Innsbruck’s museums tell of the riches of lost times, of victorious battles, of splendid courtly days and simple rural life. More than anything they attest to the eagerness of all those who collected art and curiosities over many centuries.
The most impressive example of this sits on a hill to the south of the city – Ambras Castle. Once the castle of the Counts of Andechs, it received its magnificent character under Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595), who had it transformed into a residency for himself and his wife Philippine Welser in the 16th century. Exquisitely furnished living rooms were built in the ‘Hochschloss’ and before this part of the castle you find the so-called Spanish Hall, whose walls are covered with portraits, mythological scenes and flower ornaments. In addition, the artistic sovereign started extensive collections of weaponry, paintings and rare objects from all over the world. These have been on display in the castle’s premises since the building became a museum in 1880 and its complete restoration in the 70s of the 20th century.
Precious tournament harnesses, weapons and portraits can be found in the armoury and in the art and curiosity chambers the marvelling visitor is taken a journey through the world of the Renaissance. Decorative objects and containers from all continents, mechanical toys, Chinese paintings, wooden and ivory carvings and many other rarities are effectively presented here, not in a regional or chronological order, but following purely aesthetic criteria – exactly the way Ferdinand would have wanted it to be.
Housed in the ‘Hochschloss’ today is the portrait gallery of the Habsburgs, with effigies of Albrecht III (1349–1395) to Emperor Franz I (1768–1835), while two additional long-term exhibitions have been presented since 2013: The post is here! shows postmaster portraits from the house of Taxis-Bordogna, which were a present of Dom Carlos Tasso de Saxe-Coburgo e Braganca and enlarged the collections of Ambras Castle. The Strasser Glass Collection, one of the most important glass collections in Europe, includes glass from renaissance and baroque from the most significant glass production areas like Venice, Bohemia, Hall in Tirol, Innsbruck and Silesia.
Just as we owe a great part of the exhibits at Ambras Castle to Ferdinand II’s lifelong pleasure for beautiful things, his great grandfather, Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), also aspired to immortalise himself in art and politics until well after his death. His tomb in Innsbruck’s Hofkirche (court church), a sarcophagus accompanied by 28 larger-than-life bronze figures, is one of the most important pieces of Renaissance art in Tyrol today. It was not completed, however, until 65 years after Maximilian’s death under Ferdinand II. The so-called ‘Schwarze Mander’ (black men) – which depict Maximilian, his ancestors and descendents – and the cenotaph were designed and created by the best painters, sculptors, bronze casters and craftsmen of the time, among them Albrecht Dürer, Peter Vischer sen., Alexander Colin and Jörg Schmidhammer. The monumental work is displayed in the Hofkirche church, which was specially built by order of Ferdinand I and features numerous interesting details such as the just recently renovated Silver Chapel. The crypt with its elaborate silver altar reliefs, splendid ribbed ceiling vaults and renaissance paintings can be viewed again by the public.
The Hofburg used to be connected to a Franciscan monastery which has long ceased to serve religious purposes, but allows a glimpse into bygone days, namely the history of the Tyrol’s rural and urban life: The building became home to the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum which has reopened in 2009 following extensive refurbishment works. Much ingenuity was employed to remove the dust of many centuries from a venue packed with historical treasures. Grouped into various themes, the vast collection now appears innovative and appealing. The most impressive pieces of the collection are at the core of exhibitions themed ‘Year of Abundance’, ‘A Precarious Life’, ‘Miniatures of the Gospel’ and displays commemorating the strong influence on the Tyrol by Maximilian I. By the way, during the course of the renovation works a long-disused passageway between Hofkirche and Volkskunstmuseum was reopened to the public, providing direct access from the museum to the choir screen of the church.
Also dedicated to the influence and personality of Maximilian is the Museum Goldenes Dachl, since it was on behalf of the emperor that this landmark ofInnsbruck – an alcove balcony tiled with gilded shingles- was built. The exhibition on the same premises depicts the role of Maximilian with regard toEurope’s political, economic and cultural development in its transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era.
A mere stone’s throw away on the fringes of the medieval old town, you can follow not only the traces of Maximilian himself but also those of the Habsburg family. The Imperial court palace ‘Kaiserliche Hofburg zu Innsbruck’ was intermittently residence of Austria’s imperial family from the 15th century onward. Extended in late Gothic style under the rule of Empress Maria Theresa, the splendid rooms and apartments and – most notably – the central Giant’s Hall with frescoes by Franz Anton Maulpertsch, are decorated with precious furnishings and paintings and provide eloquent testimony of courtly life.
Over the past years the Hofburg has been subject to various restoration projects. Its first floor premises are currently the venue for an exhibition by the Austrian Alpine Club museum. Also the Giant’s Hall, Guards Hall, the Lorraine Room and the chapel area now present themselves in their new splendour. In 2010, refurbishment of the Inner Apartments – including Counsellor and Minister Rooms – was completed, and also the façade facing the principal courtyard has regained its original 18th century appearance.
Noteworthy is also the fascinating picture gallery established by Maria Theresia and intended to mark the emergence of a new dynasty: Rather than decorating the walls with portraits of her ancestors, she commissioned paintings of herself, husband Franz Stephan of Lorraine and their sixteen children as a memorial to the Habsburg-Lothringen line of Habsburg rulers. The apartments that were established in the 19th century for Empress Elisabeth – or ‘Sisi’ as she was known – are a particularly splendid example of the recent renovation works: True to the original design by Sisi’s brother in law Carl Ludwig, the rooms feature exquisite materials in extravagant colours, resplendent in red, yellow, green, pink and pale blue silk furnishings. Since 2011 the Hofburg has also been accommodating – apart from the historical state rooms – the New Gallery in the ground floor which, just like the art pavillion in the nearby Imperial Garden, is operated by Tyrolean artists.
The Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum state museum is renowned for presenting artistic and scientific exhibits is. Founded in 1823 under the patronage of Ferdinand I of Austria (1793–1875) this museum has been located at the same building since 1845. Since 2003 – following major renovation and an extension works – visitors embark on a path through the collections that leads them in chronological order from bottom to top. Beginning with findings from prehistory and early history, it continues on to Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art and leads finally to the works of Tyrolean and Austrian masters since the 19th century. Alongside paintings and sculptures by Lukas Cranach, Rembrandt, Albin Egger-Lienz, Egon Schiele, Maria Lassnig and Lois Weinberger, the newly designed Ferdinandeum disposes of collections dedicated to crafts and music as well as the ‘art box’, a space dedicated to special exhibitions. The exquisitely equipped Tirolensienbibliothek library, a café and the museum shop add the finishing touches.
Different from the art collections in the Ferdinandeum, the historical and natural science exhibits were housed in two affiliated locations, namely the Zeughaus and the building in Feldgasse 11a. The Zeughaus was constructed as an arsenal for Emperor Maximilian’s battle equipment; with the well-fortified structure still bearing evidence of its erstwhile military use.
Also the Giant Panoramic Painting is closely connected with military conflicts. Painted in 1894 by Johann Zeno Diemer of Munich and expanding across 1,000m², the huge canvas was originally housed in a rotunda right beside the Inn River. In March 2011 it became the centrepiece of the new Tirol Panorama museum located on Bergisel, the famed battle site of the Tyrolean freedom fighters. Connected to the already existing Kaiserjäger museum, the new venue’s outstanding design features a spacious central rotunda to accommodate the ‘Riesenrundgemälde’ and provides ample space for numerous exhibits connected to the theme. Various protagonists in the Bergisel battles and the Napoleonic wars are on display, including Andreas Hofer, Emperor Francis I and Napoleon. Also on show are various Tyrolean characters, the weapons they used during the battles, as well as religious artefacts from the era. A glass case stretching over 40 metres contains historic items depicting everyday life of the Tyrolean population at the time. While there is a lot to see and to discover at the Tirol Panorama, its absolute highlight is undoubtedly the Giant Panoramic Painting – with its expertly restored canvas sheets now surrounded by a new faux terrain, the artificial landscape that is located between the visitor and the painting itself.
Discover a wealth of information on travelling by Motorhome, Caravan or Boat when planning your holiday or trip of a lifetime
Which ever way you wish to travel, do it with style!