Austrian National Library - Prunksaal

The Austrian National Library was founded by Prince Eugene of Savoy

I like libraries. Generally, I don′t like the smell of them too much, but the look, the feel and the spirit of being surrounded by bound knowledge on shelves. One of the most beautiful libraries that I have come across is the Prunksaal ("Show-off Hall") of the Austrian National Library in the Hofburg. It was designed by one of the two most popular architects of the Baroque days, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach who also built the Karlskirche and the old parts of the MuseumsQuartier (alongside with a whole bunch of other buildings in Vienna and elsewhere in Austria).

Main court of the National Library

Unfortunately, Johann Bernhard died in 1723, the year that construction works started, and so the building was completed by his son Josef Emmanuel. It is 80 metres long, which makes it the biggest Baroque library in the World. The Prunksaal is now incorporated into the Austrian National Library, but remains in its original shape, which is something like an orgasm of Baroque elements: Lots and lots of marble, gold and stucco work blend together, are spiced up with frescos and wood decorations and finally equipped with a stunning 200,000 leather-bound volumes.

These include the legendary "Eugeniavia" - the private library of Prince Eugen of Savoy, which seeded the foundation of the collection with 15,000 volumes. To cover that all up appropriately, a large dome decorated with frescos by Daniel Gran was finally added.

Globe Musuem & Josephsplatz Square

An addition to the few ancient globes in the Prunksaal itself, there is an associated museum of globes (Globenmuseum) in the third floor of the building. The museum is inexpensive to visit, but mostly for people with a specialist interest. It includes a vast array of antique globes alongside with the Habsburg′s map and chart collection.

Seeded the National Library with his private book collection: Prince Eugene of Savoy

This might be a good spot to recall that Austria was once a seafaring nation - and with Spain and the dependent colonies, the Habsburgs had ruled over Latin America for a while. In this context, it is not too surprising to see the importance that maps had in the Baroque collection of the library.

The contents of the museum also match well with the giant figures that decorate the Hofburg Palace on the Josefsplatz: Two globes with all sorts of attributes and atlantes carrying them. On the square itself, you can see a memorial of Emperor Joseph II, the big reformer of the enlightenment (the Emperor from the movie "Amadeus").

back to "vienna travel guide"


Other Parts of the Hofburg

Hofburg Introduction - Albertina - Kaiserappartements - Schatzkammer Treasury - Neue Burg Gardens & Heldenplatz - Museums of Ethnology & Ephesos  - National Library - Augustinerkirche - Spanish Riding School - Burgkapelle & Vienna Boys' Choir - Arms Collection & Old Instruments

Further Reading

Official website of the Vienna Tourist Information

Austrian National Library

Austrian National Library & the Prunksaal