The Vienna Hofburg,Part 2- The History of the Hofburg

The History of the Hofburg

Prologue: The End of the Babenbergs

The Babenberg ruler Henry II Jasomirgott, who in 1156 had obtained for Austria the status of a duchy from Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, built a palace in his ne capital, Vienna. The building and walls surrounded a courtyard, today the square Am Hof. Under his son Leopold V and succeeding rulers, the ducal palace, whicl has vanished today, was expanded. It was financed in p with the English ransom paid for the release of Richard the Lion-Hearted, who was captured in Vienna in 1 r 93 while returning from the Holy Land.

With the death of Frederick II on June 15,1246, in the bat­tle against the Hungarians at the Leitha River, the male lini of the Babenberg family, which had ruled since 976, came an end. In 1252, Frederick’s sister Margaret, a widow sino 1242, married Otakar II Premysl of Bohemia, who assunn power in Vienna and expanded his sphere of influence fro: the Sudeten region to the Adriatic. But when he was excluded from voting in the 1273 election that chose Rud< of Habsburg (1218-T291) to be the first German king (ki of the Romans), he refused to recognize Rudolf. In 1276 t Imperial Diet launched a military campaign against Otaka and Rudolf I marched on Vienna with an army of 20,000. The decisive Battle of Diimkrut took place in T278 on the Marchfeld plain, and Otakar was killed as he tried to flee.


The Fortress of Otakar II


By 1275 king of Bohemia had begun construction of a fortress within the Vienna city wall (built between 1200 1207) on an elevation next to the Widmer Gate. It was a complex with four towers around a rectangular courtyard which today is called the Schweizerhof (Swiss Court).

Rudolf I is said to have moved into the fortress in 1279 because the ducal fortress of the Babenbergs had become uninhabitable following a large fire in 1276. His son Albert (1248-1308) built the Castle Chapel (first mentioned in 1296).

To the southeast of the fortress, the Church of the Augustinian Friars was consecrated in 1349. There were two reasons why no other major architectural changes occurred during this period: firstly, the construction of St. Stephen’s Cathedral required large sums of money, and Vienna had lost importance with the division of Habsburg lands {1379). The fortress was then used only »ally as a residence.

The only major change occurred when Albert V (1379-1439) rebuilt the chapel (1423-1426). 452, Frederick III (1415-1493), who preferred Wiener as his residence, was crowned emperor of the Roman Empire by the Pope. The title remained in the family (with a brief interruption between 1742 and 1745) until the Empire came to an end in 1806. In 1488, the  “House of Austria” was reunited for 76 years, fcan I (1459-1519), the “Last Knight,” was the of the Habsburg practice of conducting politics _ matrimony. His motto was: “Bella gerant alii, tu terru nube” (“Let others wage wars: you, fortunate marry”). In 1477, Maximilian married Mary of k heiress to the rich duchy to which the Nether- o i?eionged. His son Philip (1478-1506) married t -c.rcrss of Castile and Aragon, bringing Spain with in South America into the Habsburg realm. Fer- 1503-1564), a grandson of Maximilian, married iarress to the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary, three generations the Habsburgs were in pos- af 2 world empire on which “the sun never set”. Ferdinand I made Vienna the capital of the archduchy. Following the Turkish siege of 1 529, he built a ring of bastions 6s along the ring wall in 1531. The bastion called the Burg Bastion and later the “Spanier” (Spanish Bastion) was built in front of the Widmer Gate. Significant changes were also made within the fortress: the three existing wings were extended outwards and upwards, and the fortified wall on the northwest was replaced by a fourth wing with the Schweizertor (Swiss Gate, built in 1552, probably by Pietro Ferrabosco). Because there was still a shortage of space, a wing was added on the southwest, above the Wid­mer Gate and beyond, for Ferdinand’s children (the “Kinderstockl”). On the side towards the city, the Burg- platz (Castle Square), on which tournaments were held, was bordered by several buildings that housed the newly constituted administration, including the Court Treasury and the Court Chancellery. On the northwest, the Cillier- hof, which had burned almost to the ground in 1525, was repaired and restored to its use as an armour)’. Other addi­tions were a room of natural arts and wonders in the palace, a hospital north of the Cillierhof, a corridor from the palace to the Church of the Augustinian Friars and a new Real (Royal) Tennis Court, because the old one had been destroyed in a devastating fire. This was a type of ten­nis that Ferdinand I had learned to play in Spain.

The Stallburg and the Amalienburg

In 1559, Ferdinand began building a residence for his son on the grounds of an abandoned church east of the palace. Construction of the free-standing building, how­ever, proceeded slowly. Following the death of his father in 1564, Maximilian II (1527-1576) moved into the old residence, converting the new building to provide a stable for his Spanish horses. To this building, known as the Stallburg, a second storey was added in 1 565. Hardly any changes were made to the fortress itself, which according to contemporary accounts must have been quite ugly. In 1554, Ferdinand I decided to divide the Habsburg lands among his three sons, which once again diminished the importance of Vienna. Maximilian II, who in addition to “Austria above and below the Enns River” had also received Bohemia and Hungary, spent much of his time in Prague. A year before his death in 1576, he decided to erect a new building to provide a court for his eldest son, replacing the Cillierhof. The armoury moved to Renngasse. But instead of holding court in Vienna, the son, Rudolf II (1552-1612), moved his residence to Prague. As governor, his brother Ernest occupied the third large free­standing building, which was constructed between 1575 and 1577. (The name the building has today, Amalien­burg, was not used until the 18th century: the widow of Joseph I, Amalia of Brunswick, moved there in 1711 after her husband’s death.)

To house the treasury and art collections, Rudolf II built a new wing {1 583-1585) on the northeast of the palace. It was a three-storey building located behind the Real Tennis Court. Expansion of the Amalienburg continued until 1610-1611. Following the death of Rudolf II, his brother Matthias (1557-1619) moved his residence back to Vienna, but because of the Thirty Years’ War few changes were made to the Hofburg. Under Ferdinand II (1578-1637) a ballroom was built (1629-1631) where the two Redoutensále now stand. Most likely this was done at the request of Empress Eleonora Gonzaga. This building, probably a wooden structure, was con­verted by Giovanni Burnacini between 1659 and 1660 into a theatre with the latest stage technology. He was commissioned to do so by Leopold I (1640-1705), who ruled for almost half a century (starting in 1657). On the occasion of Leopold’s marriage to the infanta Margaret Theresa of Spain in 1666, a new three-tiered opera house with seating for 5000 was built on the “Cortina” (curtain) of the city wall in the area of what is today the Burggarten. The wedding is said to have been one of  the most lavish celebrations ever staged in the Hofburg.



                        The Amalienburg with the Minorite Church behind it


                                                           Burggarten Wien




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