Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn
Palace And Gardens Of Schönbrunn
Cultural Austria Europe And North America Vienna

Schönbrunn is of outstanding universal value as a particularly well-preserved example of the Baroque princely residential ensemble. Furthermore, the palace and gardens are exceptional by virtue of the evidence that they preserve of modifications over several centuries that vividly illustrate the tastes, interests and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

From the 16th century onwards, Schönbrunn was the site of a hunting lodge and summer residence of the Habsburg family. After total destruction during the last Turkish attack in 1683 the palace was rebuilt in 1695. The emperor, Leopold I, originally commissioned a château de plaisance for Grand-Duke Joseph, the heir to the throne, but dynastic developments during the course of construction required its function to become that of an imperial summer residence, and hence for its size to be increased. It continued in that role until the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Apart from some minor 19th-century additions, the palace and its gardens received their appearance in the 18th century. The architectural ensemble contains precious 18th-century interiors. The former apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph in the west wing were adapted in the 19th century with furniture that is also of historical importance.

Schönbrunn was designed by the architects Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Nicolaus Pacassi and is full of outstanding examples of decorative art. Together with its gardens, the site of the world's first zoo in 1752, it is a remarkable Baroque ensemble and a perfect example of Gesamtkunstwerk .

The main part of the palace in its present form is largely the work of Pacassi, although preserving Fischer von Erlach's overall structure. Access to the piano nobile from the courtyard is via a monumental staircase leading to the impressive Great Gallery, which is ornately decorated with stucco ornamentation and ceiling frescoes symbolizing the Habsburg Empire.

Behind it lies the Small Gallery, which is flanked by two small rooms, the Chinese Round Room and the Chinese Oval Room, both decorated with black and golden painted lacquer panels and furnished with Japanese ceramics and furniture. The Carrousel Room leading off the Great Gallery is the anteroom to the Ceremonial Hall, notable for its series of monumental paintings depicting events in the long reign of Maria Theresa.

Among the most impressive of the rooms in the east wing is the sumptuous Vieux-Laque Room, with its priceless oriental lacquer panels set in walnut panelling surrounded by gilded plasterwork and extremely ornate furniture;the Napoleon Room is decorated with enormous Brussels tapestries;the Porcelain Room is a small chamber in which the ornately carved wainscoting is painted in blue and white, and decorated with 213 sketches by Franz Stephan and his children. The rooms in the West Wing are Iess elaborately decorated and were used for domestic purposes by members of the imperial family.

The vast Baroque gardens and their buildings testify to the imperial dimensions and functions of the palace;the courtyard provides access to the Palace Chapel and the Palace Theatre. The orangery on the east side of the main palace building is the longest in the world. Built in the mid-18th century, it was used not only for Maria Theresa's passion, that of cultivating exotic plants, but also for festive events and performances. The Great Palm House is an impressive iron-framed structure and divided into three sections, erected in 1880 using the technology developed in England. The Schönbrunn zoological garden, founded by Franz Stephan of Lorraine, husband of Empress Maria Theresa, in 1752 and hence the oldest in the world, is in the grounds.