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Winter Palace of Prince Eugene (Winterpalais P. Eugen)

Winter Palace of Prince Eugene (Winterpalais P. Eugen) (19)

In order to get a real idea of the grandeur of Baroque period Vienna, there is one visit that is an absolute must, and that is the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Since 1848 this building has been the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

The figure of Eugene of Savoy, a French prince of Italian descent, attains almost mythical proportions in Austria, as he was one of the most prominent figures in the forging of the political and military might of the country during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

His hero status was established when he emerged as one of the military leaders who put an end to the Turkish siege of the city in 1683. In addition to consolidating the position of the Habsburgs in Europe, he is also remembered for having promoted one of the great landmarks of Baroque period Vienna, namely the Belvedere palaces.

The Winterpalais was the first main residence of Prince Eugene in Vienna, and also the place where he died. In addition, the aristocrat chose the palace to house his impressive personal library.

To build the palace the prince turned to the greatest architects of the period, Fischer von Erlach and Hildebrandt, between whom he encouraged rivalry, the former working on the project from 1697 to 1698, the latter from 1702-1724. The palace has been extended on several occasions, giving it the imposing aspect it possesses today. Following construction of the Belvedere palaces on the outskirts of the city, which were consolidated as the summer residence of Prince Eugene, this huge mansion was named the Winter Palace.

The prince died of pneumonia in 1736 while sleeping after a night playing cards with his old friend, the Countess Batthyany. Legend has it that one of the lions of the palace zoo also died that night. The prince never married and his tomb is housed in Stephansdom, Saint Stephen's Cathedral.

Since this is an official building in which security is clearly a priority, public access is restricted. However, visitors are allowed to see the courtyard, the magnificent fountain of Hercules and the beautiful and impressive baroque staircase on the ground floor, which is decorated with the muscular figures of Atlanteans and Titans. The prince reportedly adored these statues as they evoked images of his victories. Both are the work of Von Erlach.

Visitors impressed by the Atlanteans should not miss the Erdody-Furstenberg Palace, just in front of this one, which features a baroque façade with a superb portico supported by a series of spectacular Atlanteans.

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