Opulent, elegant and rich in history
The Innsbruck Imperial Palace – artfully restored to its original splendour
The glory of bygone days is reflected everywhere at the Innsbruck Hofburg, one of Austria’s most significant historical buildings, from its Gothic cellar to the beautifully domed roof. Following major refurbishment works of the state rooms, the newly renovated Giant’s Hall, Guard Hall, the Lorraine Room and sacred rooms of the Imperial Ladies’ Chapter now present themselves in all their 18th century grandeur.
Valuable frescoes, the remarkably fine wood and marble floors, elegant chandeliers and many more symbols of wealth and imperial power add to the splendour of the state rooms at the Innsbruck Hofburg. Since the aim of the renovation works was to restore the rooms to their appearance at the time between 1750 and 1770 – the era of Maria Theresa – the premises were thoroughly assessed prior to the actual works. Unfortunately, hopes of uncovering a Hercules cycle – which Maria Theresa had ordered to be removed from the Giant’s Hall – were in vain.
To render the rooms as authentic as possible, not only 18,000 sheets of gold leaf were used but also old wall paint had to be removed – and replaced, by using historic lime techniques. Paintings had to be restored and floors needed repair, the latter representing particularly fine examples of former craftsmanship: The valuable stone floor of the Giant’s Hall, the so-called ‘Versaille’ parquet flooring at the Lorraine Room and the solid plank floors of the Ladies’ Chapter, made from larch wood and spruce. A lot of effort went also into cleaning and removing salt deposits from a ceiling fresco by Anton Maulpertsch in the Giant’s Hall, which can now be viewed in its original, bright Rococo colours. The Innsbruck Hofburg played a quite significant role in the life of Maria Theresa, as it was the venue for both the wedding of her son Leopold in August 1765, and the death of her beloved husband Franz Stephan of Lorraine. The Triumphpforte, the arch at the far end of Maria-Theresien-Strasse, bears witness to those events, featuring a glorious and a tragic side.
About one hundred years later the palace’s Inner Apartment was luxuriously appointed with exquisite silk materials in extravagant colours and splendid dressing room furniture in honour of Empress Elisabeth. Although intended as homage to Emperor Franz Joseph’s beautiful wife, it was actually the Emperor himself who frequented the premises more often than Elisabeth. Considered excellent examples of the ‘Second Rococo’, the apartments can now be admired in their former splendour. While the museum’s exhibition rooms include hundred of items providing insights into the elegant court life, while in the themed salons visitors can step back in time viewing film clips, photos and video interviews. Tyrolean history – as well as five hundred and fifty-five years of Habsburg rule in the Tyrol – comes alive while exploring the palace’s Grand Staircase, with portraits of Tyrolean sovereigns alongside notable members of the Habsburg family providing the framework for an informative tour.
The succession of exhibitions at the foyer’s gallery space or the special displays on show in the Gothic Cellar, is to name just two examples from the Hofburg’s extensive range of cultural events. The stately salons frequently play host to concerts and theatre performances, and, during summer, the palace courtyard is the venue of the Innsbruck Promenade Concerts. A number of daily themed guided tours explore the history of the Innsbruck Hofburg: With ‘A wedding and a funeral’, the ‘Per Pedes’ city guide association invites visitors to become part of a fascinating historical detective story, whereas in ‘The path towards the Madonna’ they are taken on a very rewarding journey through the interesting relationship between Habsburg sovereigns and clerical power. This tour includes access to the choir loft of the Innsbruck Cathedral, which has been opened up only recently in order to enable visitors to enjoy an eye level view of the famous painting of the Virgin Mary by Lucas Cranach. To attract young people’s attention to cultural events, entrance fees at the Innsbruck Hofburg Innsbruck are particularly family friendly, with guided tours for families on Sundays that are free of charge for young and older children, plus up to two accompanying adults. Also teenagers up to the age of nineteen can visit the Imperial Court Palace free of charge.
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