy Roman Empire since the position of Imperial Arch-Chancellor (Reichserzkanzler)—which the Imperial Vice Chancellor represented—had always been filled by the Archbishop of Mainz since the Middle Ages. After the end of the Holy Roman Empire, this wing housed the apartments of the Duke of Reichstadt (Napoleon II) and later those of Emperor Francis Joseph I.
Originally a free-standing structure, the Imperial Library (Hofbibliothek) was housed on the other side of the complex. Charles VI founded the library, which is now called the Prunksaal, cared for by the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek). Its construction was begun by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and finished by his son Joseph Emanuel in 1735. This magnificent hall contains the book collection of Prince Eugene, an enormous ceiling fresco by Daniel Gran, and statues of emperors by Paul Strudel making this part of the Hofburg its most significant in artistic terms. The exterior decoration with Attika figures was executed by Lorenzo Mattielli in 1726. He placed a statue of Pallas Athene riding on a quadriga above the main entrance. On the left portion of the roof, he situated Atlas, supporting the celestial globe, flanked by Astronomy and Astrology, and on the opposite side, Gaia with the terrestrial globe, flanked by allegories of Geometry and Geography.
On the south-east side of Josefsplatz stands the Baroque Augustinian Wing. It completely conceals the west facade of St. Augustine's Church, which was used by the Habsburgs as their court church and also for weddings. This is where Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth alias Sisi were married. The church has a side chapel known as the Herzerlgruft (Hearts' Crypt), so called because the hearts of the Habsburgs were interred there.
Maria Theresia had a 17th century opera house converted into the beautiful dance and concert halls now known as the Redoutensaele. The original plans were drawn up by Jean Nicolas Jadot de Ville-Issey, while the external facades are the work of Nicolo Pacassi and Franz Hillebrand. The Redoutensaele soon became the setting for a cultivated style of entertainment. The name is derived from the French word "redoute", meaning an elegant masked ball, and such balls were also held there. Johann Strauss served as musical director to the court for the balls, and the audience was treated to music by Joseph Haydn, Nicolo Paganini and Franz Liszt. The premiere of Beethoven's 8th Symphony took place there in 1842. The well known saying "The Congress dances" derives from the balls held in the Redoutensaele in the framework of the Congress in Vienna in 1814/15. Over the centuries, various modification have been made the balls in line with changing tastes. On 27 November 1992 the whole wing with the Redoutensaele was seriously damaged by fire. The reconstruction and restorage work performed lasted five years. While the Kleiner Redoutensaal was faithfully restored, for the interior of the Grosser Redoutensaal a design competition was held, which was won by the Austrian artist Josef Mikl. He created a number of oil paintings based on literary quotations taken from Ferdinand Raimund, Johann Nepomuk Nestroy, Elias Canetti and Karl Kraus. The Redoutensaele reopened in 1998 in the framework of the first Austrian presidency of the EU and became since then part of the Hofburg Congress Center.
St. Michael's Wing
The St. Michael's Wing was also planned by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, and it serves as the connection between the Winter Riding School and the Imperial Chancellery Wing. However, because the old Imperial Theatre (Burgtheater) stood in the way, these plans remained unrealized until Ferdinand Kirschner built the wing from 1889 to 1893, utilizing a slightly altered plan.
More structures and annexes were successively added. Particularly from 1763 to 1769, Nicolo Pacassi connected the Imperial Library to the other parts of the Hofburg and its other side to St. Augustine’s Church (Augustinerkirche), and he thus created the present Joseph Square (Josephsplatz), one of the most beautiful locations in Vienna. After the renovation of the Albertina in the 1820s by Joseph Kornhäusel, that section became connected to the Hofburg as well.
The Ceremonial Hall - Montoyer Wing
"Nose of the Hofburg" - that was the name originally given to the Zeremoniensaal or Ceremonial Hall. It was built for Emperor Franz II/I by the Belgian architect Louis Montoyer at the beginning of the 19th century. Its nickname derived from the fact that it formed a clearly visible protrusion at right angles to the Leopold Wing for almost a hundred years. With its ornate coffered ceiling and 26 crystal chandeliers, which once held 1,300 candles, the Zeremoniensaal has a truly imperial aspect. The 24 Corinthian columns have an artificial marble finish, the surface is not real stone but a form of painted gypsum known as stucco lustro. Right here Napoleon asked for the hand of Marie Louise, the daughter of Emperor Franz II/I, and where the exclusive Ball at the Court was held. On Maundy Thursday, Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth invited twelve poor old men and women to have their feet washed in a traditional Maundy ceremony.
In 1809, a part of the old bastion adjacent to the old castle was demolished in the course of the Napoleonic Wars. All the way up to the present Ringstraße, new grounds were laid, in which the neoclassical Castle Gate (Burgtor) was integrated. Within the new walls which were erected in 1817, three gardens were laid: the private Imperial Castle Garden (Burggarten), Heroes Square as a lawn with boulevards, and the People’s Garden (Volksgarten) with the Temple of Theseus (Theseustempel), which, along with the Burgtor, was designed by Peter von Nobile. A further addition from this period (already by 1804) is the Hall of Ceremonies (Zeremoniensaal) by Louis Montoyer, which at that time was a protrusion jutting out of the complex. Today it is fully integrated into the New Castle (Neue Burg).
Neue Burg and Montoyer Wing
Following the enlargement of Vienna after the demolition of the city walls in the 1860s, the Hofburg had its last great expansion. An Imperial Forum (Kaiserforum) was planned—a two-winged structure reaching beyond the Ringstraße, with the twin museums (Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum) as flanks and terminating at the old Imperial Stables (the Hofstallungen, not to be confused with the much older Stallburg) of Fischer von Erlach. The project was led by Gottfried Semper and later by Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer. The museums were completed in 1891, but construction of the rest of the forum dragged on slowly and conflicted since, besides ostentation, no real function could be found for the enormous construction project. In 1913, the south-west wing, the New Castle (Neue Burg), was completed. However, the Imperial Forum was never finished. In its place, Heroes Square (Heldenplatz) and Maria Therese Square (Maria-Theresien-Platz) were laid. The New Castle wing today houses a number of museums (the Ephesus Museum, the Collection of Arms and Armor, the Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments, and the Museum of Ethnology) as well as the reading rooms of the Austrian National Library and the Hofburg Congress Center of international renown. Equestrian statues of the two most important Austrian field marshals, Prince Eugene of Savoy and Archduke Charles, stand at the foci of Heroes Square. On March 15, 1938, Adolf Hitler proclaimed from the balcony of the New Castle onto Heroes’ Square the “Anschluss” of Austria into the Third Reich (Deutsches Reich).
Of note are the equestrian statue of Emperor Joseph II by Franz Anton Zauner at the center of Joseph Square as well as the statue of Francis I in the Inner Castle Court (innerer Burghof) by Pompeo Marchesi. After the completion of Michael Square, two sculpted fountains were installed on its façade: Power at Sea by Rudolf Weyr and Power on Land by Edmund Hellmer.
Museums of the Hofburg
The Hofburg Palace is so popular and famous that it was the main motif of one of the most famous silver collectors' coins: the 20 euro Renaissance commemorative coin.
The coin shows the "Swiss Gate" of the palace. This gate bears Ferdinand I's coat-of-arms and titles. It is flanked by two soldiers of the period as a reminder of the unsettled times which saw Vienna besieged by Turkish armies in 1529, as well as the struggles between Protestants and Catholics during the Reformation.
HOFBURG Vienna - Convention Center
In September 1958 parts of the Hofburg were opened to the public as convention center. Europe's first imperial convention centre played an important role in the development of the congress and meeting tourism in Vienna. In the first ten years the BHÖ (Burghauptmannschaft Österreich) ran the convention center; since 1969 a private company (HOFBURG Vienna - Wiener Kongresszentrum Hofburg Betriebsgesellschaft)has been managing the international congress and events center. HOFBURG Vienna offers 182000 sq.ft of floor space spread across 35 rooms for events for anything from 50 to 4,900 people. Every year the convention center is hosting about 300 to 350 events with around 300,000 to 320,000 guests. Among the events are conventions and meetings as well as banquets, trade fairs, concerts and balls. In addition to this HOFBURG Vienna is the permanent conference seat of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
Festsaal - Festival Hall
With its 1,000m2 of floor space, the Festival Hall (Festsaal) is the biggest hall in the whole of the Hofburg. Although built as a throne room, it was never used as such. The internal works were finished in 1923, but the artwork remained incomplete. The Festsaal boasts Alois Hans Schramm's three Ceiling paintings to the greater glory of the Habsburgs, complete with Emperor Franz Joseph's motto "Viribus Unitis" (with united strength). The lower lunettes and octagonal panels are decorated with paintings by Eduard Veith and Viktor Stauffer of famous people from Austrian history, with Maximilian I, Kalr V, Ferdinand I, Rudolf II and Ferdinand II of Tyrol to be seen in the ceiling paintings, and Leopold I, Kalr VI, Prince Eugen and also the Polish King Jan III Sobieski in the side panels.
Zeremoniensaal - Ceremonial Hall
The Zeremoniensaal is the most splendid in the whole of the Hofburg. The Belgian architect Louis Montoyer designed the hall as a throne room for Emperor Franz II/I. With its ornate coffered ceiling and 26 crystal chandeliers, which once held 1,300 candeles, the hall has a truly imperial aspect. The 24 Corinthian columns have an artificial marble finish. This is where Napoleon aked for the hand of Marie Louise, the daughter of Emperor Franz II/I, and where the exclusive Ball at the Court was held. On Maundy Thursday, Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth invited twelve poor old men and women to have their feed washed in a traditional Maundy ceremony.
Mamorsaal - Marble Hall
The walls of the Marble Hall next to the Ceremonial Hall date back to the 16th century, while the artificial marbeling for the interior wad added around 1840 to match the appearance of the Ceremonial Hall. During the imperial period it was used as a dining room and for balls for the children at court.
Geheime Ratstube - Privy Council Room
The adjoining Privy Council Room is part of the Early Baroque Leopold Wing. This is where Emperor Franz Joseph held his opening speeches at the sessions of the Austro-Hungarian Delegation. Right here the Archducke Franz Ferdinand, a nephew of Franz Joseph who was first in line for the succession, spoke the Oath of Renunciation on 28 June 1900 and in so doing renounced all claim to the throne in the name of his future wife and descendents.
Antekammer - Anterroom
The Anteroom to the marble Hall is in the Swiss Wing, the oldest of the Hofburg buildings. It has particularly thick walls, which were originally part of one of the towers of the old fortress.
Radetzky- Appartements - Radetzky Apartements
An adjoining section of the Swiss Wing houses the Radetzky Apartments. In recognition of his services in the Italian campaign during the revolutionary year of 1848, Franz Joseph permitted the meritorious Field Marshal Radetzky to live in these apartments in spite of the fact that he was not a member of the court.
Rittersaal - Knight's Hall
The Swiss Wing also houses the Knight's Hall. It is here that Maria Theresia was baptised by the Papal Nuntius Spinola as the representative of Pope Clemens XI on 15 May 1717 with baptismal water containing a few drops from the River Jordan.
Trabantenstube - Guard Room
Next to the Knight's Hall is the Guard Room, where the duty officer of the Household Guards kept watch over the Emperor.
The Redoutensaele are placed in the Redouten Wing. Beside the Großer and the Kleiner Redoutensaal they include the Dachfoyer (Rooftop Foyer). The Redoutensaele were entirely destroyed in a fire in 1992 and under reconstruction until re-opening in 1998. The Großer Redoutensaal was adorned with frescos and murals by the Austrian painter Josef Mikl in the course of reconstruction. Mikl’s paintings in the Grosser Redoutensaal "depict scenes from his favourite authors Elias Canetti, Johann Nestroy und Ferdinand Raimund. His 404 m² ceiling painting incorporates 34 handwritten verses of Karl Kraus’ poem “Youth”, albeit in a form not visible to the viewer."
The contemporary Hofburg
Restoration of the roof of the Redoutensaal following the fire in 1992, proved an opportunity to convert the original loft space into a new amenity called the Dachfoyer (Rooftop Foyer). The architect Manred Wehdorn designed a modern interior, completed with a striking spherical structure for secure conferences. The panoramic window provides breathtaking views of the Michael Cupola. Beside the Dachfoyer, Manfred Wehdorn also turned the former courtyard between the Festival Hall and the southwest wing of the Swiss courtyart to the modern Hofburg Galery and beneath the Hofburg Forum in 2006.
- View on Google Maps - includes a short video.
- Website of HOFBURG Vienna (Hofburg Congress Center)
- Website of the Vienna Hofburg Orchestra
- Hofburg Imperial Palace information and photography
- The different sections and museums of the Hofburg
- Panoramic virtual tour inside the Hofburg Imperial Palace