Schönbrunn Palace

       
Schönbrunn Palace

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Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial 1,441-room Rococo summer residence in modern Vienna, Austria. One of the most important cultural monuments in the country, since the 1960s it has been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

In the year 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain of the Wien river beneath a hill, situated between Meidling and Hietzing, where a former owner, in 1548, had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and put game there such as pheasants, ducks, deer and boar, in order to serve as the court's recreational hunting ground. In a small separate part of the area, "exotic" birds such as turkeys and peafowl were kept. Fishponds were built, too.

The name Schönbrunn (meaning "beautiful spring"), has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court.

During the next century, the area was used as a hunting and recreation ground. Especially Eleonora Gonzaga, who loved hunting, spent much time there and was bequeathed the area as her widow's residence after the death of her husband, Ferdinand II. From 1638 to 1643, she added a palace to the Katterburg mansion, while in 1642 came the first mention of the name "Schönbrunn" on an invoice. The origins of the Schönbrunn orangery seem to go back to Eleonora Gonzaga as well.

The sculpted garden space between the palace and the Sun Fountain is called the Great Parterre. The French garden, a big part of the area, was planned by Jean Trehet in 1695. It contains, among other things, a maze.

The complex however includes many more attractions: Besides the Tiergarten, an orangerie erected around 1755, staple luxuries of European palaces of its type, a palm house (replacing, by 1882, around ten earlier and smaller glass houses in the western part of the park) is noteworthy. Western parts were turned into English garden style in 1828–1852. At the outmost western edge, a botanical garden going back to an earlier arboretum was re-arranged in 1828, when the Old Palm House was built. A modern enclosure for Orangutans, was restored besides a restaurant and office rooms in 2009.

The garden axis points towards a 60 meters higher hill, which since 1775 has been crowned by the Gloriette structure (Fischer von Erlach had initially planned to erect the main palace on the top of this hill).

Maria Theresa decided Gloriette should be designed to glorify Habsburg power and the Just War [a war that would be carried out of 'necessity' and lead to peace], and thereby ordered to recycle "otherwise useless stone" which was left from the almost-demolition of Schloss Neugebäude. The same material was also to be used for the Roman ruin.

The Gloriette today houses a café and gives the visitor a view of the city.
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