Eggenberg Palace (Graz)

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Facade with entrance portal
Aerial view from the east in winter

Eggenberg Palace in Graz is the largest and most important baroque palace complex in Styria . With its preserved original furnishings, the extensive landscape garden and the collections of the Universalmuseum Joanneum housed in the castle, it is one of Austria's most valuable cultural assets. As the ancestral seat of the Eggenberg family , its history of construction and furnishings shows the change and patronage of what was once the most powerful family in Styria. In 2010 the castle was added to the existing UNESCO World Heritage City of Graz - Historic Center .

The castle is located in the west of the provincial capital Graz at the foot of the Plabutsch mountain . In addition to the historical gardens and the state rooms of the palace, Eggenberg also offers the opportunity to visit the following collections: In the north of the palace park there is the planetary garden and the adjoining archeology museum. The numismatic collection and the old gallery are housed in the castle.

The lock

Building history

At first glance, Eggenberg Castle presents itself as a unified 17th century building. However, large parts of the building core date from the late Middle Ages and early modern times .

Balthasar Eggenberger bought the Orthof on the Algersdorfer fields between 1460 and 1463 . This fortified noble seat was named after the family and was expanded and redesigned in the following years. Before 1470, a square chapel room was set up in the free-standing tower. There is a Roman cardinal indulgence from this chapel , dated May 30, 1470, which gives the capella Beate Marie Virginis sita in Castro Eckenperg certain privileges. This document provides the terminus ante quem for the completion of the chapel. Balthasar donated a magnificent winged altar for this chapel room, the panels of which are now here again at the original installation site.

In the 16th century this, probably L-shaped, late medieval single-tower castle was adapted to the social position of the family and expanded several times. Features of the building that still show parts of these construction phases today are window frames that provide information about the former storey heights, corner cuboids and acanthus framed bi-ore windows and picturesque furnishings in individual rooms. When this building no longer met the requirements of the new princely family, a fundamental renovation began in 1625. The existing, older components were cleverly integrated into the new building: on the one hand, probably because of the preciousness of the building material, but on the other hand, because of the obvious will not to completely destroy the family's ancestral home. The Gothic Lady Chapel remained unchanged and became the focal point of the new complex.

Ideal perspective view of Eggenberg. Engraving by Andreas Trost, before 1700

In 1625, Prince Hans Ulrich commissioned the court architect Giovanni Pietro de Pomis to plan his new palace. As an architect, painter and medalist , de Pomis from Lodi near Milan became the most important artist at the Graz court. Together with Hans Ulrich he accompanied Archduke Ferdinand on court trips to Italy and Spain. These trips probably shaped de Pomis' architectural design language. His style is based on the Northern Italian Mannerist architecture of the 2nd half of the 16th century, above all the buildings of Palladio and the characteristically unadorned Herrera style . The layout of the layout of Eggenberg Palace almost literally quotes that of Palazzo Thiene , while the external appearance, despite the enormous differences in dimensions, is astonishingly reminiscent of the El Escorial Palace and Monastery near Madrid . Further parallels can also be seen in the stylistic similarities, such as the lack of decoration and emphasized horizontality of the façades, which are raised like a tower at the corners, as well as the juxtaposition of the ballroom and church space. The most important thing these two buildings have in common, however, is the symbolism of the architecture, which formulates the ideas of the respective builders of the nature of the universe into a comprehensive, intellectual, symbolic concept.

De Pomis directed the construction work until his death in 1631. The fortress builder Laurenz van de Syppe continued the work for two years until the building was finally completed under the two foremen of de Pomis, Pietro Valnegro and Antonio Pozzo . In 1635/36 the shell was probably finished. This was followed by the design work of the stonemasons and carpenters from 1641 to 1646. At that time, the castle was usable and also temporarily inhabited by the family. With the unexpected death of the second prince, Johann Anton, the design work on the still missing piano nobile came to a halt.

Pageant for the wedding of Emperor Leopold to Claudia Felizitas. Top right view of Eggenberg Palace, top left Graz (1673).

Johann Seyfried von Eggenberg finally had the palace completed in 1666 in the spirit of baroque splendor. Under him, the ceiling cycle of around 600 paintings in the rooms of the state floor was completed in just 7 years. When Claudia Felizitas , the bride of Emperor Leopold I , announced herself as a guest in 1673 , the house was obviously completed. Only the ballroom did not yet have a picturesque decoration. In 1678 Hans Adam Weissenkircher began his service as a princely Eggenberg court painter in Graz. He completed the series of paintings in the ballroom, now called the Planetary Hall, by 1684/85. The furnishing work for this first phase of Schloss Eggenberg was thus completed.

After the male line of Eggenberg died out, the state rooms were half-empty and neglected. The husband of the last Eggenberg princess, Johann Leopold Graf Herberstein , commissioned a comprehensive renovation of the facility. Between 1754 and 1762, the house and the gardens underwent a second, major phase of furnishing, completely in the style of the Rococo . Above all, the furnishings of the state floor have been modernized. However, the planetary hall and the cycle of ceiling paintings remained unchanged. The work was limited to wall decorations, stoves and furniture. Three East Asian cabinets were set up in keeping with the taste of the time. Five rooms in the north wing received painted wall coverings. Probably the most massive intervention was the demolition of the Eggenberg Castle Theater, in the place of which a castle church was built. The director of this work was Joseph Hueber's pupil of the Graz court architect Hildebrandt .

Eggenberg Palace around 1830, lith. JF Kaiser Institute, Graz

The third phase of changes in the 19th century was limited to the living rooms on the first floor of the castle. The piano nobile remained untouched - and unused - throughout the century. The main focus of this time was the complete redesign of the baroque formal garden into a romantic landscape garden in the English style.

The Herberstein family owned the entire facility until 1939 . Shortly before the war, Eggenberg Palace and its park were acquired by the State of Styria . After damage during the war and occupation, Eggenberg Palace was incorporated into what was then the State Museum Joanneum and opened to the public in 1953 after extensive restoration work.

The program

With his new residence, the intellectual creator of the palace complex, Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, realized an architectural concept that was deeply influenced by the magical natural philosophy and the idea of ​​the order of the world. Above all, astronomy , astrology and alchemy were important components of the formation of a cosmopolitan prince. All these aspects flowed into the concept of the new building, with which one wanted to build a well-ordered, mathematically logical and explainable system. It should represent the universe.

Eggenberg Palace was built on three floors over a rectangular floor plan, the geometric center of which is formed by the tower with the Gothic chapel. All four corners of the castle are tower-like, one and a half stories higher than the rest of the building. Each of these four towers is oriented in one of the four cardinal directions . The number 4 represents the four seasons and the four elements . The inner courtyard is divided into a rectangular and two smaller courtyards by a connecting wing and a transverse wing. It is surrounded on three sides by three-storey pillar arcades. A wide dry moat with stone bridges is laid out around the castle.

The calendar is another basis for this “Universe Schloss Eggenberg”. The system of the Gregorian calendar reform was a major innovation in the time of palace construction. It organizes the palace building logically and mathematically and also reflects all the values ​​of the calendar. Eggenberg Palace has 365 outside windows for every day of the year. On the second floor, the bel étage, there are 52 exterior windows for each week of the year. Each floor in the house contains 31 rooms for the maximum number of days in a month. On the second upper floor, 24 state rooms are arranged in a ring, which symbolize the hours of a day. The entire building is symmetrical. This results in two halves of the same size on the second floor, each of which includes 12 rooms that represent the hours of the day and half of the night.

Room planning is also part of the program. The building follows a strictly hierarchical order. On the ground floor there were only rooms for commercial purposes. The first floor was used for everyday life. The family's living quarters were located there, and Hans Ulrich set up his audience hall exactly in the central axis above the gateway. The second floor was set up as a state floor, which could be divided into apartments for guests if necessary , and contains representative and party rooms. Exactly in the central axis above the gate passage and the audience hall is the planetary hall as the highlight of the program.

The planetary hall

Eggenberg Palace, Planet Hall
Eggenberg Palace, Planet Hall, Mercury

The main and ballroom is the center of the program, the beginning and the end of the wreath of 24 state rooms. The painting cycle created by Hans Adam Weissenkircher links the architectural program with the picture decorations of the castle and thus creates a mighty allegory of the Golden Age that ruled under the government of the Eggenberg family. On the ceiling and the mirror vault of the hall there are seven framed oil paintings that represent the seven classical planets and their properties. The symbolic expressiveness culminates in these paintings, since they simultaneously stand for the seven alchemical metals, the seven days of the week, the seven great possessions of the family and the seven most important members of the family. The four elements are shown in the vault corners. The wall surfaces between the windows carry large-format oil paintings that depict the 12 signs of the zodiac and thus thematize the 12 months.

The first floor

View into the castle chapel

The 24 state rooms on the second floor are arranged outside in a wreath. The program of the ceiling paintings comprises around 600 individual scenes. These tell the idea of ​​the history of mankind and the world at that time. They include scenes from mythology , religious scenes from the Old Testament, and scenes from history. This ceiling program with the framing stucco comes from the first furnishing period of the 17th century.

Under the Eggenberg-Herberstein couple, the 24 rooms on the first floor were opened in the middle of the 18th century. Newly furnished in the taste of the Rococo. In addition to new seating, chandeliers, wall appliques and faience stoves, almost all rooms also received new, single-colored silk damask coverings. Five halls in the north wing of the state floor were furnished with large, painted canvas coverings. The Styrian artist Johann Anton Baptist Raunacher dedicated a different theme to each room. In Eggenberg there are social scenes and hunting scenes as well as shepherd games, theater and game scenes. The rooms were connected by high double doors, and a baroque castle church was built in the west wing instead of the Eggenberg theater. In addition, three precious East Asian cabinets were built into the suite . The first two are adorned with valuable Imari porcelain plates and bowls as well as Chinese silk painting . The eight strips of a precious Japanese screen were embedded in the wall coverings of the third cabinet . These screen parts show the castle and the fortified city of Osaka in Japan. They can be dated to the first half of the 17th century. There are very few views of Osaka from early modern times. Therefore this space is particularly important. The Eggenberger Paravent presents a unique view of Osaka Castle and City at the time of Toyotomi.

The Eggenberg Castle Park

The palace's parks cover 17.9 hectares. All owners and builders have always regarded the palace and the surrounding garden as an element of equal importance. So every generation has made major changes.

Eggenberg Palace, gardens
Castle park in winter

Even at the time the palace was built in the 17th century, sources report that there was an enclosed garden to the southeast of the palace. This system is shown on the copper engraving by Matthäus Merian of Eggenberg Castle in the " Topographia Provinciarum Austricarum " from 1649. With its four square corner towers and the surrounding wall, the complex is reminiscent of the Mannerist park of Schloss Neugebauten near Vienna. The broken gables of the park gates on this view also refer to Mannerism as an architectural style.

The next major expansion of the garden took place after the completion of the palace under Johann Seyfried von Eggenberg. In the last third of the 17th century, the garden was generously expanded to include the building. It followed the pattern of the strictly structured Italian garden, with parterres , bosquets , fountains , aviaries and pheasant gardens .

After the Eggenberg family died out in the 18th century, Johann Leopold Graf Herberstein had the entire complex redesigned into a French Rococo garden within the surrounding wall that still exists today . Otherwise only the pavilion and the four colossal figures in front of the castle have survived from this period. The Eggenberg Palace Gardens were opened to the Graz public as early as the 1870s.

At the time of the Enlightenment and the growing liberality under Emperor Joseph II , the awareness of nature also changed fundamentally. The baroque gardens were understood as ugly nature, pressed into norms and cut. Jerome Graf Herberstein, a fanatical gardening lover, also shared this view and, from 1802, initiated the 'fashionable' redesign of the Eggenberg Castle Park into a romantic garden in the English style . The labyrinth , fountains, the grid-like routing and hierarchical structure of the entire garden, as well as the large viewing terrace north of the castle had to give way. Aside from the straight driveway, which has been preserved, the aim was to recreate a landscape painting with the curved route, the targeted visual guidance, and specifically planted individual trees and woody bosquets . The highlight of this 19th century garden was the rose hill, which could easily be climbed on a curved path to sit down on the plateau under an artificial shade (parapluy) and to overlook and enjoy the entire garden in Biedermeier style.

At the beginning of the 20th century, interest in the garden waned, and the Eggenberg Palace Park no longer had a gardener. As a result, the individual components of the garden were torn down, over the decades they became more and more overgrown and the entire complex became a simple city park.

The Eggenberg Palace Park is one of the most important garden architectural monuments in Austria and is directly under monument protection in a small group of Austria's historical gardens ( No. 35 in the appendix to Section 1, Paragraph 12 of the DMSG ). Therefore, in 1993, in cooperation with the Federal Monuments Office, a garden maintenance company was commissioned, the aim of which was to reconstruct and preserve the garden as a cultural monument of the Romantic era. The elements that were still preserved should be made recognizable, the valuable inventory secured and the lost elements reconstructed as far as possible. The steps that have already been taken in this direction are the reconstruction of the breakfast or lordship garden behind the castle, which was set up in 1848. Another big step was the reconstruction of the rose hill as one of the most important parts of the romantic landscape garden in the winter months 2007/2008.

The planet garden

The extra garden fenced in at the north corner of the garden was given a wide variety of designs and uses over the course of history, until it was finally only perceptible as a spatial structure.

Eggenberg Castle, planet garden, aerial view

After no usable plans or views had been received for this complex, it was decided in 2000 to create a new flower garden, which integrates the fragments of the historical complex that still existed. A new garden was created over an old idea. The architect Helga Tornquist took up the central idea of ​​the Eggenberg program and implemented it in a contemporary garden design. This redesign takes up the age-old system of planetary signature theory in a playful way, which is of great importance for the image program of Schloss Eggenberg.

The lapidarium was built over the foundations of the former orangery as a Point de Vue and to provide an adequate space for the Roman stone collection of the Joanneum.

Archeology museum

The archaeological museum in the north-west of the palace garden, which was newly opened in 2009, is located deep in the area and is therefore not very visible as a building. It shows the cult car from Strettweg from the Hallstatt period, excavations from Styria but also from Egypt.

natural reserve

The park also forms the Schloss Eggenberg European protected area ( ESG 42 , AT2245000). It was designated in 2015 according to the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive in order to offer the resident great horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) , a strictly protected bat, a hunting area. The requirements of European protection (such as the preservation of woody stocks, preservation of the existing standing water, minimization of any pesticide use) must be taken into account in the garden design, but in any case they meet the goal of restoring the romantic landscape garden. The protection intention also includes some structural and maintenance measures on the castle itself, where the animals are roosted.


in alphabetical order

  • Robert Baravalle: Castles and palaces of Styria . An encyclopaedic collection of the Styrian fortifications and properties, which were endowed with various privileges. Leykam, Graz 1995, ISBN 3-7011-7323-0 , p. 7–8 (unchanged reprint from Stiasny, Graz 1961).
  • Franziska Ehmcke et al .; Osaka to byôbu: A screen with views of the castle town of Osaka in Eggenberg Palace. in Joannea Neu, Volume 1. Graz: Universalmuseum Joanneum , 2010, ISBN 978-3-902095-32-9 .
  • Barbara Kaiser, Paul Schuster; Eggenberg Castle. Architecture and equipment , Graz 2016, ISBN 978-3-902095-81-7 .
  • Barbara Kaiser; Eggenberg Castle. Park and Gardens , Graz 2013, ISBN 978-3-902095-51-0 .
  • Barbara Kaiser, Ulrich Becker; Landesmuseum Joanneum (Ed.): Eggenberg Palace . Brandstätter , Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-85033-024-9 .
  • Barbara Ruck; Hans Adam Weissenkircher: Princely Eggenberg court painter . Graz: Landesmuseum Joanneum 1985.
  • Ulla Steinklauber: Eggenberg - a first [garden archaeological] attempt . In: Die Gartenkunst 7 (1/1995), pp. 143–148.
  • Kurt Woisetschläger et al .; Giovanni Pietro de Pomis . Graz: Verlag Styria, 1974, ISBN 3-222-10847-1 .

Web links

Commons : Eggenberg Palace, Graz  - Collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Giovanni Pietro de Pomis. 1974, p. 48.
  2. Hans Adam Weissenkircher. 1985, p. 21.
  3. Ôsaka to byôbu. 2010, p. 8.
  4. ^ Eva Berger: Historical Gardens of Austria: Gardens and parks from the Renaissance to around 1930 . tape 2 Upper Austria, Salzburg, Vorarlberg, Carinthia, Styria, Tyrol . Böhlau, Vienna 2003, ISBN 978-3-205-99352-0 , Graz Schloßpark , p. 462 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  5. ^ Illustration of Schloss Eggenberg by Matthäus Merian, 1649, Topographia Provinciarum Austricarum, In: "Das Schloss als Wehranlage", Ulrich Schütte, 1994, p. 236
  6. Ordinance of the Styrian Provincial Government of April 23, 2015 on the declaration of Eggenberg Castle and its park (AT2245000) as a European Protected Area No. 42. Stf: LGBl. No. 51/2015 (as amended online, ris.bka ).

Coordinates: 47 ° 4 ′ 26 "  N , 15 ° 23 ′ 28.8"  E