Global Issues: Austria & Czech Republic/Case Reports/Palaces
For roughly 600 years the Vienna Hofburg was the primary residence of those who ruled over Austria. Over time the Hofburg has developed into one of the most important focal points of European history. From the Hofburg located in Vienna the Habsburgs ruled from the 13th century. Initially their rule started as rulers of the Austrian lands then from 1452 as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The last phase of their rule was from 1806 to the end of the Monarchy in 1918 as emperors of Austria.
Originally a medieval fortified castle dating from the 13th century, the Hofburg palace was modified and extended extended by each emperor. The palace underwent so much construction that it eventually came to look like a 'city within a city'. The sprawling and vast asymmetric complex which extends to well over 240,000 square feet. The present day palace now consists of 2,600 rooms, 19 courtyards, 18 wings. There are also 2600 rooms where approximately 5000 peoples work. Also, some people live there.
The oldest part of the Hofburg is the Alte Burg Old Fortress. Since the 18th century the Old Forstress has been called the Schweizertrakt (Swiss Wing) after the Swiss Guards who served as the palace watch. The core of the Hofburg complex remains intact. It should be noted that although its four corner towers, most of the moat and the drawbridge were modified over the centuries. Around the middle of the 16th century the façade was changed to reflect the Renaissance style.
In 1552 the Schweizertor (Swiss Gate) was built. The gate was designed by Pietro Ferabosco. This piece is one of a few Renaissance monuments the still remain in Vienna. This particular wing houses the Imperial Treasury. This place is where the regalia of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Empire are presently kept. The Vienna Boys' Choir still sings on Sundays at High Mass in the Burgkapelle (Palace Chapel). This part was created and built which was built in 1449.
Around 1559 construction began on the Stallburg as a new primary residence. Since the 18th century this part of the palace has contained the stables of the famous Lipizzan stallions. The Lipizzna stallions can be seen daily (except on Mondays) at their morning training or their performances in the Winter Riding School.
The Amalienburg (Amalia Residence) was designed as a stand alone building just opposite the Schweizertrakt. This residence was named after Empress Wilhelmine Amalia. She used this residenc as her dower residence after the death of husband, Emperor Joseph I. The last occupant of this part of the Hofburg was Empress Elisabeth. Presently these apartments are still open to the public.
In the 17th century Emperor Leopold I had the Swiss Wing connected to the Amalia Residence. It was occupied by Empress Maria Theresa during the 18th century. Eventually after her untimely death these apartments were used until the end of the monarchy as state rooms. From 1946 it has been the official location of the offices of the Austrian Federal President.
During the 18th century the Hofburg was enlarged. All of these enlargmement were designed and initiated by the court architectwho at the time was Joseph Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. Following the architect's death in 1723 the completion of this task was given to his son Johann Emanuel Fischer von Erlach. He was the person who supervised the construction work.
Between 1723 and 1735 the Court Library which is now the Austrian National Library, was built to showcase the historically significant collection of books owned by the Habsburgs.
When Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach died, another architect, Lukas von Hildebrandt, seized and opportunity for notariety. While Fischer's son was occupied fulfilling his father's vision for the designs, Hildebrandt planned the builiding the Imperial Chancellery Wing which contained the chancellery of the Holy Roman Empire. However, at the emperor's express wish Johann Emanuel Fischer von Erlach was chosen to complete this wing in 1730. After the breakdown of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the chancellery was modified to be the residence of imperial family.
In 1735 Johann Emanuel Fischer von Erlach completed the Winter Riding School. It is still used today as the setting for the performances of the Spanish Riding School. Elaborate ball rooms were then created in addition to the school. Today they serve as the congress center even though they were initially designed to be used for reception and balls.
Around the beginning of the 19th century Ludwig Montoyer erected Hall of Ceremonies This room was used for all the ceremonial events of the imperial dynasty. Today it continues to be used for famous Viennese balls.
At the end of the 19th century when the old palace theatre was demolished Ferdinand Kirschner completed the Michaelertr.
At the beginning of the 20th century, shortly before the end of the monarchy, the New Hofburg was erected facing Heldenplatz Hasenauer. Presently is it contains a part of the National Library along with other valuble collections.
Today the Hofburg Palace stands as an important center of cultural significance. This palace is also the official residence for the President of Austria. The Hofburg area has been the official center of government since 1279 for various empires and republics within Europe. The palace is a tourist attraction that offers tours and special events.