The Heart of the Last Austro-Hungarian Empire: Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

Larger Than Life: Art that inspires us through the ages

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria illuminated by sunset. (vichie81/Shutterstock)
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By Epoch Times Staff

For nearly 350 years, Vienna’s elegant Schönbrunn Palace was home to the powerful Habsburg dynasty, Austria’s last monarchy.

The Habsburgs ruled many kingdoms across Europe, such as Bohemia, Hungary, Portugal, and Spain. At the heart of the Habsburgs’ rule was a respect for the local heritage. They allowed local communities to continue speaking their own languages and practicing their religious and cultural traditions.

The Habsburgs’ rule effectively ended in 1918, after the dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I, although the reigning monarch, Charles I, never abdicated.

In 1919, the Austrian parliament initiated the Habsburg Law, confiscating all of the Habsburgs’ assets and expelling the ruling family. Charles I was banned from entering Austria, and other male Habsburgs could return only if they renounced any claim to the throne. Parts of the Habsburg Law have now been repealed, but the family’s property was never returned to them.

Schönbrunn Palace
 

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, home to the Habsburg monarchy for nearly 350 years. (Severin Wurnig/SKB)

Schönbrunn Palace
 

Schönbrunn Palace’s maze and labyrinth. (Severin Wurnig/SKB)

The Estate

Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, a Habsburg, purchased the estate in 1569, mainly for hunting game. The estate transformed many times over the years, from a 17th-century hunting lodge, to a château de plaisance, and then a palace in the 18th century.

The most extensive building and renovations were ordered by Marie Antoinette’s mother, Empress Maria Theresa, in the mid to late 18th century, and then by Emperor Franz Joseph in the late 19th century.

Today, the palace mainly reflects those eras, showcasing the exquisite 18th- and 19th-century Rococo and Rococo Revival architectural styles, respectively. The Rococo style consists of sweeping curves with ornate naturalistic and often fanciful motifs, although the elegant palace façade with its refined design and harmonious arches has been pared down from its original Rococo design.

One of the architectural highlights is the magnificent gloriette, an elevated garden building constructed so guests could admire the surroundings. Commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa, it represents the “Just War,” a traditional doctrine that stipulated moral values for the right to declare war and the appropriate conduct when at war.

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Schönbrunn Palace with the gloriette in the background. (A.E. Koller/SKB)

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The gloriette. (Severin Wurnig/SKB)

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The Vieux Laque Room. (Severin Wurnig/SKB)

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The Great Gallery. (Dennis Jarvis/CC BY-SA 2.0)

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The Walnut Room. (A.E. Koller/SKB)

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The Hall of Ceremonies. (A.E. Koller/SKB)

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The Marie Antoinette Room. (A.E. Koller/SKB)

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The Imperial Couple’s Bedroom. (A.E. Koller/SKB)

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Emperor Franz Joseph’s study. (A.E. Koller/SKB)

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The Neptune Fountain. (A.E. Koller/SKB)

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A folly of Roman ruins on the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace. A folly is an extravagant garden ornament built to be admired. Ancient-looking buildings or ruins were often erected as follies to symbolize the owner’s classical virtues. (Severin Wurnig/SKB)

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