The Imperial Treasury (German: Kaiserliche Schatzkammer) at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria contains a valuable collection of secular and ecclesiastical treasures covering over a thousand years of European history. The entrance to the treasury is at the Schweizerhof (Swiss Courtyard), the oldest part of the palace, which was rebuilt in the sixteenth century in the Renaissance style under Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. The Imperial Treasury is affiliated with the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and houses in 21 rooms a collection of rare treasures that were compiled by the Imperial House of Habsburg over the course of centuries, including the Imperial Crown, Orb, and Sceptre of Austria, and the Imperial Regalia of the Emperors and Kings of the Holy Roman Empire, including the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien (Treasury) offers a unique panorama covering over a millennium of European history This is the home of the most important collection of medieval royal objects: the insignia and jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, including the Imperial Crown and the Holy Lance Further highlights include the Crown of Emperor Rudolf II (which later on became Crown of the Austrian Empire), as well as the vestments and other precious items of the Order of the Golden Fleece Exceedingly valuable gems, including one of the world’s largest emeralds, bear witness to the Habsburgs’ former degree of power In earlier centuries, two items were considered to be so unique that they were declared “inalienable heirlooms of the House of Austria”: a giant narwhal tooth which was thought to be the horn of a unicorn and an agate bowl from Late Antiquity which was thought to be the legendary Holy Grail
It was opened around 1891 at the same time as the Naturhistorisches Museum, by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary The two museums have similar exteriors and face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz Both buildings were built between 1871 and 1891 according to plans drawn up by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer
The two Ringstraße museums were commissioned by the Emperor in order to find a suitable shelter for the Habsburgs’ formidable art collection and to make it accessible to the general public The façade was built of sandstone The building is rectangular in shape, and topped with a dome that is 60 meters high The inside of the building is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco ornamentations, gold-leaf, and paintings
After the end of the monarchy, 1918, and the dissolution of the imperial court and the courtier as a department of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) guided treasury is located in the Swiss Wing, the oldest component of the Hofburg. The original is still the wrought-iron front door with the monogram of Emperor Charles VI, but as such is no longer used. Formerly known as the Spiritual and Secular Treasury, the collection has been called the Imperial Treasury by the KHM since 2012.
The museum’s primary collections are those of the Habsburgs, particularly from the portrait and armour collections of Ferdinand of Tirol, the collections of Emperor Rudolph II (the largest part of which is, however, scattered), and the collection of paintings of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, of which his Italian paintings were first documented in the Theatrum Pictorium
History of the collection
In 1556, Ferdinand I brought the art expert Jacopo Strada from Nuremberg as his court antiquarian and administrator of the imperial treasury to the Hofburg in Vienna. At that time, the imperial collections were mixed, the separation into paintings, crafts, religious objects and insignia was made only in the mid-18th century. Repository was traditionally the Augustinian monastery.
Under Maria Theresia, the crown treasure was separated from the rest of the collections and also placed there, where today is the ecclesiastical treasury. There was a presumption that this reorganization was intended to distract from the fact that a part of the Habsburg Kunstkammer was sold or lavished to finance the wars against Prussia. At the end of the Holy Roman Empire, its insignia were added to the treasure; they were brought to safety before Napoleon from Nuremberg and Aachen.
From 1871 on, the gems of the Empire and Austria were exhibited – later in parallel to the exhibition of other Habsburg collection objects in the Museum of Art and Natural History, opened in 1891 and 1889 respectively. The propagandistic purpose of emphasizing the primacy of the Erzhaus in Central Europe certainly played a role here a role.
After the First World War, the exhibition was reorganized and relocated to the current premises. Now also objects were to be seen, which had not been shown previously for reasons of political inopportunity, like the coronation regalia of the kingdom Lombardo-Venetien (in the monarchy one did not want to remind of the 1859 and / or 1866 made loss of this country). On the other hand, some objects were no longer in the collection, as they could claim members of the Habsburg family as a personal possession, especially jewels and other jewelry. Some such objects from the personal belongings of the last imperial couple were brought to Switzerland in early November 1918 by a family member.
The Reichskleinodien of the Holy Roman Empire 1938 were brought to Nuremberg by the National Socialist regime, but brought back by the US occupying power after 1945. After 1945, minor changes to the arrangement followed, which mainly concerned the design of the premises.
The Imperial Treasury is divided into two collections: the secular collection and the ecclesiastical collection. The secular collection contains numerous imperial artifacts from the House of Habsburg, including jewels and precious stones that due to their unique size could not be fitted into the imperial crowns. Like all secular treasuries, it was designed to attest to the political power and geographical reach of their owners. The ecclesiastical collection contains numerous religious treasures, including relics and objects ascribed to the private ownership of saints.
The Imperial Treasury collections were set up from 1556 by the scholar Jacopo Strada, court antiquarian of Ferdinand I. In the eighteenth century, Maria Theresa had the Habsburg treasures moved to its present location, covering up the fact that the dynasty’s assets had been largely affected by the expensive wars against rivaling Prussia. The Imperial Regalia arrived in the last days of the Holy Roman Empire around 1800 from Nuremberg, where they had been kept since 1424, in order to save them from the advancing French troops under Napoleon. After the Austrian Anschluss of 1938, the Nazi authorities took them back to Nuremberg. At the end of World War II, they were returned to Vienna by the US forces. The display was completely renovated in 1983-1987.
The secular museum contains a collection of royal objects:
Insignia of the Austrian hereditary homage
The insignia and regalia of the Archduchy of Austria. The most important exhibit is a carcass of the Archduke’s hat of 1765. This also includes some parts of the Bohemian Kronschatz, which were also used in the Austrian vow of inheritance.
Insignia of the Empire of Austria
The insignia and regalia of the imperial Austria. In addition to the Rudolfine imperial crown, together with the scepter and imperial orb, these include the regalia of the Habsburg family order and the coronation regalia of the kingdom of Lombardo-Veneto, which was used only once, in 1838, for Ferdinand I.
Insignia of the Holy Roman Empire
The insignia and gems of the Holy Roman Empire. These include a large number of objects as well as reliquaries, which because of their character stand as insignia of the Holy Roman Empire in the Secular Treasury. The most significant are the Imperial Crown, the Holy Lance, the Imperial Sword and the Coronation Mantle.
Burgundian heritage and the Order of the Golden Fleece
The Burgundian treasure came with the marriage of Mary of Burgundy with the Archduke and later Emperor Maximilian I in the possession of the Habsburgs. Various objects are still preserved and exhibited, including a made of rock crystal and gold court cup (or trophy) and a gold brooch. Various objects belonging to the Order of the Golden Fleece also come from Burgundy and the Netherlands, which is why they are exhibited in the common premises.
The treasure of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the highest ranking Order of the Habsburg monarchy. On display are works of art from the possession of Charles the Bold, as well as ornate and vestments of the Vliesorden. The latter are important works of art because of their fine embroidery, which is hardly to imitate today.
The Messornat of the Order of the Golden Fleece
The (church) Messornat of the Order of the Golden Fleece, also known as the Burgundian Paramentenschatz, includes the customary for the festive service liturgical robes for three clergy. These include two Antependien, of which the lower before the altar, the upper hung above or behind. Since 1447 in the Order’s possession, the Order’s medal symbol or a motto of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy does not appear. But it is certain that the Duke commissioned these “most precious garments in the world” to increase his princely representation and to enhance the splendor of Burgundian courtyards in the religious sphere as well.
The ornate are extremely noble and precious, the processed materials are gold, silk and pearls. Two different embroidery techniques were used simultaneously, the portraits of Our Lady and the Savior are Dutch-style panel paintings, similar to the emerging realism. This ornate is still one of the most important artistic achievements of his time.
The combination of the needle painting of densely embroidered silk threads graded in the color (occurring so in the Inkarnat) was combined with the glaze embroidery. Colored silk was processed, which gives the underlying amorphous surface of gold threads only the desired representation and modeling. This gives the whole a shimmering shine. The latter countered the quest of the Middle Ages for color magic and out-of-the-way light mysticism. Gold meant sacred light, was a sign of brightness and awakened the idea of the true divine light.
Objects from Habsburg family property such as the crown Stephan Bocskais or relief tiles, which come from the private crown of Ferdinand II. In these rooms is also a collection of baptismal sets that already lead to the Spiritual Treasury.
The two inalienable heirlooms of the House of Austria: the Ainkhürn and the Achatschale, two objects lying in the middle between curiosity and religious object. They were regarded as too valuable treasures for the three sons of Emperor Ferdinand I, in order to give one of them sole power over the death of his father. Thus, on 11 August 1564, Maximilian II met with his brothers Ferdinand II and Charles II the documentary agreement to keep the two pieces for all time at the House of Austria and to prohibit their sale forever. The oldest of the house should keep them each.
Napoleonica: relics from the possession of the King of Rome and the Empress Marie Louise, especially the cradle of the little Napoleon Franz, who, when he then lived in Austria, was called Franz Herzog von Reichstadt.
The ecclesiastical collection contains numerous devotional images and altars, mostly from the Baroque era.