Palais Sternberg, Vienna:
Another Baroque Palais, this one "Italian"

Palais Sternberg is a Baroque palais (city palace) in the 3rd district of Vienna, Landstraße. The first palais on this site was built for the doctor Erhard Schiffner in 1820. The architect in charge was a man called Charles von Moreau, the builder a gentlemen called Franz Ehrmann. The site had previously been occupied by several burgher houses, some of which were now incorporated into the new palais. In 1822, when the building was finished, some decorations were added: Statues of Greek gods and philosophers.

Keep in mind that this was the golden age of Greek romanticism, whilst in the Mediterranean, the Greek war of independence was waging. The statues were made by Joseph Kleiber and rather popular; local people went to the palais just to look at the decorations, almost as if they were part of a museum. Palais Sternberg was equipped with an English-style landscape garden (also very fashionable those days) and an orangery - today, a tiny strip of the garden is still preserved. Alas, the palais was now called Sternberg at that point - this was to change in 1870, when the Counts of Sternberg, high-ranking Imperial nobility, bought the building.

After 1900, Count Philipp von Sternberg raped the building by re-vamping its interiors in neo-Baroque style. In addition to the interiors, he also had a new staircase built and the entrance area to the stables altered to his taste. In the course of this re-modelling, the Greek statues were removed. In 1909, the Palais Sternberg was connected with the neighbouring apartment house. After WWI, the Sternbergs were forced to do what many noble families in Vienna had to do: They sold their palais.

Palais Sternberg Turns Italian: A Gift for Mussolini

Following the Anschluss in 1938, the new owners were stripped off the building (which hints at a Jewish ownership, but I havn′t checked on this - will do and update this article as soon as I know). Palais Sternberg became a present to Benito Mussolini. After WWII, Palais Sternberg became home to the Italian Cultural Institute and the Italian consulate, which it is until today. Once Palais Sternberg was one of many garden palais south of the city walls. Today, it is the only one in the Ungargasse that has survived. Sort of survived, that is: As of late 2009, the fašade is battered and the entire place looks run down; the remains of the garden are used as a parking lot.

However, I like my palaces a bit shabby, and think that a fancy building in good shape wouldn′t match with the Italian flag that you will find above the main entrance either. The grunginess of Palais Sternberg adds to its charms. Under the central roof, you will see the coat of arms of the Sternberg family. Most of the stucco work and the interiors are those that the Sternbergs ordered around 1900.

At the backside of the building, the extensions from this period dominate the building. However, a staircase towards the garden side (the one you can see from Ungargasse) even dates back to the 18th century and was part of the former buildings that were incorporated into the palais. Attractions nearby include the Fabiani building in the Ungargasse; the Salesianerinnenkirche, Belvedere and Palais Schwarzenberg ensemble; the remains of Palais Harrach in the Ungargasse; and the Flak towers in the Arenbergpark.

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Vienna by District

District Overview - 1st (Innere Stadt) - 2nd (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd (Landstraße) - 4th (Wieden) - 5th (Margareten)- 6th (Mariahilf) - 7th (Neubau) - 8th (Josefstadt) - 9th (Alsergrund) - 10th (Favoriten) - 11th (Simmering) - 12th (Meidling) - 13th (Hietzing) - 14th (Penzing) - 15th (Fünfhaus) - 16th (Ottakring) - 17th (Hernals) - 18th (Währing) - 19th (Döbling) - 20th (Brigittenau) - 21st (Floridsdorf) - 22nd (Donaustadt) - 23rd (Liesing) -  Ringstraße - Surroundings

Further Reading

Website of the Italian Cultural Institute in Vienna (in Palais Sternberg)

On Palais Sternberg, Vienna (in German, with pics)

My article on the Palais of Vienna