The Imperial Treasury
The Kaiserliche Schatzkammer, or Imperial Treasury, is an important collection of Austrian artifacts located at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. It contains a variety of temporal and religious treasures spanning more than a thousand years of European history. The Imperial Treasury works in collaboration with the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the largest art museum in the country. The collections of rare treasures were accumulated by the Imperial House of Habsburg over the course of hundreds of years. Artifacts include the Reichskleinodien, or Imperial Regalia, which itself contains various important relics like the Imperial Sword, Holy Lance, and the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. Although Austria’s days as part of the empire are long gone, we can still visit the Imperial Treasury to see many treasures from that time.
The Imperial Treasury is divided into two collections of artifacts: the Secular Treasury and the Ecclesiastical Treasury. The former “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” (kaiserliche-schatzkammer.at). Meanwhile, the Ecclesiastical Treasury focuses on the more religious aspects of Austria. These collections both began in the 14th century, during the rule of the Habsburgs. At that time, all of the precious treasures the Habsburgs had were stored in the Imperial Chapel inside of Hofburg Palace. The treasures ranged from ornate coins, silver and gold, gem-encrusted jewelry, and even had certain written contracts and other documents that were essential to the Habsburgs keeping their authority among the many nations they ruled. Then another ruler, most likely Emperor Rudolf II, built an additional wing in the northwest section of the Hofburg Palace to further expand the ever-growing collection of Habsburg legacies. This wing was called Kunsthaus, or “art house,” and parts of it are being used as exhibition rooms for the Imperial Treasury today.
The great variety of treasures collected over the centuries show where Austria got its culture from, to be certain. This, of course, attracts many tourists that want to learn more about the history of Vienna and Austria as a whole. In fact, the capital city’s board of tourism is currently trying to rework Vienna’s perception and identity to “reflect Vienna’s standards as a premium destination” (b2b.wein.info). The board also wants the city to focus on its visitors and enlightening them with Viennese history, highlighting historically rich buildings like the Imperial Treasury. They even changed the slogan for the city; it is now “Vienna – Now. Forever.” I personally think it is heartwarming to see the Viennese people embracing their culture and wanting to better their image and identity in today’s world.
Many artifacts from the Imperial Treasury are considered points of national pride for the Austrian people, as they remind them of their country’s identity as a Catholic nation under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire. National pride is a big issue in Austria today. Patriotism begun after WWII, when Austria was trying to regain its position as an independent country from Germany. It spread across the population due to activism during the 50’s and 60’s. The campaigns were very influential, and stuck with the population even into the modern day. This ideology evolved into the Freedom Party of Austria, and it is one of the two major parties vying for presidency in Austria today. The FPO’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, won the first round in Austria’s two-round system but did not win the second round, and the results were annulled due to improper handling and faulty glue. A re-vote is taking place on December 4, 2016, but the FPO campaign managers are claiming their adversaries from the Greens party sabotaged the election, as Hofer was doing good in the polls when it happened. What can be seen is what we experienced here in America with our election: a faulty election system with its people uncertain of who they want to represent them, and not without some controversy in how the elections were administered.
The Imperial Treasury in Vienna is quite literally a treasure trove that gives insight into both the secular and religious facets of Austria’s history. Although religion was just one aspect of how Austria became what it is today, it is still vital today. For centuries, Austria was dominated by a mostly Catholic society that stemmed from the Habsburg Monarchy and Holy Roman Empire. The Constitution grants freedom of religion, as the country tries not to discriminate against certain religions, although it may have no choice in some situations. Regardless, Austria is a country with a fascinating history and I would love to visit and experience its culture.
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“History of the Collection.” Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien. Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <http://www.kaiserliche-schatzkammer.at/en/visit/collections/ecclesiastical-treasury/history-of-the-collection/>.
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