Today was the last day of the program. I can’t believe that it is over already. There is so much left of Vienna I want to explore. I guess I just have to come back some other time then, I guess. I feel like over this past month I have gotten to know the Habsburgs personally, learning of all their achievements, gains, character flaws, and deformities (they were definitely victims of inbreeding). Today I walked around the Hofburg, I felt I owed it to the Habsburgs to walk around the complex they used to live and rule from for hundreds of years. Even now, many city officials have offices in the Hofburg, and the Kanzleramt where the Chancellor governs from is situated directly across the street from the Hofburg. It is interesting how you can walk right up to the Kanzleramt. In the US, you would never be allowed to simply walk right up to the White House. Perhaps because Austria is officially a neutral state, the chancellor doesn’t receive as many death threats as Obama does. I decided to end my trip with another tour of the Schatzkammer. This treasury fascinates me because it basically showcases how the Habsburgs attempted to legitimize their power and amaze the townspeople through grandiose displays of wealth and authority.
The crown of the Habsburgs, commissioned by Rudolf II, is made up of 3 easily distinguishable parts. The 1st depicts scenes of Roman emperors and medieval kings and is supposed to infer that the Habsburgs are the natural successors of these great rulers. The 2nd part—the high arch in the middle—is reminiscent of the high arches that decorated the helmets of Roman emperors and is once again supposed to compare the Holy Roman Emperor to the Roman Emperors of history. The 3rd part depicts religious scenes and portrays the Habsburg ruler as Christ’s lieutenant, reinforcing the idea of the divine right of kings to rule. The crown is supposed to represent the Holy Roman Empire—at once an extension of the Roman Empire but at the same time guardians of the Christian faith, unlike the pagan Romans.
In the empire, religion often became a tool the rulers could use for political gains. The statue of the Virgin Mary am Hof, for example (of which the treasury has a miniature version), depicts Mary defeating a dragon with prayer. The dragon is supposed to represent the Protestant Swedes who had been pushed back from Vienna in the 30 Years’ War. By portraying the Swedes as an evil, blasphemous monster whose defeat was attributed to religious reasons, the Habsburgs were able to win more public support for themselves as defenders of Catholicism. Another important relic in the Schatzkammer is the Holy Lance. Supposedly, this lance had pierced the side of Jesus. Many rumors accompany this lance, like its supposed healing powers. It is also credited for Otto I’s victory at the Battle of the Lechfeld.
Speaking of Otto, the Reichskrone was made for either his or Otto II’s coronation in 962 or 968, respectively. Its octagonal shape is a reference to the 8 gates of Jerusalem. It is supposed to recall the Kingdom of God and demonstrate that the Holy Roman Empire is a mirror image of it. Its high arch, like the Habsburg family crown, is supposed to recall the helmets of ancient Roman emperors.
There is also a painting of Charlemagne in the Schatzkammer. In this picture, he stands in the middle holding an orb in one hand and a sword in another. This is another reference to the purpose of the Holy Roman Empire: It is deeply rooted in both the spiritual and material world. The cross on the orb represents faith, while the sword represents the material world and flesh, blood and mortality in general.
Even the Order of the Golden Fleece is rooted in biblical history. The original myth of the Golden Fleece was Greek, but it was adapted to fit a biblical story from the Old Testament.
While still in the Hofburg, I paid a visit to the Augustinerkirche. It is in this church that the hearts of the Habsburgs are kept. Unfortunately, the Herzgruft (heart crypt) was closed. With this visit, I have officially been to all three locations where the Habsburgs are located. I feel as though the placement of their remains—Their entrails in a cathedral, the hearts in a church, and their bodies in a crypt—further emphasize this duality between spirituality and materialism and mortality. According to Parsons, traveling to these locations was in itself a pilgrimage of sorts, as their remains were sacred. He also says that this journey’s purpose was to instill loyalty and piety on those who undertook it and also demonstrate the alliance between the throne and the crown.
Later that day we met in Prater park and rode the Riesenrad. This giant ferris wheel was featured in the movie The Third Man, and it was very exciting to be able to ride the same wheel we had seen in the movie. The surrounding area is called Prater Park, and contains an amusement park as well as a large public park.
After this we departed for our farewell dinner, which took place at a restaurant called Centimeter. Instead of ordering food individually, Kathy ordered five swords. Yup, real swords stuck through several layers of Wiener Schnitzel, lamb chops, and bell peppers, over a bowl of French fries and chili. A true Viennese meal. After the meal, people began leaving slowly, receiving an applause from the crowd at each departure.
Auf Wiedersehen, Wien