Schatzkammer in der Hofburg:
Imperial Treasury Vienna, Part II
Room 8 will take you back to Renaissance times with the outstanding "not-for-sale heirlooms", two pieces from the collection of Ferdinand I: An agate dish from the 14th century which was widely considered to be the Holy Grail - it was "acquired" (i.e. stolen) in Byzantine in 1204; and a 2.43 metre long horn of a narwhal, once thought to be the horn of a unicorn. The Habsburg′s were so fond of these two pieces that they were supplied with an almost religious status and it became the family′s policy not to give these two pieces away under any circumstances. The revolution of 1918 was apparently not expected.
Another kick-butt-gallery is the display of the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation in gallery 11. The Imperial Crown stands out from a vast array of Byzantine jewels. According to legend, this is the crown that was used for the coronation of Karl dem Großen (Charlemagne) in 800, but archaeologists today think that it was more likely made for Otto I in 962. In any case, it is damned old.
Another item from gallery 11 that is worth noting is the "Holy Lance", supposedly the one that a Roman soldier used to penetrate the chest of Jesus on the cross in order to check whether he had died. In fact, the lance dates back to the 8th century. It was said to possess healing powers and according to legend, the lance had made a huge impression on Adolf Hitler, when he visited the treasury as a young man. Given that Hitler was in fact quite a Gnostic person, this might actually not be entirely made up.
Comparing the Insignia from different Centuries
After that, there is a rather large collection of religious art and relics that the Habsburgs as devout Catholics accumulated over the course of centuries. The most significant part of this collection dates back to the 18th century, the time of Empress Maria Theresia. Moving on, you should check out the Norman embroiled clothing and jewellery in the following galleries - they went to Vienna through Emperor Charles V, who gained control over Spain and all dependent colonies. This included the twin kingdom of Sicily and Naples and so the Sicilian crown treasure moved Vienna-wards. To me, the Norman embroiled clothing ranks among the most impressive pieces in the entire treasury.
The final four galleries of the treasury are dedicated to the dowry that the Habsburg′s cashed in through the marriage of Maximilian I and Maria of Burgundy in 1477. Maria was the daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, one of the riches men in the World at that time. Through this marriage, Maximilian did not only secure the power of his dynasty, he also became the grand master of the "Order of the Golden Fleece". This knight order was founded by the chivalry of Burgundy in 1430 and their insignia and "uniforms" are on display.
These consist primarily of a heavily embroiled coat and a golden chain with the "fleece", the golden skin of a ram, hung. The order consisted of 24 knights. This symbol was derived from a Byzantine tradition and continued well into the Austrian Empire of the 19th century - one of the four overblown insignia that I was making fun of above was the Order of the Golden Fleece in its 19th century variation. In fact, to the Habsburgs it remained to be the most distinguished of the four orders.
Return to "Schatzkammer Treasury - Part I"
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