Eleonora Magdalena Gonzaga of Mantua-Nevers

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Eleonora Gonzaga
Tomb of the Empress Eleonora Magdalena Gonzaga

Eleonora Magdalena Gonzaga von Mantua-Nevers (born November 18, 1628 in Mantua , † December 6, 1686 in Vienna ) was the third wife of Emperor Ferdinand III.


Eleonora Magdalena was the eldest daughter of Duke Carlo II of Gonzaga-Nevers , Duke of Mantua , and his niece Maria Gonzaga . The mother of Eleonora Gonzaga, Duchess Maria Gonzaga , who after the death of Carlo I for Eleonora's brother, Carlo III. took over the reign, tried to initiate a political rapprochement with the Viennese imperial court. In this context, the marriage of Eleonora with Emperor Ferdinand III. be seen. which was closed on April 30, 1651 in Wiener Neustadt. On March 22nd, 1651 Eleonora left Mantua with her entourage and traveled via Villach and Graz to Wiener Neustadt , where on April 30th, 1651 she was Emperor Ferdinand III. got married. Ferdinand III. was widowed twice at this point, after marriages with Maria Anna of Spain and Maria Leopoldine of Austria-Tyrol . Financially there were controversies before the marriage with Eleonora Gonzaga, both farms were starved by the Thirty Years War and the War of the Mantuan Succession .
Eleonora's position at the Viennese court and with Ferdinand III. seemed to have consistently been appreciative and respectful, essential attitudes such as piety, music and hunting passions were shared, although the marriage after only 6 years due to the death of Ferdinand III. ended in 1657. For Ferdinand III. The music also played a not only representative role, as he also went down in history as a composing Habsburg. Her entry into the new family at the Viennese court should of course have been made comparatively easy by her great-aunt Eleonora I , who was Ferdinand II's second wife and who also resided in Vienna until 1655.
A close relationship also developed with her stepson Leopold I , who from 1657 inherited his father Ferdinand III. started. After the death of her husband, she stayed with her two daughters in the Hofburg. Also, it seems, another marriage of Eleonora with the Polish King John Casimir was considered, but this did not materialize. Eleonora Magdalena von Mantua-Nevers-Gonzaga is one of those 41 people who received a “ separate burial ” with the body being divided between all three traditional Viennese burial places of the Habsburgs ( imperial crypt , heart crypt , ducal crypt ).


Eleonora was considered a very educated and pious woman. She herself wrote religious poems in Italian, ran a literary academy and promoted the cultural life of Vienna. Although she was very pious, she did not discriminate against Protestant authors. She founded several monasteries, such as the Ursuline Monastery in Vienna in 1660 . She was also the patroness of the Carmelite convent founded in Wiener Neustadt . In 1662 she also founded an order called Slaves of Virtue for women of the aristocracy. It is probably thanks to her religious zeal that the oratorio played an important role in her time in Vienna , as the first conductor of her widows' band, Giuseppe Tricarico , was able to bring with him experience in Roman oratorio practice.


From the marriage with Ferdinand III. Four children were born, but only two of them reached adulthood.

The patroness

The expansion of the Vienna Hofburg to include the Leopoldine wing goes back to her. When a fire broke out there in February 1668 and almost destroyed the entire building, an undamaged reliquary cross was later found under the ruins . On this occasion, the Empress founded the Star Cross Order .

After Eleonora was widowed in 1657, she continued to be culturally and religiously active. She also played an important role at the court of her stepson, Emperor Leopold I , organized parties and had ballets performed. Both Eleonora Magdalena Gonzaga and Eleonora I hired a considerable number of musicians from the Italian region and thus also brought some musical innovations to Vienna. And probably also due to the influence of the two Gonzaga empresses, as well as the many family ties of the Habsburgs to Italian courts, court life in Vienna was never more Italian than in the second half of the 17th century. Eleonora Magdalena ensured, for example, that the (at that time still new genre) Italian opera , a substantial part of which Eleonora I brought to the Viennese imperial court, was maintained. After the Thirty Years War, the number of Italian operas performed rose sharply. The opera care was intensified course also through her music-loving stepson Leopold I. From the time of her widowhood was Eleonora always for the Emperor's birthday on June 9, an opera commissioned which in their summer residence, the new Favorita (today Theresianum) present in 4th district of Vienna, was listed. The Favorita had a garden theater and a theater building ("Comoedi Hall") and was the scene of splendid festivals and opera performances.
The musical genre of the Sepolcro , which was only performed on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, also dates from the time of Eleonora .
Eleonora seemed to have taken the theater and set designer Giovanni Burnacini with her to Vienna . The son Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini was born in Mantua in 1636 and probably came to Vienna in 1651 with his father Giovanni Burnacini in the wake of Eleonora. They repeatedly received large orders from both Ferdinand III. as well as by Leopold I and were the only stage architects in Vienna at that time. Lodovico Burnacini designed decorations, stage machines and costumes for all kinds of theatrical performances in Vienna.

Widows chapel

After the death of Ferdinand III. Eleonora II affords her own chapel. The foundation goes back to the year 1657, existed until 1686 and usually comprised 25 members. The chapel consisted of:

  • A bandmaster
  • 20 musicians
  • A notist
  • An instrument operator
  • A donor (vote distributor)
  • A limestone (bellows tread)


The so-called academies, which she must have known from Mantua , also went back to Eleanora's time . At the academies, various topics were discussed alternately with pieces of music and poetry. The first academies were founded by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm and served both the cultivation of Italian poetry and rhetoric and the performance of Italian chamber music. It was also intended, of course, as sophisticated entertainment for the imperial family and the court nobility. Participants were also members of the court and diplomats from Italy.


  • Constantin von Wurzbach : Habsburg, Eleonore Gonzaga . In: Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich . 6th part. Imperial and Royal Court and State Printing Office, Vienna 1860, p. 161 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Eleanor. In: Brigitte Hamann (ed.), The Habsburgs . 1988, p. 79.
  • Deisinger, Marko: Eleonora II and the foundation of her court orchestra. A contribution to the history of cultural life at the Viennese imperial court. In: Early Modern Information Volume 18, Issue 1. Vienna 2007.
  • Fidler, Katharina: Patronage and Politics at the Viennese Court: The Example of Eleonora Gonzaga-Nevers. In: Innsbruck historical studies volume 12/13. Innsbruck 1990.
  • Schnettger, Matthias: The empresses from the Gonzaga house: Eleonora the elder and Eleonora the younger. In: Braun, Bettina, Keller, Katrin and Schnettger, Matthias (eds.): Only the Emperor's wife? Empresses in the early modern period. Vienna 2016.
  • Seifert, Herbert: The musicians of the two empresses Eleonora Gonzaga. In: Festschrift Othmar Wessely for his 60th birthday. Tutzing 1982.

Web links

Commons : Eleonora Gonzaga  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Matthias Schnettger writes on this: "The year of birth Eleonoras the Younger is even controversial in the literature. While Schnitzer-Becker, Eleonora Gonzaga Nevers and Fidler, patrons apparently correctly state November 18, 1628, the year 1630 is also widely found Eleonora in exile, born in Ariano [due to the invasion of the imperial troops], in the Papal States. "
    Matthias Schnettger: Only the Emperor's wife? Empresses in the early modern period. Böhlau, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-205-20085-7 , The Empresses from the Gonzaga House: Eleonora the Elder and Eleonora the Younger, p. 120 .
  2. ibid. P. 121.
  3. ibid. P. 125.
  4. ^ Katharina Fidler: Patronage and politics at the Viennese court: The example of Eleonora Gonzaga-Nevers. In: Innsbruck historical studies volume 12/13. Innsbruck 1990, p. 51 f .
  5. ^ Marko Deisinger: Roman oratorios at the court of the Habsburgs. In: Musicologica Austriaca 29 . Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-7069-0669-2 , p. 92 .
  6. Schnettger p. 140.
  7. Martin Mutschlechner. Art. Imperial holiday delights - summer seats around Vienna. [1]
  8. Fidler p. 58.
  9. ^ Herbert Seifert: The musicians of the two empresses Eleonora Gonzaga. In: Festschrift Othmar Wessely for his 60th birthday. Tutzing 1982, ISBN 978-3-7952-0346-7 .
  10. ^ Marko Deisinger: Eleonora II and the foundation of her court orchestra. A contribution to the history of cultural life at the Viennese imperial court. In: Early Modern Information Volume 18, Issue 1. Vienna 2009.
predecessor Office Successor
Maria Leopoldine of Austria-Tyrol Roman-German Empress
April 30, 1651 to April 2, 1657
Margarita Theresa of Spain