Imperial Treasury, Vienna
The Imperial Treasury (German: Kaiserliche Schatzkammer) at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria contains a valuable collection of secular and ecclesiastical treasures covering over a thousand years of European history. The entrance to the treasury is at the Schweizerhof (Swiss Courtyard), the oldest part of the palace, which was rebuilt in the sixteenth century in the Renaissance style under Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. The Imperial Treasury is affiliated with the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and houses in 21 rooms a collection of rare treasures that were compiled by the Imperial House of Habsburg over the course of centuries, including the Imperial Crown, Orb, and Sceptre of Austria, and the Imperial Regalia of the Emperors and Kings of the Holy Roman Empire, including the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Imperial Treasury is divided into two collections: the secular collection and the ecclesiastical collection. The secular collection contains numerous imperial artifacts from the House of Habsburg, including jewels and precious stones that due to their unique size could not be fitted into the imperial crowns. Like all secular treasuries, it was designed to attest to the political power and geographical reach of their owners. The ecclesiastical collection contains numerous religious treasures, including relics and objects ascribed to the private ownership of saints.
The Imperial Treasury collections were set up from 1556 by the scholar Jacopo Strada, court antiquarian of Ferdinand I. In the eighteenth century, Maria Theresa had the Habsburg treasures moved to its present location, covering up the fact that the dynasty's assets had been largely affected by the expensive wars against rivaling Prussia. The Imperial Regalia arrived in the last days of the Holy Roman Empire around 1800 from Nuremberg, where they had been kept since 1424, in order to save them from the advancing French troops under Napoleon. After the Austrian Anschluss of 1938, the Nazi authorities took them back to Nuremberg. At the end of World War II, they were returned to Vienna by the US forces. The display was completely renovated in 1983-1987.
The Treasury is divided into two sections - secular and ecclesiastical. The secular museum contains a collection of royal objects:
- The Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien): insignia and jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, including the Imperial Crown, the Holy Lance and the Imperial Sword;
- The Austrian Crown Jewels, comprising the personal crown of Emperor Rudolf II, which with the proclamation of the Austrian Empire in 1804 became the Imperial Crown of Austria, with sceptre and globus cruciger, the regalia worn by Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria on the occasion of his coronation as King of Lombardy–Venetia in 1835, as well as the vestments and other precious items of the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary and the Military Order of Maria Theresa;
- The regalia of the Archduchy of Austria with the cord casing of the archducal hat made for the coronation of King Joseph II in 1764;
- The Burgundian Treasury, part of the dowry of Mary the Rich at her wedding with Archduke Maximilian I in 1477.
- The original insignia of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the scepter and the orb.
- The treasury of the Order of the Golden Fleece from the heritage of Mary's father Duke Charles the Bold.
On display are various valuable gems, including one of the world's largest emeralds. Part of the treasury are also the crown of the Transylvanian prince Stephen Bocskay and the two “inalienable heirlooms of the House of Austria”: a giant narwhal tooth which was thought to be the horn of a unicorn (Ainkhürn) and the Agate bowl from Late Antiquity which was thought to be the legendary Holy Grail; furthermore the Napoleonica artifacts of Napoleon II and his mother Marie Louise.
The ecclesiastical collection contains numerous devotional images and altars, mostly from the Baroque era.
- Leithe-Jasper 2004, p. 9.
- Brook 2012, pp. 100–01.
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- Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (1991). The Secular and Ecclesiastical Treasuries. Vienna: Residenz Verlag. ISBN 978-3701706860.
- Leithe-Jasper, Manfred; Distelberger, Rudolf (2004). The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: The Imperial and Ecclesiastical Treasury. Vienna: Scala Publishers. ISBN 978-3406429385.
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- Kirkpatrick, Sydney D. (2010). Hitler's holy relics : a true story of Nazi plunder and the race to recover the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1416590620.
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