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The story of the Stallburg

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If you ever walked through the passage from the Josefsplatz towards the Michaelerplatz you might have glanced into the magnificent courtyard of the Stallburg with its impressive arcades – and if you were lucky you might have seen one of the horses of the Spanish Riding school which give the building its name: “stable-castle”. The Stallburg, which was built for the Emperor Maximilian II, is one of the oldest parts of the Hofburg and is at the same time probably the most significant remnant of the Renaissance in Vienna. The architect of the building is unknown, but it is well documented how difficult the financing process for the building was. The construction work was delayed again and again – at some point the workers refused to continue their work since they had not been paid for a long time. When the building was finally finished in 1569, it already housed the carriages and horses of the royal family while the courtyard was used as a theatre stage by the Jesuits. Today there are similarities with its initial function as the courtyard still serves as a venue for events and the Lipizzaner of the Spanish Riding School still live in the stables with its golden bars. The shows of the Riding School are also known as the “white ballet”. To live up to the name there is a guardian hired to clean the stables hourly!

There is also a connection between the Stallburg and the Art History Museum. Why? You see, when the Louvre in Paris was opened as the first public art museum ever the same concept was brought to Vienna: From the middle of the 17th century, the Stallburg housed the art collection and numerous objects from the imperial treasury. Later this collection became the foundation of the Art History Museum, when it was opened in 1891! (JE).

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