Freyung Square, Vienna:
One of Vienna′s most Historic Piazzas
The Freyung is a square in the first district of Vienna, the so-called "Innere Stadt". It is off the main roads of tourism, which would be found around Stephansdom and the Graben, Kohlmarkt and Kärntnerstraße area leading to the Hofburg and Staatsoper. The Freyung is nevertheless a busy piazza, and has been so for the past centuries. Among Viennese, the square is very well-known and can be found between a range of fine sightseeing attractions: The Palais Kinsky, the Schottenstift Abbey with its Baroque church, Palais Schönborn-Batthyany, the BA-CA-Kunstforum, Palais Ferstel and Palais Harrach.
The name "Freyung" is a relatively recent nomenclature. Originally, the square was called "Bei den Schotten" or "At the Scot′s". This was due to the Schottenstift or "Scot′s Abbey" and based on the misconception that this Benedictine monastery was run by monks from Scotland - in fact, they were Irish, but Medieval Ireland was called "Scotia Major".
The monastery existed here since 1156, but in 1418, Benedictine monks from Melk Abbey replaced the "Scots". The term "Freyung" could refer to "liberation" and there is a nice little hypothesis why this was used for the square in front of the abbey: People who fled to the premises of the Schottenstift were not allowed to be arrested by the city guard - thus "liberated".
Interpretations of "Freyung" as a Name
Less romantic interpretations link the name to the word "Friedhof" (modern German for "cemetery"), which referred to a courtyard surrounded by a wall. It could be used as a market square, for funerals, court meetings or square for other assemblies. Today, the Freyung is still used as a market square, usually it is organic foods and local produce that you can buy here. Special markets are held for Christmas or Easter, but also smaller holidays such as Thanksgiving ("Erntedank", not to be confused with US-style Thanksgiving).
Another key attraction of the Freyung is the Schubladkastenhaus ("Drawer-Box House", because it looks like a wardrobe with drawers) and the "Austria Fountain". The latter was designed by Ludwig Schwanthaler and built in 1846. It is considered to be an important piece of sculpture from this time.
Attractions at & around Freyung Vienna
Note the add cobble stones in front of Palais Harrach: These are the original surface of the Medieval Freyung. Right between Palais Harrach and Palais Kinsky, you find a tiny park of 390 square metres. It is the sad remains of the once beautiful Baroque gardens of Palais Harrach.
Today, the park is dedicated to the federation of Austrian-International Associations (for example, the Austrian-Japanese Society and alike). A Baroque bungalow designed by Lukas von Hildebrandt was situated here until a bomb struck the Freyung in the course of WWII. The daily paper "Der Standard" is produced around the corner of the Freyung square.
From the Freyung, you can easily walk to the Ringstraße: Go to the Main University and Votivkirche, or via Palais Niederösterreich / Dreimäderlhaus towards Burgtheater and Rathaus. In the opposite direction, you get directly to the Am Hof Square and further on to the Judenplatz.
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