Built by the general and prince, Eugene of Savoyen
Belvedere – “beautiful view”. The view was indeed beautiful for the man who built it, Prince Eugen von Savoyen. Looking from the palace he could see the Kahlenberg, scene of his first triumph against the Ottoman Empire in 1683. The only 1.61-metre-tall military commander was devoutly admired, securing as he did with his successes the position of Austria as a major power in Europe.
“Anything can be achieved through perseverance and strong determination.” The noble knight Prince Eugen (1663-1736) explains the recipe for his success.
Prince Eugen devoted his life to the military but nevertheless found time to also make his mark as the builder of numerous castles.The Belvedere in Vienna’s 3rd district is his most beautiful palace complex. The prince – whose statue can still be seen today on Heldenplatz – always lived in the lower Belvedere,
while the upper Belvedere was used for representational purposes. Later the buildings became a sort of second family residence for the Habsburgs. The last to reside here was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne assassinated in 1914.
In 1955 the Belvedere gained new renown
In 1955 the Belvedere gained new renown: it was in the magnificent Marmorsaal (marble hall) of the upper Belvedere that the Austrian Independence Treaty was signed after ten years of Allied occupation. With the words “Österreich ist frei” (“Austria is free”) the first federal chancellor Leopold Figl proudly proclaimed the Second Republic, and held up the long-awaited document for the crowds who had gathered in the gardens of the Belvedere to see.
Since then the Belvedere has a special significance for the Austrians, and it’s immortalised on the reverse side of the twenty-cent coin.
Today the “Österreichische Galerie Belvedere” (Austrian Belvedere Gallery) resides in the palace. It houses the world’s largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt, among them the famous golden paintings “The Kiss” and “Judith I”. The impressive gardens around the Belvedere have also been preserved: it’s easy to imagine Prince Eugen pacing up and down, looking over the city to the Kahlenberg, and wallowing in memories…
Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig