Imperial Treasury

Justin Racine



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” ( 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” ( 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.




News, BBC. “Austria Presidential Election: Faulty Envelope Glue Delays Re-run.” BBC News. N.p., 12 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.


“History of the Collection.” Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien. Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <>.

“History of the Collection.” Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien. Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.


“Languages, Culture and Religion.” Living and Working in Austria. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <>.

“New Brand Identity for Vienna as a Tourist Destination: Now. Forever.” Vienna’s B2B Service for the Tourism Industry. B2B, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <>.

“The End of the Holy Roman Empire.” The End of the Holy Roman Empire | History Today. History Today, 7 July 2006. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <>.

“The Scientology Religion in Austria.” Scientology Religion. Church of Scientology International, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <>.

8 thoughts on “Imperial Treasury

  1. Kyra Daniels

    It seems that the history held within the treasury is worth more than the base material value of the items. The Imperial Treasury is a very fascinating topic to focus on as not only do the items themselves give an insight into Austria’s history, but the fact that they kept these items are telling of Austria’s identity as well. One can assume that they are quite proud of their history.

    Physical items can be a significant part of a countries identity. I find that our discussions of Chairman Mao’s reign in China in my Tourism and Ethnicity in China class demonstrates this quite well. During his reign he ordered for many priceless antiques, writings, and buildings to be destroyed as they symbolized the old ways. He attempted to create a new identity for China by destroying its old identity present in physical objects.

    While we did not talk talk much about the significance of historically important physical objects in my Arab Spring class, it was mentioned multiple times how there were some of the worlds oldest settlements in the Arab region. The Arab countries have a deep history that is undoubtedly an important part of their identity. Your abstract makes me curious about whether there are any universally important items for the Arab countries.

    This is why I feel that your subject is so interesting. Though it seems to lack a strong thesis (maybe I missed it) this has potential to be extremely analytical. There is a lot of potential directions your project could go in and I’b be interested to see what you chose.

  2. Nicholas Margetic

    I like the fact that the value of of the treasury is not within material means, but the history behind them. I find this to be a rather interesting topic, as it sheds light on some of Austria’s history. Not to mention that it gives itself a long standing from of identity. In my class Jordan’s Cultural Mosaic, we did discuss the relevancy of personal history, and how it shapes the present image of Jordan as a whole. So I feel that this is relevant to our common assignment about identifying citizenship, as it helps give weight to the identity behind the citizens of Austria.

    1. Taylor Harris

      The Comment made about “relevance of personal history” in my Class about Jordan i ended up writing a paper examining an image about Jordanian Women in a Kitchen. I went on and talked about how some residents chose to either keep their culture with them or drop it when traveling. I guess it all depends on how deep they are their culture.

  3. Olivia-Belle Phillip

    The Imperial Treasury in Austria, as you stated still to this day shines a light into the culture of Austria. These artifacts help to provide proof of a time that not longer exists in Austria. This idea relates to My Jordan Cultural Mosaic class, where we talked about what it means to be a citizen. Just like Palestine a place that no longer exist there are still people who identify with this past. It helps to give them a sense of identity and connect with those who came before them. I feel like this is how these treasures are viewed in Austria, where this is a part of identity and citizenship that is present there.

    1. Olivia-Belle Phillip

      This also relates to my Arab Spring class, in the aspect that many of the Arab Spring countries are controlled and heavily dominated by the muslim religion . Similar to the way Austria is dominated Catholic religion. I feel the role religion has a on a country is very powerful. And when you stated it was a huge part in shaping what Austria is today I see how this can relate to the Arab world. However to my surprise in one of the most shaping and influential occurrences in the Arab world was the uprisings, and religion wasn’t one of the key contributing factors. Rather it was people coming together of different religions united under a demand for change. This makes me questions how powerful religion can truly be.

  4. Matthew Wolf

    I understand and really like the concept that the value of the treasury isn’t just through material means but also historical, however, what sort of history do they focus on? A lot has happened, both the good and the bad and we can see this in any class that we take, just like Drawing Across Cultures and understanding viewpoints from just an image. With these material objects and paintings that help depict not only what was valued back then but the history behind it all, what kind of message is trying to be sent to us viewers who never took part in such times? One image of the Holy Lance can mean one thing but to outside viewers that could mean another. With such material and historical items held throughout the countless years, what message and feeling do those who show these items want us as viewers to see? Is there really a message at all or are they just items from the past that led them to become what they are today?

  5. Paige Sweeney

    I really enjoyed reading your paper. It was really interesting how much the historical culture means to the people of Austria. We also talked about the importance of historic culture in my Jordan’s Cultural Mosaic class. There was a lot of discussion about the importance of cultural history in Jordan and how many fear that their culture is becoming lost and instead is becoming more western. I think its amazing that Vienna has this museum in order to preserve their past.

  6. Adam Gurman

    I enjoyed learning about the Imperial Treasury. One of the first things that came to mind when first reading about the Imperial Treasury was, oddly enough, a period in Chinese history where innumerable treasures were lost.

    This period is known as the Cultural Revolution, where the government seized, banned, or destroyed countless cultural artifacts. This included the destruction of temples, the banning of religion, and the “modernizing” of certain languages. The physical treasures they seized were melted down and used in industry or manufacturing.

    I find it interesting how some groups choose to hold on their traditions, while others choose to throw them away. The Chinese communists believed that the only way to advance as a society was to “modernize”, and rid themselves of anything tying them to their past, yet, the Austrians seem to want to hold onto their past, but has this always been true?

    George Orwell once said that “every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it”. The Chinese Communist Party, who would eventually gain control over the whole of China, saw a society where the one percent ruled over the rest, and believed that their way, communism, was superior to the status quo. Through means of military force, they took control over the country.

    Something similar happened to Austria, but it was an external force, rather than an internal one. The Nazis gained control over Germany during a period of unthinkable economic depression, not far off from the conditions during the Chinese Communist takeover. Germany annexed Austria, telling their newly inducted citizens that their way was the right way.

    In the end, the Communists succeeded where the Nazis failed.Austrians tried desperately to rid themselves of anything tying them to the period of occupation, and were treated as a victim by the allies. You mention the spread of Austrian patriotism after the end of World War II, and I believe that this kind of patriotism is similar to the kind the Chinese Communists felt.

    I have heard it said that the word tradition was created by those who hate change to make lack of change sound romantic. Maybe we try to dispose of our past during times of great, uncontrollable, change, or maybe when we think we have found something that is just better. We can choose to stick with what we know, or move onto (potentially) greener pastures. Austrians, as well as many other cultures, might hold their pasts above their heads with pride, because, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I believe that the then is often seen to be better the now, because some may see the events of the past as the right way because they got us to where we are now. However, it is all highly subjective, and there is no “one size fits all” in matters this delicate. Something to think about. 🙂


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