Schönbrunn Palace

Coordinates: 48°11′04″N 16°18′43″E / 48.184516°N 16.311865°E / 48.184516; 16.311865

Schönbrunn Palace (German: Schloss Schönbrunn ) is a former imperial 1,400-room Rococo summer residence in Vienna, Austria. One of the most important cultural monuments in the country, since the 1960s it has been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

Early history

In the year 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain of the Wien river beneath a hill, situated between Meidling and Hietzing, where a former owner, in 1548, had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and put game there such as pheasants, ducks, deer and boar, in order to serve as the court's recreational hunting ground. In a small separate part of the area, "exotic" birds like turkeys and peafowl were kept. Fishponds were built, too.

The name Schönbrunn (meaning "beautiful spring"), has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court.

During the next century, the area was used as a hunting and recreation ground. Especially Eleonora Gonzaga, who loved hunting, spent much time there and was bequeathed the area as her widow's residence after the death of her husband, Ferdinand II. From 1638 to 1643, she added a palace to the Katterburg mansion, while in 1642 came the first mention of the name "Schönbrunn" on an invoice. The origins of the Schönbrunn orangery seem to go back to Eleonora Gonzaga as well.

Gardens

The sculpted garden space between the palace and the Sun Fountain is called the Great Parterre. The French garden, a big part of the area, was planned by Jean Trehet in 1695. It contains, among other things, a maze.

The complex however includes many more attractions: Besides the Tiergarten, the world's oldest existing zoo (founded in 1752), an orangerie erected around 1755, staple luxuries of European palaces of its type, a palm house (replacing, by 1882, around ten earlier and smaller glass houses in the western part of the park) is noteworthy. Western parts were turned into English garden style in 1828–1852. At the outmost western edge, a botanical garden going back to an earlier arboretum was re-arranged in 1828, when the Old Palm House was built. A modern enclosure for Orangutans, was restored besides a restaurant and office rooms in 2009.

Sculptures

Lining the Great Parterre are 32 sculptures, which represent deities and virtues.

Gloriette

The garden axis points towards a 60 meters higher hill, which since 1775 has been crowned by the Gloriette structure (Fischer von Erlach had initially planned to erect the main palace on the top of this hill).

Maria Theresa decided Gloriette should be designed to glorify Habsburg power and the Just War , and thereby ordered to recycle "otherwise useless stone" which was left from the almost-demolition of Schloss Neugebäude. The same material was also to be used for the Roman ruin.

The Gloriette today houses a café and gives the visitor a view of the city.

Roman Ruin

Originally known as the Ruin of Carthage, the Roman Ruin is a set of follies that was designed by the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and erected as an entirely new architectural feature in 1778. Fully integrated into its parkland surroundings, this architectural ensemble should be understood as a picturesque horticultural feature and not simply as a ruin, which due to lack of maintenance it had increasingly grown to resemble prior to its recent restoration.

The fashion for picturesque ruins that became widespread with the rise of the Romantic movement soon after the middle of the 18th century symbolize both the decline of once great powers and the preservation of the remains of a heroic past. Erected at the same time not far from the Roman Ruin, the Obelisk Fountain was intended to complete the iconographic program of the park at Schönbrunn as a symbol of stability and permanence.

The Roman Ruin consists of a rectangular pool enclosed by a massive arch with lateral walls, evoking the impression of an ancient edifice slowly crumbling into the ground. In the pool in front of the ruin is a seemingly haphazard arrangement of stone fragments supporting a figural group which symbolizes the rivers Danube and Enns.

The Schönbrunn Palace Silver Coin

The palace was recently selected as the main motif of a high value commemorative coin: the Austrian 10 euro The Palace of Schönbrunn Silver coin, minted on October 8, 2003. The obverse shows the central part of the frontage of the palace behind one of the great fountains in the open space.

Recent history

Following the downfall of the monarchy in 1918 the newly founded Austrian Republic became the owner of Schönbrunn Palace and preserved, as a museum, the rooms and chambers.

After World War II and during the Allied Occupation of Austria (1945–1955) Schönbrunn Palace, which was empty at the time, was requisitioned to provide offices for both the British Delegation to the Allied Commission for Austria and for the Headquarters for the small British Military Garrison present in Vienna.

Later it was used for important events such as the meeting between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in 1961.

UNESCO catalogued Schönbrunn Palace on the World Heritage List in 1996, together with its gardens, as a remarkable Baroque ensemble and example of synthesis of the arts (Gesamtkunstwerk).

Activities at Schloss Schönbrunn today

The Schloss is Vienna's most popular tourist destination, attended by 2,600,000 visitors in 2010. The whole Schönbrunn complex with Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Palmenhaus, Wüstenhaus and the Wagenburg, accounted for more than five million visitors. At the official website tickets can be purchased in advance for tours. In addition to tours and tour packages, many classical concerts featuring the music of W. A. Mozart and his contemporaries can be enjoyed with the added benefit of more time in the spectacular halls, Orangerie, or Schlosstheater.

Features in movies

The gardens and palace have been the location for various movies, such as the Sissi trilogy in 1950s, in A Breath of Scandal with Sophia Loren and briefly in James Bond's The Living Daylights. Also the movie "The Great Race" was filmed there in 1965.

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