Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn
Since 1996 • Cultural
From the 18th century to 1918, Schönbrunn was the residence of the Habsburg emperors. It 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
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.
The Katterburg estate, the site of the present Schonbrunn palace, was sold in the mid-16th century by the Klosterneuburg monastery to Emperor Maximilian II, who developed it as a hunting lodge and installed a menagerie. The buildings were badly damaged when Vienna was sacked by the Hungarians in 1605; it was not until 1622 that they were restored by Emperor Ferdinand II. After his death in 1637 the Katterburg became the dowager estate of his widow, Eleanora of Gonzaga. The name was changed to Sch6nbrunn (Beautiful Spring) in 1642, when a new three-storey château de plaisance was erected alongside the older building.
In 1683 Vienna was besieged by the Turks, who were finally crushed, but not before they had wrought great destruction in the surroundings of the city, including Sch6nbrunn. During the great rebuilding that followed the siege, Emperor Leopold I commissioned the Italian-trained architect Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach to design a new building there as a residence for his heir, Grand-Duke Joseph. His first design is now thought to have been prepared simply to demonstrate his capabilities. In this he was highly successful: his design was greatly admired and was to secure him many other commissions.
The marriage of Leopold in 1699 caused the second design to be modified, so as to raise its status. Construction began in 1696 and Fischervon Erlach personally oversaw the work. The central section was complete and habitable by 1700, but further work was brought to an end by the outbreak of the war of the Spanish Succession in 1701, and then by the sudden death Of Emperor Joseph I in 1711. The uncompleted building became the residence of the Dowager Empress Amalia Wilhelmine.
When she acceded to the Imperial throne in 1740, Maria Theresia chose Schonbrunn as her permanent residence, and a new phase began in the life of the palace. Urgent repairs were carried out on the dilapidated buildings in 1742-43, followed by major structural changes, which were carried out in three phases: 1743-49, 1753- 63, and 1764-80. Most of the work in the first two phases was carried out to the designs and under the supervision of the architect Nicolaus Pacassi, who was to become, like Fischer von Erlach, the Imperial and Royal Court Architect. The major project of the third phase was the embellishment of the gardens (the Gloriette, the Neptune Fountain, the "Roman Ruins", the Obelisk>, largely the work of Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg.
Maria Theresia's immediate successors uoseph II and Leopold II) Showed little interest in Schonbrunn, but it was to become the summer residence of Franz I (1792-1835), and Franz Joseph (1848-1916) spent much of his life there. The latter was responsible for the restoration of the old ROCOCO decor and certain other modifications. The palace's architectural history came to an end in 1870 and there have been no significant changes since that time.
Justification for being a World Heritage Site
The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property as an ensemble on the basis of cultural criteria (i) and (iv) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value being an especially well preserved example of the Baroque princely residential ensemble, which constitutes an outstanding example of a Gesamtkunstwerk. 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.