The restrictive policies of the Biedermeier period led the Viennese society and the artists of the city in a daily routine that focused on the domestic & non-political life. In the same time the onset of the rapid industrialization created a new & prosperous middle-class that could afford and consume many of the luxuries of the new industrial era.
The Viennese bourgeoisie concentrated on culture, built villas & luxurious apartments in a functional & elegant neoclassical styles, painting & literature, furniture design & interior decorating. In the same time it enjoyed the works of a new crop of exceptional talents in music such as Johann Strauss Jr and Johannes Brahms who lived and worked in Vienna and managed to excel to such degree as to be put in the same category as their godlike predecessors.
The massive urbanization had its toll in the city which experienced a huge outbreak of cholera in 1831 & 1832, making the modernization of its infrastructure an urgent matter. It would be materialized in the following years. The first steamship company to navigate the Danube was established in 1832 while in 1837 Vienna became the center of the national railway network. Metternich resisted firmly to the constitutional reforms demanded by liberal citizens in a time when the liberal movement was on the rise all over Europe. From March 1848 to November 1849 more than ten nations that were ruled by Vienna and the Habsburgs rose up attempting to achieve autonomy, independence or even hegemony over other nations. Metternich fled from Vienna & Ferdinand I of Austria appointed a new batch of liberal ministers in a series of short-lived cabinets.
The 1850’s brought a return of neo-absolutism with the new emperor Franz Joseph I resisting both constitutionalism & nationalism. In the same time however he boosted his capital’s growth by demolishing the Medieval walls & creating the Ringstrasse, a circular road surrounding the Innere Stadt (City). The new district which was packed with architectural masterpieces such as the Vienna State Opera, the Austrian Parliament building & the Naturhistorisches Museum quickly became an area where Vienna’s main landmarks would stand.
Advanced technology & the empire’s vast resources launched Vienna to the industrial age under a series of modernizing transformations such as the improvement of the water supply, the lighting of its buildings and streets first by gas & then electricity, the formation of the Danube canal which created a new vibrant area between it and the main river which bordered the Inner City. The list was supplemented with the establishment of Stadtpark which covered an extensive area between Inner City and Ringstrasse all the way to Landstrasse in the third district, the establishment of the first railway station & finally the incorporation of the city’s outer suburbs into Vienna’s immediate vital space. All these changes improved the capital’s functionality, contributed to the increase of its population and added even more to its profile as a prime European Metropolis.
The city’s population boomed reaching 2 million by 1910, making Vienna the 4th largest city in Europe after London, Paris and Berlin. In the same time it became the center of the Art Nouveau movement with architectural jewels such as the Secession building , the Kirche am Steinhof, Karlsplatz Stadtbahn station & Majolica House sprouting in different corners of the city.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, ruler of the Habsburg Empire since 1896, in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 28 June 1914, by Serb nationalists, would lead into the declaration of war of Austria-Hungary against Serbia and the fast escalation of the conflict into a world war.
Although the outbreak of World War I in 1914 did not pose a direct military threat to Vienna the living conditions deteriorated rapidly & the city suffered terribly from the lack of supplies caused by the embargo imposed by the opposing Entente powers.
At the end of the war the imperial capital of the Habsburg Empire had been delegated to the status of a provincial capital. After WWI Vienna’s size & overall significance compared to the rest provinces of the new Austrian state was often described as that of a as the Wasserkopf (the hydrocephalus). In 1921 Vienna is separated from the surrounding province of Lower Austria & is elevated to the rank of a separate city-state with the left-wing Social-Democrats, the dominating party after the end of the war taking in charge of the city’s administration. Red Vienna struggled to cope with the slops of a disastrous war like poverty & hyperinflation as well as overcrowding & contagious diseases like syphilis & the Spanish flu, mostly through the provision of low cost public housing like the Gemeindebauten (municipality buildings).
Although the government had successes in areas such health care & education and implemented for the first time a real policy of redistribution, the increasingly difficult economic situation led to the polarization between the two major political parties (socialists and conservatives) with riots occurring for the first time on July of 1927. The spiraling political & economic events led to the dissolution of Parliament in 1933 & the outburst of a civil war in 1934 between socialists & conservative-fascist forces.
In the period that followed also known as Austrofascism, Engelbert Dollfuss, Chancellor of Austria since 1932, who had already banned the Nazi, Communist & Republican Schutzbund party, extended the expulsion to the Social Democratic Party as well, leaving only the Vaterländische Front movement of his own creation to rule without any parliamentary opposition.
On the morning of 12 March 1938, the German Wehrmacht started its march inside Austrian territories. The Austrian-born leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler with an escort of 4000 bodyguards followed suit. In what proved to be a triumphal procession, Hitler passed his birth-place of Braunau am Inn on the borders of Upper Austria with Germany and reached Vienna on March 15th in the midst of enthusiastic Nazi salutes, Nazi flags and flowers.
Not every Austrian was as thrilled as the cheering crowds of Vienna with the Nazis. Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychotherapy and founder of psychoanalysis, permanent resident of Vienna from his first year in the University of Vienna in 1873, was among the many Viennese who fled Vienna to escape from the Nazis. For more than 60 years he had treated patients, first at the Vienna General Hospital and then as a private practitioner , lectured at the Vienna University and in essence established the practice of modern verbal psychotherapy from the Austrian capital.
Antisemitism, a familiar but sporadic vice of the Viennese for centuries, more prevalent after the turn of the century, was puffed up by the racist fanaticism of the Nazis. Immediately after the annexation of Austria by Hitler, the Jewish population started to suffer. Jewish homes and shops were plundered, Jews were driven through the streets where they suffered several humiliating tasks under the mockery of the mob. On November 9th and 10th of 1938 in the so-called Kristallnacht pogrom all Jewish synagogues were burned down and thousands of Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. After the Nuremberg Laws of May 1938 all Jews were officially considered social outcasts, forced to wear a yellow badge on their clothes that would distinguish them from the rest of the population. By 1941 more than 130.000 Jews had left Vienna (total Jewish population of Vienna was close to 175.000 in the 1930’s).
From 1943 and on the city suffered from the repeated Allied bombing. When the war was brought to an end in April 1945 fighting was going on in the very heart of the city. The bombings of 1944 and 1945 and the vicious fighting during the subsequent conquest of Vienna by the Soviet troops on April 1945 caused much destruction within the city.
The Allied occupation of Austria lasted from 1945 to 1955. Austria like Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France. Vienna like Berlin was similarly subdivided but the central district was administered jointly by the Allied Control Council.
In May 1955 the country regained its freedom & Vienna’s economy took a decisive turn for the better mainly due to the assistance granted by the Marshall plan of the American government. In the 1960’s & 70’s the booming economy changed Vienna’s skyline with several skyscrapers dominating its modern city-scape. In 1978 the new U-Bahn network was introduced while Vienna became the third official seat of the United Nations housed in the newly established UNO city.
During the division of Europe by the Iron Curtain, Vienna served as a bridgehead between the West and the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. This role became obsolete in 1989. Consequently Vienna’s lost somewhat of its political importance.
The glorious capital of the Habsburg Empire must today compete with the rest of the European capitals within a community of equals. Austria’s integration in the European Union in 1995 has opened a new gate for the city that has started to regain its cosmopolitan character in a new more optimistic economic reality.
The official residency of the Imperial court became Hofburg palace, a fortress complex built in the end of the 13th century constantly adapted to the needs of each Habsburg ruler. The oldest part of the Hofburg called Schweizertrakt (Swiss wing) after the Swiss guards who served at the palace watch, was revamped in Renaissance style in 1552.
16th century was a time of great religious unrest with protestant faith quickly gaining supporters in Vienna as well as the rest of Europe. Fervent supporters of the Catholic faith, the Habsburg rulers led the counter-reformation movement, with the Jesuits being brought in the city of Vienna by 1551 & soon gaining a large influence in the Imperial court. The Akademisches Gymnasium established in 1553 would be their main channel of communication with the younger generations and the oldest secondary school in Vienna’s history.
The re-catholicization of Vienna was entrusted by the Habsburg ruler Rudolph II in the hands of the Viennese Melchior Klesl who although born by Lutheran Protestant parents was converted and ordained to Catholicism in 1577. He became the main agent of Roman Catholicism in Vienna after his appointment as Bishop of the city in 1598.
In a period when Vienna was starting to acquire some of the awe inspiring elements of an Imperial capital with the construction of the first Palace of Schönbrunn and the opening of spectacular Opera plays like Il pomo d’oro by Antonio Cesti (1668), a twist of fate would force the Viennese to take a hard landing. The God pestilence, the Black Death hit the flagship city of Anti-Reformation with all of its might. The plague hit Vienna several times in the first years of the 1680’s wiping out more than half of its population (more than 73.000 people).
The inner conflicts of Christianity would be set aside once and for all in January 1682, when another Ottoman army of about 150.000 men started to move towards Vienna again. War was declared on 6 August 1682. The invasion however especially of that scale was not something that could be materialized at a break neck speed in those times. A time gap of nearly 15 months between the declaration of war and the invasion gave Vienna the opportunity to properly prepare its defense and the Holy Roman Empire to form new alliances with the Kingdom of Poland, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice in order to face the attack.
The Turkish threat had turned Vienna into a city fortress after the first siege. Eleven bastions spread across the city walls stood above the surrounding moat while a broad strip of land around the city had been turned into a glacis, stripped of any buildings in order for the defenders to fire unobstructed.
Despite the provisions the numbers of the enemy were simply overwhelming. 30,000 Crimean Tatars were the first enemies to arrive outside Vienna on the first week of July, 1683. Emperor Leopold I with his court and most of the Viennese civilians (about 60.000 of them) fled Vienna for Passau and other destinations to the west.
About 15.000 strong were left behind to defend the city against a humongous army of nearly 150.000. The fierce clash of the two cannon batteries could not tilt the scales especially since the defenders had twice as much firing power than the attackers who relied mostly on mining tunnels, dug under the foundations of the thick defensive walls.
For two months the city and its defenders were completely cut off from the rest of the world. Starvation had already turned a desperate situation into unbearable for the besieged who mustered their courage to mend the increasing amount of damages and opening gaps created in the city wall by the explosions in the mining tunnels and the constant bombardment by the Turkish cannons.
In early September, just when the Viennese prepared for a last-ditch defense behind the largest gap of the crumbled city walls, an alliance of Christian armies led by Jan III Sobieski, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania arrived at the Gates of Vienna.
On the early morning of September 12th 1683 the battle started with the Ottomans venturing a surprise attack. Within a few hours the outnumbered Christian army (about 70.000 against 140.000 Ottomans) managed to outflank the Turkish troops and inflict the final blow with the help of the formidable Polish hussars who brought panic in the enemy lines with their otherworldly appearance and artificial angel wings. The victory at Vienna marked the turning point in the 300-year old Ottoman-Habsburg struggle, the historic end of the Ottoman expansion in Europe & finally the re-establishment of the political hegemony of the Habsburg dynasty in the Holy Roman Empire & Central Europe.
Charles II the last Habsburg ruler of Spain died in 1700 without leaving an heir, triggering the War of the Spanish Succession that started shortly after his death. The war between the Holy Roman Empire still ruled by the Habsburg Leopold I and Great Britain on one side and France, Naples & Sicily on the other lasted for almost 14 years. In 1703 Leopold I transferred his claim on the Spanish monarchy to his second son, Charles VI. Upon his death in 1705 (aged 64) he was buried in the Imperial Crypt beneath the Capuchin Church and Monastery, near Hofburg castle, the official burial place for members of the House of Habsburg since 1633. Leopold I’s eldest son, Joseph I, took on the helm of the Empire.
During the short reign of Joseph I (Died during a smallpox epidemic in 1711) and then of his younger brother Charles VI (1711 to 1740), two esteemed Viennese architects managed to turn the city into a Baroque Elysium. Palais Auersperg, Stadtpalais Liechtenstein, Palais Schwarzenberg, Upper Belvedere and the magnificent Karlskirche, created after the end of another plague epidemic in 1713 were all built by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt during the first two decades of 1700’s.
By 1713 Charles VI‘s marriage with Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick, a Princess of exceptional beauty, had produced only two daughters that had survived to adulthood. That led to the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 which ensured that his daughter Maria Theresa would follow him in the line of succession. Freed from military threats the city evolved under Charles VI & his daughter, Maria Theresa into a true Mecca of the arts. The Emperor of Music Charles VI found escape from the anxieties of his Imperial obligations and the increasing worries concerning his succession in the harmonies of music. He devoted much of his spare time in attending operas and spent much of his funds on expanding the musical venues in Vienna, building upon the foundations set by his father Leopold I. Vienna’s reputation as the most prestigious music capital of Europe would attract all the musical talents of the Empire as well as Italy, paving the way for the musical wonders of Joseph Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven who all flourished during the second half of the 18th & the beginning of the 19th century.
By the 1790’s the city’s population had doubled, reaching almost 200.000 people as a result of its early industrialization & the construction of factories with the first one established in Leopoldstadt, the city’s second district. Modern reforms were implemented in the economy, civil service & education while the city’s sanitation improved considerably. The suburbs had been turned into giant baroque gardens and organised parks like Prater or Tiergarten Schönbrunn (zoo) that improved the quality of life and air in the capital.
The first organised Christmas Market started operating in the central square of the aristocratic neighborhood of Freyung in 1772 while a few years later, on November of 1780, a forty year old reign, that of Maria Theresa would come to a closure, with her eldest son Joseph II ascending on the throne. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would attend the celebrations as a guest of his new employer, the Archbishop of Vienna, Hieronymus von Colloredo. He later decided to settle in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer.
Mozart’s star had already started to shine with his comic opera Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) premiering at the Burgtheater in Vienna on May 1786 with a huge success. In the same time another exceptional talent, a teenager named Ludwig van Beethoven, traveled to Vienna from his hometown (Bonn) in the hope of studying with Mozart (March of 1787). After his second premiere of Don Giovanni (October 1787), Mozart was appointed as chamber composer of the court by Joseph II, which actually meant he had to compose for the annual balls in the Redoutensaal for a salary that barely covered his life’s expenses and was in essence an effort by the Emperor to keep the composer from leaving Vienna.
According to some biographers the young Beethoven met with Mozart in the Spring of 1787 and he even played for him at his request with the latter saying emphatically, “Mark that young man; he will make himself a name in the world!”. Aside from the historic accuracy of the quote, there seems to be little doubt about the fact that the two grand masters of music met in Vienna and that Mozart operated as an inspirational figure for young Beethoven, especially after 1789, when the young musician started playing viola in the court orchestra which performed many of Mozart’s operas at that time.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in December of 1791, at the young age of 35, after a rush of high fever that has not yet been diagnosed with certainty. His illness came at a time of great productivity, which the great composer struggled to keep until his last day. He was buried in a common grave, in accordance with contemporary Viennese custom, at the St. Marx Cemetery outside the city. His death created an unprecedented wave of enthusiasm for his work with the memorial services and concerts reflecting the great appreciation of the Viennese public for the composer.
Beethoven, who had moved to his hometown Bonn, eventually returned to Vienna one year after the death of his idol, in 1792. This time Beethoven was determined to do exactly what Mozart had predicted when he had first heard him play. He became closely acquainted with some of Mozart’s associates and continued his studies under Haydn‘s (Mozart’s mentor) direction. In March 1795 Beethoven gave his first public concert in Vienna. Between 1798 and 1800 he composed his first two symphonies. In April of 1800 he staged an extensive program of music with all of his works and works of Haydn and Mozart in the Burgtheater. By 1803 he was widely regarded as the most important composer of his generation and on April of that year he was appointed in the Theater an der Wien as a resident composer.
In March 1795 Beethoven gave his first public concert in Vienna. Between 1798 and 1800 he composed his first two symphonies. In April of 1800 he staged an extensive program of music with all of his works and works of Haydn and Mozart in the Burgtheater. By 1803 he was regarded as the most important composer of his generation and in April of that year he was appointed in the Theater an der Wien as a resident composer.
Beethoven’s third symphony was completed in the early 1804. It became a landmark in the history of music, one of the most important musical compositions ever written. The musical wonder had drawn his inspiration from a young French consul (French Consulate was the executive government of the French First Republic) named Napoleon Bonaparte, who according to Beethoven, embodied all the democratic ideals of the French Revolution. He even named his symphony “Buonaparte”. (the name can still be seen in the handwritten manuscript of the symphony (now in the Austrian National Library in Vienna).
When Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France Beethoven went furious and immediately crossed out the title-dedication of his symphony. That would not however eliminate the tempest Napoleon would bring in Vienna’s doorstep. The already defeated several times in the battlefields Austrians saw the advancing Napoleonic troops, occupying their capital in 1805 for the first time. The fall of Vienna came without the expected military havoc, after the ingenious machination of 3 French marshals who managed to take the city without a fight.
In May 1809 Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Aspern-Essling, on the outskirts of Vienna for the first time in over a decade by Archduke Charles & the Austrians, with the French losing more than 20.000 men. The Austrians didn’t manage to repeat their triumph two months later in the Battle of Wagram (the largest battle in European history up to that point) which left the way to Vienna wide open for the French.
On May 10th 1809, General Oudinot‘s troops entered the suburbs of Vienna. The defenders of Vienna were commanded by Archduke Maximilian, Emperor Francis II‘s brother in law who commanded little more than 35.000 soldiers. Napoleon’s cannons didn’t give many options to the Austrians who had to surrender their capital for a second time in only few years. Napoleon moved in the newly erected Schönbrunn Palace and made it his headquarters. A few days later the supplies of food “owed” by the Austrian population to the French army were precisely determined.
Although the conditions of the second occupation & surrender to the French were extremely harsh and led to the dissolving of the Austrian Empire, the loss of many of its territories & the bankruptcy of the Viennese treasury in 1811, these conditions wouldn’t last for long. Napoleon’s catastrophic invasion of Russia in 1812 & the defeats in a series of following battles led to the redrawing of the European map by the Congress of Vienna. From September 1814 to June 1815, Vienna became the undisputed center of Europe, with Kings, Prime Ministers, ambassadors, politicians and other diplomats from every part of the European continent convening in the countless salons of Vienna in the day while attending a series of balls, parties, musical events in the evening.
By the end of the Napoleonic Wars Beethoven had completely lost his hearing, a problem he had already started to face from the beginning of his career but deteriorated as the years went by. However he still continued to work and compose until the problem was so intense that he had to be turned in order to see the enthusiastic outburst of applause by the Viennese crowd, in the end of the premiere of his Ninth Symphony. His funeral procession on 29 March 1827 was attended by an estimated 20,000 Viennese citizens. Franz Schubert, who died the following year and was buried next to Beethoven, was one of the torchbearers.
The Austrian Empire entered a period of censorship and suppression of liberties. The police state became known as the Biedermeier and was in essence under the firm grip of the Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich who had already excelled by restoring much of Austria’s greatness in the Congress of Vienna under a redefined Confederation of German states.
In 1515 Frederick ΙΙΙ’s son & heir to the throne of the Empire, Maximilian I, holds the First Congress of Vienna which stands out as a turning point in the history of Central Europe. Due to its commitments, the Habsburg dynasty managed to cement its power in the region especially after 1526, when Maximilian I’s grandson Ferdinand I, became the heir to the kingdoms of Bohemia & Hungary.
The election of Ferdinand I as king of Hungary brought a discontent into a faction of Hungarian nobility that after two lost battles in 1527 and 1528 appealed to the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent for support. In 1529 Suleiman took advantage of the Hungarian support by launching a massive campaign against Ferdinand I and his capital. The Ottoman siege of Vienna mobilized a significant amount of help from local farmers, peasants & civilians to a variety of European mercenaries, namely German pike-men & Spanish musketeers sent by Charles V, head of the Empire & Ferdinand I’s brother.
In the Spring of 1529 a vast army of more than 120.000 (some sources claim the number was twice as that), Ottomans, enslaved Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians and others who had already succumbed to the military might of the Sultan started their march from Ottoman Bulgaria. By September Buda (Budapest) had already fallen. By late September the city’s defenders, had already dismissed the Sultan’s proposal to surrender. It was a wise decision given the poor condition of the Ottoman army after a long advance from the Balkans all the way to the Austrian territory. Shortage of food and supplies, sickness and desertions, but most of all the lack of heavy guns that had to be left behind due to softened by heavy rains ground which had been turned into a sinking mud, Suleiman and his fierce army failed to take Vienna in one of the most crucial turns in European history.
Although the Ottomans didn’t succeed in what would be their greatest conquest after Constantinople, they did however manage to extend their rule into the lands of central & southern Hungary becoming in that way a new permanent threat on the flanks of Vienna & the Holy Roman Empire.
In 1556 Vienna became the seat of the Emperor again when Ferdinand I took over in the place of his brother Charles V in a time when the Habsburg rule extended over the greatest part of Central Europe, Spain & Italy.
The Habsburg rulers struggled to consolidate their power with the conflicts between the sovereigns & the burghers recurring repeatedly between 1278 & 1283. In 1330 & after the death of Frederick the Fair the Habsburgs lose the Imperial crown & Prague becomes the Imperial residence, with Vienna being relegated to the category of cities that lived in the new capital’s shadow. The Habsburgs attempted to balance the loss by reshaping the city in Gothic style with prime examples from that period being the Gothic Choirs of St.Stephen’s Cathedral, Michaelerkirche & Minoritenkirche. In 1365 Rudolph IV establishes the University of Vienna, the oldest University in the German speaking world & in the same time he sets the foundations for the construction of the Gothic nave of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In the same time he establishes the so-called Wiener Pfennig (Vienna Penny), a currency that would help the stabilization and growth of the city’s economy.
Towards the end of the 14th – beginning of 15th century the guilds acquired a more active role in the field of politics, with most of them represented in the local government. They were mainly separated into the patricians, the tradesmen & the artisans. The political tensions between these groups often mirrored the dynastic quarreling within the House of Habsburg. In 1438 Albert the Magnanimous, Archduke of Austria since 1404 & King of Hungary since 1437, is elected German king & therefore Emperor & moves the capital of the Holy Roman Empire to Vienna once more.
A period of political unrest started after the death of Albert the Magnanimous in 1439 and the election of his nephew Frederick III, as German King in 1440. Albert’s son Ladislaus the Posthumous who was a newborn at the time was placed under his cousin’s Frederick III custody. Frederick ΙΙΙ held his second cousin as a prisoner & attempted to extend his guardianship over him in order to maintain his control over Lower Austria & Vienna. Ladislaus was finally freed in 1452 but died in November 1457 with Frederick ΙΙΙ succeeding in his goal and inheriting his title.
In 1469 Frederick III manages to turn Vienna into a bishopric & St Stephen’s Cathedral the bishop’s seat. Frederick ΙΙΙ was not so successful in the battlefields. He was initially defeated in the Bohemian War (1468-1478) & soon after in the Austrian-Hungarian War (1477-1488). Between 1483 & 1484 Vienna was cut off from the rest of the Holy Roman Empire with its citizens suffering by famine interrupted only for a while by a convoy of sixteen vessels carrying valuable supplies that managed to break the blockade and enter the city through the Danube.
On January 15th, 1485 the Hungarian king Mathias Corvinus demanded the surrender of the city but the Viennese decided to hold until an imperial relief force came to their aid. By mid-1485 the constant battering of the seventeen siege guns had shattered the Viennese resilience. On June 1st, the Hungarian King and his troops entered Vienna triumphantly. The only condition was that the citizens’ privileges be preserved, along with a guarantee of safe passage. Vienna became the official residence of the Hungarian King until his death in 1490. His funeral took place in St Stephen’s cathedral. Frederick III died three years later at the age of 77. He was buried in St Stephen’s Cathedral, with his grave being one of the most important works of sculptural art of the late Middle Ages.
Leopold V the Virtuous took over the Duchy of Austria after the death of his father in 1177 and expanded it into neighboring territories while in 1193 he managed to extract an immense amount of ransom for Richard I (the Lionheart) of England, who had been captured near Vienna as a suspect for the murder of the King of Jerusalem and Leopold V’s cousin Conrad of Montferrat.
The huge amount of silver became the foundation for the mint in Vienna & was used to build new defensive walls around the city after the year 1200. In 1221 the citizens of Vienna were granted their first exclusive privileges with the so called stapelrecht which meant that all non-resident tradesmen who passed from Vienna had to offer their goods for sale for a certain period of time, usually three days to one week, at the city’s port. The Viennese would benefit from their role as middlemen. Revenues from the extensive network of tradesmen who passed through the Danube & the extensive range of business transactions with the leading trade capital of the Mediterranean which was Venice, helped Vienna to evolve into one of the top economic powerhouses of the Empire after Cologne.
After the death of Frederick II the last Babenberg heir in 1246, the Duchy’s territories were seized by the Bohemian (Czech) King Ottokar II who managed to be the sole ruler in the Bohemian, Moravian & Austrian territories in a Central European realm that stretched from the Polish border on the north to the Adriatic coast on the south.
After failing to be elected Emperor in 1273, Ottokar II contested the election of the winning candidate Rudolph I of the House of Habsburgs with the rivalry leading to the Battle on the Marchfeld, one of the largest battles given by heavy knight cavalry in the Middle Ages. The battle resulted in the defeat of the Czechs & the loss of the Austrian lands which passed to the Habsburg dynasty.
The Margraviate of Austria flourished under the rule of Leopold III (Leopold the Good was Margrave from 1095 to 1136. In 1485 he was canonized and became Saint Leopold III, patron saint of Austria & Vienna). Leopold the Good commissioned the construction of churches & abbeys, promoted the creation of new towns & permitted a great level of autonomy that helped Vienna become an important trade center during the 11th century.
In 1136 Leopold IV inherits the Margraviate of Austria & the following year he sets in motion the exchange of the Romanesque Church that would later become St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche) which was given to the Bishop of Passau in return for extended stretches of land outside the city walls. Five years later, Leopold IV’s brother Henry II Jasomirgott, takes his place as Margrave of Austria & Duke of Bavaria after Leopold’s unexpected death & he moves his residence in Vienna soon after (1145). Two years later the most important religious building in Vienna to this day, St.Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) is consecrated, taking the place of the most important city symbol, a symbol of its growing importance as an imperial capital.
Henry II needed a big monastery for his new capital as in those days monasteries were mainly repositories of knowledge that could help the rulers in their administrative duties, so he founded the Roman Catholic Schottenstift (Scottish Abbey) Monastery in 1155.
In 1156 the newly elected Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) in an attempt to appease the unrest between his vassal princes & avoid the impeding civil war decides to return the Duchy of Bavaria to its last rulers from the House of Welfs & in the same time, in order to compensate the House of Babenberg for its loss, elevates the Margraviate of Austria into a duchy, administratively independent from Bavaria. The document issued by the Emperor known as Privilegium Minus turned out to be founding act of what was to become a nation. The year (1156) is sometimes given as Austria’s date of independence.
The earliest written references to Vindobona are given by Strabo in his Geographica (published before 23 AD) while the historian Aurelius Victor recounts that Emperor Marcus Aurelius died in Vindobona (in the movie Gladiator he was assassinated by his son in a camp near the German frontier) in March 180 AD.
Vindobona became one of the most important outposts for the defense of the Roman heartland. Its fortifications were especially important due to the famous Amber Road, the ancient trade route of the precious mineral that extended from the coasts of the Mediterranean to the Baltic, passing the River of Danube at the site of the fort-city.
Constant pressure by the Germanic tribes, a tremendous flood of the river Danube during the 3rd century but most of all the dramatic decline of the Roman Empire during the 4th century combined with a devastating fire at the beginning of the 5th diminished the size of the settlement that was soon after deserted by the Romans. The era known as Migration period had already started leading to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the middle of the 5th century. Pannonia was ceded to the Huns by Theodosius II . After the death of Attila it successively passed from the hands of the Ostrogoths (456-6th century), to the Lombards (530-568) later the Gepids, the Byzantines, the Avars and the Slavs.
It seems that a small settlement continued to exist under the protection provided by the remnants of the ancient camp until the Carolingian Empire of the Franks managed to incorporate the lands ruled by the Avars by the 820’s.
Part of the kingdom of East Frankia after the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the frontier region had to face the invasion of another storming nation, the Magyars, who roamed the lands of central Europe before they finally settled in the territories of modern day Hungary at the end of 10th century.
The defeat of the constantly raiding Magyars by Otto I, (German King from 936) in the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, elevated the king’s status into that of a Holy Roman Emperor & put a stop into the almost 100 year long era of Magyar aggression, giving the eastern territories of the Empire the needed stability for their further growth.
In 976 during a general restructuring of Bavaria by Otto II a new frontier county is set on the territory of the former Pannonian March. Leopold the illustrious (originally from Bamberg, present day Bavaria) is appointed Count of Marcha Orientalis (Eastern March) that would form the core of the future Arch-duchy of Austria.
The formation of this Marcha Orientalis (eastern borderland) or Österreich (recorded in a document of 996 for the first time), or Austria in its Latinized form which prevailed, did not seem to have a particular effect for the city of Viena that continued to sit in the Magyar frontier until the first half of the 12th century.
The site where the city of Vienna stands today shows archaeological evidence of early habitation that date back to 8000 BC. A Copper Age settlement was uncovered on the Gemeindeberg (today’s 13th district), containing numerous ceramic finds, stone artifacts and animal bone remains in excavations carried out between the 1920’s and 1930’s. Both everyday objects and more significant burial artifacts were discovered during the construction of the Vienna Höhenstrasse on the Leopoldsberg (19th district). It is now proven that Leopoldsberg, the most famous hill towering over the Danube and the city, was inhabited since the Stone Age (6000 BC) all the way to the late Bronze Age (800 to 700 BC) by people of the so-called Urnfield culture (1300 BC – 750 BC – predecessor of the Hallstatt culture (800 BC — circa 500 BC).
The proto-Celtic tribes established their permanent settlement on the site of modern day Vienna around 500 BC. Its name, Vindobona from ancient Celtic windo (white) & bonna (base/bottom).
Around 15 BC (a year before the death of Rome’s first Emperor, Caesar Augustus) the wider territory south of the River Danube known as Noricum (Federation of Celtic tribes) is incorporated in the Roman Empire. Around that time the Roman army sets up a military camp on the site of the city center of present-day Vienna with the same name as the pre-existing Celtic settlement (Vindobona). The camp would serve like dozens more as a gatekeeper of the Empire.
During the reign of Emperor Claudius (41 to 54 AD) Vindobona became one of the main border camps of the Roman Province of Pannonia containing about 6000 men. The camp was surrounded by the so-called Villae Rusticae, countryside villas for the high ranking officers or other Roman citizens which served both as a landowner’s residence and a farm, providing for much of the needed by the army food supplies.
The Roman fort was designed as every other Roman city, with an elaborate system of aqueducts, canals & subterranean pipes that provided the inhabitants of Vindobona with fresh water & secured their appropriate sanitation.
The creation of the fort was followed by civic communities that developed in its vicinity raising the area’s population to about 15.000. Several legions, cavalry units & military officers were constantly exchanged between Vindobona & other military camps which comprised the defensive network of Pannonia.
The history of Schönbrunn and the buildings that stood on the site before it goes back to the Middle Ages. In 1569 the estate known as Katerburg came into Habsburg possession. In 1612 Emperor Matthias gave the estate its name. At the end of the 17th century Emperor Leopold I commissioned the gifted Baroque architect Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to built a palatial hunting lodge for the heir to the throne. On the site of the old imperial château de plaisance a splendid edifice was to arise.
Schönbrunn fell victim to the depredations of Turkish troops during the siege of Vienna. The new edifice designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was rebuilt. In 1728 Emperor Charles VI acquired the unfinished palace made a gift of it to his daughter, Maria Theresa. Maria Theresa’s Palace was to become the magnificent focus of court life. From that time onward it played host to the leading statesmen of Europe. Although Austria is now a republic, Schönbrunn has remained a place of political encounter at the highest level. After Maria Theresa died Schönbrunn Palace remained unoccupied and its use as a summer residence was only resumed during the reign of Emperor Franz II/I.
During this intervening period Schönbrunn was occupied twice in 1805 and 1809 by Napoleon, during which the French emperor used the memorial rooms to Franz Stephan in the east wing as his quarters. On the occasion of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 it had become clear that Schönbrunn urgently needed refurbishing. During the course of these improvements Franz I/II had the facade altered between 1817 and 1819 to designs by the court Johann Aman which considerably changed its appearance.
Aman removed Pacassi’s elaborate Rococo decoration from the facade, reducing it to much plainer forms with only a small number of decorative elements. It was probably during this period that the palace was painted in the shade now known as ‘Schönbrunn Yellow’, giving it the characteristic appearance it still retains today. The magnificent architecture and the exquisite decor of its state rooms marks Schönbrunn out as a cultural treasure and tourist attraction of the first order. More
The small Rathauspark where the famous traditional Christian Market takes place every year, separates the Parliament from the most impressive Gothic structure in the city, the Rathaus (Town Hall). Although its lines & overall shape clearly relate to the Medieval Gothic cathedrals the building was erected during the second half of the 19th century, a time of constructional orgasm throughout the Ringstrasse’s newly acquired free spaces.
The architecture of the buildings in Ringstrasse is dominated by historicism, the Greek-Roman revival style of architecture that prevailed after the 1850’s in Europe and the US. Friedrich Schmidt who had earlier worked in the construction of the Cologne Cathedral(another Gothic masterpiece), designed & constructed the Rathaus between 1872 & 1883 in a similar motif giving the visitor today, the feeling that the building is present in Vienna’s cityscape for a much longer period than it actually has been.The resemblance of the hundred meters tall tower with a cathedral bell tower is striking. Inside the stunning Council Chamber with its grandiose chandelier, the unmatched 71 meters long & 18.5 meters high Festival Hall, the 2.804 m² (one of the biggest in Europe) Arkadenhof inner courtyard that reminds us the Doge’s Palace in Venice, the impressive Senate Chamber, the Grand Staircases & the Coat of Arms Hall will make it difficult for you to imagine that this is the actual “office” of the city’s administration with more than 2000 people working daily in its premises. More