Castles in Austria

Castle in ViennaHofburg Imperial Palace

Hofburg Imperial Palace is a palace in Vienna, Austria, which has housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and currently serves as the official residence of the President of Austria.

It was also known as the winter-residence, while Schönbrunn Palace was the preferred summer-residence.

The Hofburg Palace complex was built between the 13th and 20th century. The different wings of the former imperial residence portray the architectural periods of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque up to Classicism.

Schonbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and since the 1960s has also been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The Palace was once, in imperial times, supposed to rival Versailles, but since 1918 it has been property of the Austrian republic.

The last emperor spent his last years in this palace. It is in this palace that Mozart performed for the Empress and her guests, only 6 years old. It is possible to visit less than 40 of the more than 1440 rooms of this Baroque masterpiece which was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Early history of Schonbrunn palace – In the year 1569 the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased the Katterburg which was located on a large area between Meidling and Hietzing where today Schonbrunn’s parks and different buildings are situated.

He showed interest in the newly founded zoo, the Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo Vienna, and tried to establish not only a systematic maintenance of wild animals, but also a plantation of rare and exotic plants. He is justifiably called the creator of Schonbrunn’s garden arrangement.

The new name, Schonbrunn ("beautiful well"), has its roots in a water well from which water was consumed by the royal court in Vienna. During the next century many members of the royal family of Austria spent their summer vacations and hunting excursions in the Katterburg. In the days of the Turkish sieges the Katterburg was nearly destroyed and it appeared to be impossible to restore the castle.

Modern Schonbrunn Palace – Emperor Leopold I gave architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach the order to design a new palace. His first draft was a very utopian one, dealing with different antique and contemporary ideals.

His second draft showed a smaller and more realistic building. Construction began 1696 and after three years the first festivities were held in the newly built middle part of the palace. Unfortunately, not many parts of the first palace survived the next century because every emperor added or altered a bit on the inner and outer parts of the building.

By order of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the architect Nikolaus Pacassi reshaped Schonbrunn Palace in a way of the style of the Rococo era. At the end of the so-called Theresianian epoch Schonbrunn Palace was a vigorous centre of Austria’s empire and the royal family.

In the 19th century one name is closely connected with Schonbrunn’s, Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. He spent most of his life here and died on November 21, 1916 in his sleeping room. Through the course of his reign, Schonbrunn Palace was seen as a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) and remodelled in accordance with its history. The palace complex includes sets of faux Roman ruins and an orangerie, staple luxuries of European palaces of its type.

After the downfall of the monarchy in 1918 the newly founded Austrian Republic became the owner of Schonbrunn Palace and preserved the beautiful rooms and chambers as a museum for the visitors.

Salzburg Fortress

Salzburg Fortress (Hohensalzburg) towers over Mozart’s city, Salzburg. As well as being the icon of Salzburg, it is the largest fortress of its kind in Europe to have survived intact in its entirety. Hohensalzburg, the imposing fortress overlooking Salzburg, was built by Archbishop Gebhard in 1077.

Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach (1495-1519) presided over an extensive expansion of the fortress. Its greatest attractions for today’s visitor include the medieval Princes’ Chambers and the Fortress Museum. A short funicular railway was built in 1892 to provide a convenient way up the hill on which the fortress is situated; it begins its steep ascent from the station in the Festungsgasse.

The origins of the building, now almost a thousand years old, can be traced back to the time of the Investiture Controversy, the dispute between the kings and the Papacy over the investiture of bishops. In the course of the conflict, Archbishop Gebhard von Salzburg, who sided with the Papacy, ordered the construction of the defensive installations of Hohensalzburg, Hohenwerfen, and Friesach in his territory.

This first stage in the development of Hohensalzburg Fortress came to an end under Gebhard’s successor, Archbishop Conrad I (1160-47). For centuries, the archiepiscopal fortress retained its role as a refuge for the ecclesiastical rulers of the diocese of Salzburg.

The fortress owes its modern appearance to Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach (1495-1519), who had it extended and commissioned the lavish decoration of its interior. Ornamental paintings and skilfully crafted Gothic carvings can be admired in the Golden Hall and the Golden Room. Fifty-eight inscriptions and the famous coat of arms are additional reminders of his rule.

Since the days of Leonhard von Keutschach, the lion that is the symbol of the fortress has held a beetroot in its paws. The last significant structural modification to the fortress was the construction of the impressive Khuenburg bastion. It is notable that, throughout its long history, Hohensalzburg has never been captured or successfully besieged by its enemies. The only damage suffered by the fortress was relatively insignificant and occurred during the Peasants’ War.

Malevolent peasants managed to gain control of a cannon and fired straight at their overlord’s residence from the Kapitelplatz square in the city below. To this day, the dent left in a thick column of Untersberg marble bears witness to the only direct threat to leave its mark on the building. But the fortress was more than just a defensive position and residence in war-torn times.

During periods when there was no direct military threat to the city, it was used somewhat unceremoniously as a barracks and prison. Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich was held prisoner there by his nephew and successor, Markus Sittikus, for five years until his death in 1617.

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