The Imperial Treasury in Vienna houses perhaps the world’s most comprehensive collection of royal and imperial crown jewels, insignia and other items, as well as those related to the knightly order known as the Order of the Golden Fleece. The exhibited items span the period from the 10th up to the 19th century, among which those related to history, mythology, religion, etc. could be found. This interesting museum is located in the oldest section of the Hofburg Palace.
Imperial crown jewels and regalia
Three exhibited objects in the photo are the imperial crown of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1576 to 1612, imperial orb and sceptre. The jewels symbolized the Emperor’s divine and lawful right to rule. The crown was crafted in Prague, with the golden reliefs showing Rudolf as a general, and being crowned in Prague (former Bohemia, today’s Czech Republic), Frankfurt (Holy Roman Empire) and Bratislava (Hungary, today’s Slovakia). Holy Roman emperors back then were also kings of Bohemia and Hungary.
Exhibited nearby is the original crown of the Holy Roman Empire, originated in 962 for the coronation of Otto I. It was worn by all emperors until Rudolf II, and afterwards for the coronation ceremonies. It is made of gold and enamel, studded with the precious stones.
Another striking exhibit is a gold-embroidered cloak of the Emperor Franz I, once he became the Austrian Emperor after the Holy Roman Empire’s downfall during the Napoleonic Wars (1806). The lavish cloak combines highly detailed golden floral and imperial insignia on the red background.
Among other crown jewels and regalia one can find crowns once belonging to other kingdoms throughout history, coronation mantels and vestments, jewels, portraits of significant rulers, and other.
Treasury and objects of the Golden Fleece order
This chivalrous brotherhood was founded in 1430 in Burgundy (today’s France), while the mastership was transferred to the Hapsburgs in 1477 through the marriage of a Burgundian princess to Archduke Maximilian. The Golden Fleece was both knightly and religious order, authorized to settle the secular disputes, and to uphold the religion through trials on charges of heresy and other needed actions.
The members of the Golden Fleece order were recognizable by means of various insignia, jewels and other visible symbols. The museum displays garments featuring rich decoration, opulent necklaces, chains, liturgical vestments, weapons and other items once owned by the Golden Fleece heralds, knights, priests, and other dignitaries.
Other exhibited items
The remainder of the collection consists of numerous beautiful and opulent objects featuring a great deal of symbolism. Many of these are made of precious and ordinary metals, wood, and other materials, permeated with gems, semiprecious stones, heraldic symbols, and more. Various goblets, unction vessels, luxurious vases, icons, symbols of power, daggers, swords, medallions, chests, and other objects are present.
One of the most interesting objects is a golden vase comprising 13 gold roses, symbolizing Christ and the 12 apostles. The cradle of Napoleon II, the King of Rome, who was a son of Napoleon Bonaparte, is decorated with winged Victory, eagles (Napoleon’s favourite symbol in reference to Roman legions) and Capitoline Wolf (symbolizing his son’s province of reign). Among other interesting exhibits can be found a staff of a high dignitary allegedly made of a unicorn’s horn, as well as an antique bowl, once believed to be the Holy Grail.
A religious icon illustrates the triumph of the divine forces, sent by the God, over Attila’s Huns in the 5th century, during his conquest against the scattered remnants of the Roman Empire. In truth, the Huns had withdrawn due to a scarce supply at the end of autumn. The withdrawal of the Huns was successfully used by the Roman Catholic Church, which enthroned itself as the leading religious authority in Christianity on this occasion.
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Organize your visit
For a quick visit, which should cover most important exhibits, two hours would suffice. For a thorough research of this unique exhibition, you should plan up to five hours. Full admission price is 12 EUR (12.90 USD), while children have free entrance. The Imperial Treasury Museum operates daily (with the exception of Tuesdays) from 09:00 to 17:30. To have a better understanding of the exhibition, you should rent an audio guide for 4 EUR (4.30 USD). Due to the age of the displayed items, make sure not to use flash while taking photos.
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