Schatzkammer in der Hofburg:
Imperial Treasury Vienna, Part I

With all the Imperial pomp and circumstance that is still echoing through Vienna, you might have wondered where the crown jewels of all the countries that the Habsburgs ruled ended up. The Schatzkammer (literally "treasure chamber", but generally translated as "treasury") is the place where - and one of the must-see attractions for every responsible visitor of the capital.

The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. Now property of the people of Austria.

This incredible collection of jewellery starts at Medieval pieces, includes more significant ones from Renaissance times and peaks at Baroque glory (just like Austria); finally, there are some over-blown items from the 19th century, but even these can′t spoil the experience of seeing one of the World′s finest collections of preciousities. To fully appreciate the collection, I recommend to either do an audio-tour or get a guided tour - this will help you to put things into the right historical framework, since the labelling is rather humble.

The rooms are arranged in galleries according to geographic regions and eras, but visitors can stroll around as they wish. For some strange reason it seems that the crown jewels of every piece of land that the Habsburgs ever ruled over went straight to Vienna - and since there were many pieces of land that the Habsburgs ruled over, the collection is remarkable in its size and quality. Let′s focus on the highlights only.

Unfortunately, it was the custom for many centuries that every new monarch would take the crown of his predecessor, rip off the stones and pearls, melt the gold and get a new crown made. Therefore, very few of the ancient crowns are preserved.

Crown Jewels of a Dozen Nations

A remarkable exception is the crown of Rudolf II that became the Imperial Crown of Austria. Covered in previous stones and pearls, it lives in gallery 2. Nearby is an emerald chalice that looks rather unimpressive, but ranks among the most valuable pieces of the collection. It was made in Prague in 1641, although the 2680-carat stone was found in Colombia.

Emperor Franz I in fancy dress.

This was part of the personal jewellery of the Habsburgs, alongside with pieces like the XXX-large garnet "La Bella", which serves as the centre of a double-headed eagle, the Habsburg′s heraldic symbol. The Oriental-style crown of the Hungarian rebel Istvan Bocskai from 1605 is a "hunting trophy" of the Habsburgs, which they conquered in the process of suppressing a revolt in the east of their empire.

Some 19th century kitsch can be seen in the galleries dedicated mostly to the time of Emperor Franz I and Emperor Franz Joseph I. The daughter of Franz I, Marie Louise, had to marry Napoleon to ensure him a heir and enforce peace between France and the German-speaking countries. Once Napoleon was beaten, Marie Louise returned to Vienna with her son, who became a bit of a hostage (for details see the article on Schloss Schönbrunn). His crib is on display with some other items.

Even more pompous than the crib are the gala uniforms and insignia of the representatives of the four orders of the Austrian Empire. Their design is inspired by medieval heraldry, but completely over-blown and matching with the personal taste of Austria′s last Emperor Franz Joseph I. Take a good look at them and remember them for the last few rooms of the treasury; there you will see some of the original late medieval uniforms of knightly orders and that will give you an idea of what I am talking about.

Continue with "Schatzkammer Treasury - Part II"

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

Wikipedia on the Schatzkammer (with photos)

Official Website of the Treasury Schatzkammer