Hofburg palace with Heldenplatz square and the two museums
Hofburg, in Vienna´s 1st district, palace now located between Josefsplatz, Michaelerplatz and Burgring, was the seat of government (first documented mention in 1279) of the Austrian sovereigns from the 13th century, the German kings and Roman emperors from the 15th century until 1806 (except for the period of 1740-1745) and of the emperor of Austria until 1918. It was the "new" residence of the Babenbergs (Leopold VI, around 1215-1220), also used by King Otakar II and Rudolf of Habsburg and extended and continuously altered over the following centuries. In the 15th century the palace chapel was partly rebuilt (first documented mention 1296; rebuilt 1447-1449), seat of the Hofmusikkapelle. The "Schweizertrakt" tract received its current form in the Renaissance period (Schweizertor gate, 1552/53) by P. Ferrabosco, believed to have also built the Stallburg stables for Maximilian II (1558-1568) and, opposite the Schweizerhof, a late-Renaissance building for Rudolf II, the "Amalienburg" (which derived its name from Amalie Wilhelmine, wife of Joseph I), finished in 1605. The Innerer Burghof court was used as a tournament and theatre square and today is dominated by the late-Classicist monument (1824-1846 by P. Marchesi) to Emperor Franz I.
The Schweizertrakt (Treasury), Stallburg (today housing the stables of the Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner Museum) and Amalienburg were joined with other buildings over the following centuries. Working on plans by F. Lucchese, C. M. and D. Carlone renewed the Leopoldinischer Trakt on the southwestern side from 1660-1666. After a fire, restoration work was performed from 1668 to 1681 and an additional storey was added according to plans by D. Carlone and P. Tencala. It houses the splendidly decorated rooms inhabited by the Emperor Franz I and Maria Theresia which now constitute the office of the Austrian Federal President. 1723 J. L. von Hildebrandt supplied plans for the building of a Reichskanzlei tract (Imperial Chancellery tract) finished in 1730 by J. E. Fischer von Erlach, which closes off the Innerer Burghof to the northeast. It houses the Emperor´s apartments, open to the public and furnished with paintings and furniture from between 1820 and 1900, including the living quarters and state rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth, and the collection of court table and silverware, and the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments and Historic Buildings (Bundesdenkmalamt). Between the Reichskanzlei tract and the Winter Riding School (Spanish Riding School) the Hofburg remained unfinished; the intended construction of a dome was not realised because the Hofburgtheater was located there. The plans by J. E. Fischer von Erlach were used by F. Kirschner for the Michaelertrakt, built 1889-1893. Under its dome the Hofburg was given a main portal towards the city.
The most important part of the Hofburg, from an artistic point of view, is the court library completed by J. E. Fischer von Erlach in 1735 after plans made by his father for Emperor Karl VI 1735. The superb façade, behind which is the magnificent library hall, is enclosed by 2 side wings built by N. Pacassi 1763-1769. The right wing houses the Redoutensäle halls (1992 destroyed by fire, some parts reconstructed, for example new ceilings and murals by J. Mikl in the Großer Redoutensaal, re-opened in 1997), the left wing, housing the collections of the National Library, also incorporates the façade of the Augustine church. All these buildings enclose the Josefsplatz square (with the equestrian statue of Emperor Joseph II, by F. A. Zauner), considered one of the most beautiful squares in Vienna.
In the course of the expansion of the city of Vienna (initiated by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1857) and the building of the Ringstraße boulevard, construction of the magnificent "Emperor´s Forum" began in 1869 (based on plans by G. Semper); it was to extend from the Hofburg to the court stables. The only projects realised were the two court museums (the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum) and the "New Hofburg" on Heldenplatz square according to plans by Semper, completed by C. v. Hasenauer 1913. Today the New Hofburg houses the Hofburg Congress Centre, the former court collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Ephesos museum, Hofjagdkammer weapons collection, armoury, collection of old musical instruments), the National Library (portrait collection and picture archives) and the Ethnological Museum.
Literature: C. Benedik, Die Wiener Hofburg unter Kaiser Karl VI., doctoral thesis, Vienna 1989; G. Schreiber, Die Hofburg und ihre Bewohner, 1993.