The former governing rooms of Empress Maria Theresa3 are today the governing offices of the Federal President of Austria. Emperor Franz I of Austria4 , the last emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, still thrones over of the Inner Burghof.
The Inner Burghof of the Hofburg
To orient ourselves, we will now look for the sundial on top of one of the roofs of the Inner Burghof. This sundial is located on the roof of the so-called Amalienburg. This wing was used by Wilhelmina Amalia, the spouse of Emperor Joseph 15 , as her residence after his death. The wing was named after her.
Now let’s continue our tour through the Inner Burghof with the building that’s located on the right of the Amalienburg. This is the Imperial Chancellory Wing, which was erected in 1730.
The Imperial Chancellory Wing was the center of power of the Habsburg monarchy. The central administration of the Holy Roman Empire was located here until 1806. After 1806 the Austrian Empire was governed from here. The facade of the Imperial Chancellory Wing is distinguished by three portals. Just like the entrance to the Michaeler Wing, the two side entrances here are framed by huge figures of Hercules. They were created by Lorenzo Mattielli6 of Vincenza, one of the most important sculptors of the Baroque.
Hercules created by Lorenzo Mattielli
Let’s now take a closer look at these pairs of figures. We will start with the pair right next to the Amalienburg. It depicts Heracles catching the Cretan Bull. After Heracles had tamed the bull and brought him to Eurystheus, Eurystheus let the bull go again. This was the seventh of the twelve labors that the Mycenaean king Eurystheus imposed on Heracles. The second sculpture shows Heracles overpowering the Nemean Lion, whose pelt made him invulnerable.
Across from the Imperial Chancellory Wing, so left of the sundial on top of the Amalienburg, is the Leopold Wing, which was built for Emperor Leopold I7 and completed in 1668. Maria Theresa also lived and resided in the Leopold Wing from 1740 to 1780. She was the only female monarch of the Habsburg Empire who performed governmental duties. Maria Theresa’s magnificent baroque suites are unfortunately not open to the public. Today the governing offices of the Federal President of Austria are located in these suites. If the red-white-red Austrian flag is flying on top of the Leopold Wing, the Federal President is in Austria.
Directly across from the sundial is the so-called Swiss Court – the oldest part of the Hofburg. The Swiss Court was reconstructed in Renaissance style in the middle of the 16th century by Ferdinand I8 . But it did not get its name until 1750 after Maria Theresa, as it was fashionable for the rulers of the time, temporarily posted the Swiss Guard here as palace guards.
You can reach the courtyard of the Swiss Court over a small bridge that is guarded by two stone lions from the 18th century. The left lion is holding the Austrian coat of arms in its paws, the right lion a shield with five eagles. Today this is the coat of arms of the Austrian state Lower Austria. Left and right of the former drawbridge you can still see the depressions that are remaining from the old moat.
The magnificent Renaissance portal of the Swiss Gate was built in the middle of the 16th century by the Italian architect and painter Pietro Ferrabosco9 . It is one of the very few Renaissance monuments in Vienna. The titles of King Ferdinand I are recorded on the frieze of the Swiss Gate. Below the frieze there are two iron balls. They are the only two remaining parts of the drawbridge mechanism through which the ropes were wound.
After you pass through the gate, you will see the Swiss Court Fountain on your left. It originates from the same time period as the gate itself, from the Renaissance.
The gothic Hofkapelle (Royal Court Chapel) and the Imperial Treasury10 are located in the Swiss Court. You can only visit the Hofkapelle on Sundays when during mass the voices of the Vienna Boys’ Choir will certainly inspire. As one of the most important treasuries of the world, the Imperial Treasury of Vienna’s Hofburg is open to the public daily.
Next to the Swiss Court, under the Leopold Wing, a passageway leads us from the Inner Burghof to the New Castle and the Heldenplatz.
One of the most important , valuable and magnificent treasuries in the world is located in Vienna’s Hofburg. In this treasury you will find the Holy Lance that according to the legend pierced Jesus’ side and the agate dish that for centuries was believed to be the Holy Grail.
Many of the jewels and precious stones that due to their unique size could not be fitted into the crowns of the Habsburgs were hidden from public view in the Imperial Treasury for generations. The imperial crowns from all the eras and all the crown lands of the Habsburg Empire, as well as all the other insignias, also reside in this treasury.
Schweizerhof | The Swiss Court of the Hofburg
Since the Middle Ages there were two kinds of treasuries at European courts: Secular treasury that above all attested to the political power and geographical reach of their owners and Ecclesiastical treasury that were typified by relics and objects that were ascribed to the private ownership of saints.
At the Hofburg both of these kinds of treasuries lie right next to each other. And it is often apparent how hard it was to draw a boundary between the secular and the sacred treasures.
In the Ecclesiastical Treasury you will be overwhelmed by thorns, nails and cloths that are associated with various saints. Due to their art historical significance some of the reliquaries are especially worth seeing for their amazing hand-crafted artistry.
The first object that we will view together is located in room number five of the treasury, which is dedicated to the so-called “Napoleonica”. After all Napoleon Bonaparte1 – if only for a short time – was a son-in-law of the House of Habsburg2 .