Jesuitenwiese Meadow in the Prater

The Jesuitenwiese is a meadow in the Prater area, the stretch of former floodplain forests that used to be the private hunting grounds of the Habsburg Emperors for centuries. In 1766, Emperor Joseph II opened the Prater as a recreational ground for the general public. Within very little time, the Prater became the most important leisure area in Vienna and has been so pretty much ever since.

The Jesuitenwiese can be found in the southern parts of the Prater. Its name means "Jesuite Meadow", another funny link with Joseph II, who famously (or infamously) dissolved the Societa Jesu or Jesuite Order. They had become a bit too influential for the Habsburg Emperor to ignore them.

The Jesuitenwiese is about 112,000 square metres big. Its name is not derived from the dissolution of the order, but much more trivial from the fact that it belonged to the local Jesuite monastery. The order was dissolved after the Prater was already on track of being developed into a leisure area, specifically in 1773.

Historic use of the Jesuitenwiese

In due course, all possessions of the order were confiscated by the crown and became public property. That didn′t mean that the public could automatically use it, and in the case of the Jesuitenwiese, it didn′t mean just that at all. The Jesuitenwiese was used as a mall in the original sense of the word, an exercise site for the military. Only later it became the vast and openly accessible meadow.

Prior to World War I, the Jesuitenwiese was a popular site for fun fairs and large celebrations. Today, the meadow is the site of Vienna′s biggest playground. An artificial hill ("Rodelhügel") is managed as a tobogganing hill when there is enough snow for tobogganing in Vienna typically a three days a year. Joke. Rather five. A more serious, yet interesting detail: The hill is neither a natural, nor a very old structure. It comprises of the rubble that was collected in Vienna after World War II. Despite of its rather remote location in the very south of the second district (Leopoldstadt), the Jesuitenwiese is well-accessible by public means of transport.

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