Hofburg, Innsbruck

Hofburg in Innsbruck, Austria

The Hofburg (English: Imperial Palace) is a former Habsburg palace in Innsbruck, Austria, and considered one of the three most significant cultural buildings in the country, along with the Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.[1][2] The Hofburg is the main building of a large residential complex once used by the Habsburgs that still includes the Noblewomen's Collegiate Foundation, the Silver Chapel, the Hofkirche containing Emperor Maximilian's cenotaph and the Schwarzen Mandern, the Theological University, the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum, Innsbruck Cathedral, the Congress, and the Hofgarten (Court Garden).[3]

The original Hofburg palace was constructed from several elements under Archduke Sigismund around 1460. This structure included sections of medieval fortifications that ran along the eastern city wall.[4] The building incorporated the Rumer Gate, which was later converted into the Heraldic Tower in 1499 by Jörg Kölderer under Emperor Maximilian I. The palace was expanded several times during the next 250 years.[4] Between 1754 and 1773, the Hofburg palace underwent two stages of Baroque structural changes under Empress Maria Theresia: the south tract was constructed (1754–1756) on the Hofgasse according to plans by J. M. Gumpp the Younger, and the main façade was added (1766–1773) on the Rennweg according to plans by C. J. Walter. During this period, the Giants' Hall was completed with ceiling frescoes by F. A. Maulbertsch, and the Imperial Chapel was built (1765) in the room where Maria Theresa's husband Emperor Francis I had died.[4]

Today, the Hofburg contains five themed museum areas: Maria Theresa's Rooms from the eighteenth century, Empress Elisabeth's Apartment from the nineteenth century, a Furniture Museum, an Ancestral Gallery, and a Painting Gallery. These themed museum areas illustrate various aspects of the political and cultural history of the former imperial palace, which remained in the possession of the Habsburgs for more than 450 years.[3]


Innsbruck Castle Courtyard by Albrecht Dürer, 1495

The Hofburg was built on a site once occupied by the fortifications and towers of the medieval city. In the fourteenth century, when Innsbruck was ruled by the Counts of Görz-Tyrol, the city's defensive walls included a section located where the Hofburg main façade stands today on Rennweg. Three structural elements of these early fortifications were retained and integrated into the palace: the South Roundel with its Hofgasse-Rennweg passageway on the eastern side of the palace was once called the Rumer Gate or Saggen Gate or Heraldic Tower, the North Roundel on the northeastern side was once a round tower, and the Corner Cabinet museum room was once a rectangular defensive tower. The town wall ran from the Rumer Gate to the round tower and continued west the rectangular tower, which can still be seen in the Hofburg façade as an irregularly projecting corner block.[1]

In 1361, the House of Habsburg began its rule of Tyrol. Between 1395 and 1406, Duke Leopold IV of Austria (1371–1411) began purchasing houses and properties in the area of the palace, as well as two gardens that lay outside the town walls—the present-day Court Garden.[5] In 1406, Leopold's brother Duke Frederick IV of Austria (called Frederick with the Empty Pockets) became ruler of Tyrol. Frederick moved the seat of rule from Meran in present-day South Tyrol to Innsbruck, and constructed his New Residence, the building with the Goldenes Dachl west of the Hofburg area.[1]

In 1446, Archduke Sigismund (1427–1496) became ruler of Tyrol and reigned during a time of prosperity from mining operations in Tyrol. Sigismund expanded the Hofburg area through the acquisition of several houses on Hofgasse and various garden properties near the present-day cathedral.[5] That year, construction of the Hofburg began with the foundations of the main building along the old trench (the southern section of the east wing along Rennweg) and a portion of the south wing (along Hofgasse). Rooms and a chapel in the east wing were completed, and according to tradition, a banquet was held in 1463 in a heated hall. A chancellery was built in the south wing (along Hofgasse). In the Rumer Gate, Sigismund added a room with large windows and a winding staircase where he installed a living room with wall coverings and a large bed. The Harnaschhaus (Armoury) was also added at this time (the present-day Stiftskeller) where suits of armour were produced and stored.[1]

Hofburg prior to the Baroque reconstruction

The Hofburg was enlarged and expanded in the late Gothic style under Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), and soon gained the reputation as "the most beautiful building of the late Gothic period".[1] In 1495, the palace was extended to the north of the building complex and was used as the residence of Maximilian's second wife Bianca Maria Sforza, whose dowry may have financed the work. During this phase of construction, the imperial apartments and the banquet hall were moved from the first upper floor to the second upper floor—the present location of the Giants' Hall (Riesensaal) and adjacent rooms. The entrance hall was also added to the north by the drawbridge.[1] Maximilian's court master builder at the time was Nikolaus Thüring the Elder, who also built the Goldenes Dachl. Thüring was responsible for all planning and building construction. In 1499, the remnants of the Rumer Gate, which was destroyed by fire in 1494, were converted into the Heraldic Tower by Jörg Kölderer.[1] The Hofburg inner courtyard is depicted in two watercolor paintings by Albrecht Dürer from 1495 and 1496.[5]

Between 1520 and 1530, the Hofburg was transformed into an enclosed building complex with walled-in courtyards. Individual structures to the southwest, west, and north were consolidated and formed a single outer façade. The large and small courtyards, as well as the kitchen courtyard, were completed and reflected their current dimensions. These changes were designed by Georg Thüring, the son of Nikolaus Thüring.[1] In 1533, the Hofburg became the permanent residence of Emperor Ferdinand I (1503–1564) and his family. In 1534, a fire destroyed sections of the Hofburg. Ferdinand brought in Italian architect Lucius de Spaciis to redesign the Hofburg east wing (along Rennweg) and create a new banquet hall. The high Gothic roofs were gradually replaced by flatter roofs covered by the gables of the early Renaissance façade.[1]

The transformation of the Hofburg from a Gothic palace to a Renaissance castle was continued under Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria (1529–1595), who brought in master builder Giovanni Lucchese to produce the renovations in the Italian style. Lucchese was also responsible for renovating Ambras Castle. Paintings were added to the courtyards, and the chancellery and council building were cleared for the emperor's use. Extensive murals were added to the former chancellery rooms by court painter Heinrich Teufel between 1567 and 1568. Expensive furniture was also added to the northeast corner tower, which became known as the Golden Tower (present-day North Roundel). In 1577, the Silberne Kapelle (Silver Chapel) was added to the connecting wing to the Hofkirche.[1]

Hofburg after the Baroque reconstruction, 1779

During the seventeenth century, plans for further renovation under Archduke Leopold V of Austria (1586–1632) and his successors were postponed because of the Thirty Years' War. During this period, the Hofburg fell into disrepair, with only critical repairs carried out. While the Hofburg continued to serve as the seat of royal offices, the royal family moved into Ruhelust Castle in the Hofgarten. By 1665, the Habsburg imperial family moved to Vienna, which became the central domain of the empire. The Hofburg in Innsbruck became an elegant but temporary lodging for members of the imperial family on their travels to the west. In 1711, Baroque painters Kaspar and Johann Joseph Waldmann from Tyrol were commissioned to paint the large hall (Giants' Hall).[1]

During the eighteenth century, the Hofburg was transformed and renovated in the Baroque style under Empress Maria Theresa (1717–1780). The reconstruction project lasted from 1754 to 1776 and occurred in two phases, interrupted by the Seven Years' War (1754–1763). The first phase began with the submission of plans in 1754 by Johann Martin Gumpp the Younger,[5] who was commissioned to create new offices in the south wing (along Hofgasse), add a large central staircase, standardize the floor levels and room heights, and remove narrow stairs and unnecessary walls to produce comfortable rooms with uniform flooring and evenly-spaced windows.[1]

In 1765, following the end of the Seven Years' War, Maria Theresa selected Innsbruck as the site of the wedding of her son and future emperor Leopold II and Maria Luisa of Spain. In preparation for the wedding, residential rooms for the imperial couple were prepared in the newly renovated office wing, and additional rooms were prepared for the royal family in the southern rooms (Imperial Apartments), as well as the east and north wings.[1] During the course of the wedding celebrations, Francis I died suddenly after returning from the theatre on 18 August 1765.[6] For Maria Theresa, the Hofburg took on greater importance "as a memorial site and representational building" to honor her husband.[1] Per the empress's instructions, the anteroom where Francis died was converted into the Hofburg Chapel in 1766.[5]

Watercolor by Jakob Alt, 1845

The east wing was redesigned to accommodate the newly founded Noblewomen's Collegiate Foundation. New ceilings were installed, court building director Constantin Johann Walter was named creative planner, and in 1767 Maria Theresa placed her court architect Nikolaus Pacassi—responsible for converting Schönbrunn Palace into a residential palace in Rococo style—in charge of the design and appearance of the main façade on Rennweg.[1] After the roof framework was modified in 1774, the Giants' Hall ceiling fresco was executed by Franz Anton Maulbertsch, the master of Austrian Rococo, between 1775 and 1776.[1] The result of this extended renovation project under Maria Theresa is the Hofburg we see today.[5]

During the Napoleonic Wars, after the Habsburgs ceded Tyrol to Napoleon's Bavarian allies in 1805, the Hofburg became a residence of Bavarian King Maximilian I Joseph (1756–1825). In 1809, the South Tyrolean innkeeper Andreas Hofer led an uprising against the occupying Bavarian administration, and following the successful third battle of Bergisel on 13 August 1809, Hofer moved into the Hofburg for two months, serving as the leader of Tyrol. After the Congress of Vienna, Tyrol was returned to Austria.[1] In 1858, the last major reorganisation of the imperial apartments took place following the model of Schönbrunn Palace. Vienna court sculptor August La Vigne was commissioned to design the residential area in the Rococo style. Many of the furnishing added at that time are still in the imperial rooms today.[1]

During the course of his long reign, Emperor Franz Joseph stayed at the Hofburg in Innsbruck on numerous occasions. Empress Elisabeth of Austria, however, stayed overnight at the Hofburg only once, on 14–15 October 1871. Other Habsburg archdukes, Franz Josef's uncle Ferdinand Karl (1818–1874), cousin Eugen (1863–1954), and nephew Heinrich Ferdinand (1878–1969) stayed for longer periods of time at the Hofburg imperial apartments during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.[1]

Imperial Apartments

The following is a list of rooms in the Hofburg imperial apartments, starting at the Vestibule to the Chapel and moving counter-clockwise.[1]

Hofburg Chapel altar by Anton Sartori, 1766
Giants' Hall frescoes by Franz Anton Maulbertsch, 1775–1776

Gothic Hall

The Gothic Hall in the basement of the north wing was built in 1494 as a five-nave hall containing a cross-groined vault and medieval brickwork. This hall was once the entrance area connecting the northern gate with the drawbridge. The western part of the hall is still in its original Gothic condition. The southern part of the hall was most likely lowered during the Renaissance period. The eastern part of the hall was altered during the eighteenth century when dividing walls with a lower arch were installed between 1765 and 1779. The altered hall was once used as a kitchen. The total area of the Gothic Hall is 650 square metres (2133 square feet).[1]

Palace Courtyard

Palace courtyard

The large cobblestoned palace courtyard measuring 1300 square metres (4265 square feet) is enclosed by the Hofburg building and represents "the most beautiful inner courtyard in Innsbruck".[1] Since the Baroque reconstruction, the courtyard has been decorated with sculptural elements such as pilaster, frames, cornices and the cartouches with the Austrian striped shield in the gables of the facades. The variations ensue from the varying old structures in the east, south, north and west. Four portals allow access into the courtyard.[1]

Sacred Rooms

The Hofburg currently houses two chapels that are available for Roman Catholic and ecumenical services, as well as cultural events.[1]



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 "Hofburg History". Hofburg Innsbruck. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  2. "Hofburg Innsbruck". Austrian Tourism Board. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  3. 1 2 "Hofburg Innsbruck". Imperial Austria Residences. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 "Hofburg, Innsbruck". Encyclopedia of Austria. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Kollmann, p. 2.
  6. 1 2 Crankshaw, pp. 265–66.
  7. 1 2 3 Kollmann, p. 4.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Kollman, p. 7.
  9. 1 2 Kollman, p. 14.
  10. Kollmann, p. 25.


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Coordinates: 47°16′08″N 11°23′40″E / 47.268889°N 11.394444°E / 47.268889; 11.394444

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