Constructed 17th century
Schloss Eggenberg or Eggenberg Palace is a historic residence in the state of Styria in Austria. It is situated several kilometres West of state capital of Graz.
At first glance, Schloss Eggenberg presents itself today as a uniform building from the 17th century. However, large parts of the building core date from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period.
Balthasar Eggenberger bought the Orthof on the Algersdorf fields between 1460 and 1463. This fortified noble residence received the family name and was expanded and remodeled in the following years. Even 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 grants certain privileges to the capella Beate Marie Virginis sita in Castro Eckenperg. 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 back at the original place.
In the 16th century, this probably L-shaped, late medieval, single-tower castle was adapted to the social status 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 ashlars and acanthus-framed biforia windows and picturesque furnishings in individual rooms. When this building no longer met the needs of the new princely family, a fundamental renovation began in 1625. The existing, older components were skilfully integrated into the new building: on the one hand, probably because of the preciousness of the building material, but on the other hand due to the obvious will not to completely destroy the family's ancestral home. The Gothic Marienkapelle remained unchanged and became the focal point of the new complex.
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, who came 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 journeys probably shaped de Pomis' architectural design language. His style is based on the upper Italian mannerist architecture of the second half of the 16th century, above all the buildings of Palladio and the characteristically unadorned Herrera style. The layout of the floor plan of Schloss Eggenberg quotes that of the Palazzo Thiene almost verbatim, while the external appearance is surprisingly reminiscent of the palace and monastery El Escorial near Madrid, despite the enormous differences in dimensions. Further parallels can also be seen in the stylistic similarities, such as the unadorned and emphasized horizontality of the facades, which are tower-like at the corners, and the juxtaposition of the festival hall and church interior. 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 master builder Laurenz van de Syppe continued the work for two years until the building was finally completed under de Pomis' two foremen, Pietro Valnegro and Antonio Pozzo. The shell of the building was probably finished in 1635/36. This was followed from 1641 to 1646 by the stonemasons and carpenters. At that time, the castle was usable and temporarily inhabited by the family. With the unexpected death of the second prince, Johann Anton, the decoration work on the missing piano nobile came to a temporary standstill.
Johann Seyfried von Eggenberg finally had the palace completed in 1666 in the spirit of baroque splendor. Under him, the ceiling cycle of the rooms on the state floor, comprising around 600 paintings, was completed in just 7 years. When, in 1673, Claudia Felizitas, the bride of Emperor Leopold I, announced herself as a guest, the house was obviously finished. Only the banquet hall did not yet have any picturesque decoration. In 1678 Hans Adam Weissenkircher began his service in Graz as court painter to the princely Eggenberg. He completed the series of paintings in the festival hall, now called the Planet Hall, by 1684/85. This completed the furnishing work for this first phase of Schloss Eggenberg.
After the Eggenbergs died out in the male line, the state rooms were
in a half-empty and neglected state. The husband of the last Eggenberg
princess, Johann Leopold Graf Herberstein, commissioned a comprehensive
renovation of the complex. Between 1754 and 1762, the house and the
gardens experienced a second, major phase of furnishing, entirely in the
Rococo style. Above all, the furnishing of the state floor was
modernized. However, the planetary hall and the cycle of ceiling
paintings remained unchanged. The work was limited to wall decorations,
stoves and furniture. In line with the taste of the time, three East
Asian cabinets were set up. Five rooms in the north wing received
painted wall coverings. Probably the most massive intervention was the
demolition of the Eggenberg Castle Theater, in its place a castle church
was built. Joseph Hueber, a student of the Graz court architect
Hildebrandt, was in charge of this work.
The third phase of changes in the 19th century was limited to the living quarters on the first floor of the castle. The piano nobile remained untouched throughout the century - and also unused. The main focus of this period was the complete transformation of the baroque formal garden into a romantic English-style landscape garden.
The entire complex remained in the possession of the Herberstein family until 1939. Shortly before the war, Schloss Eggenberg and its park were acquired by the province of Styria. After being damaged during the war and occupation, Schloss Eggenberg was incorporated into what was then the Landesmuseum Joanneum and opened to the public in 1953 after extensive restoration work.
With his new residence, the conceptual creator of the palace complex, Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, realized an architectural concept that was deeply influenced by magical natural philosophy and the idea of the order of the world. Above all, astronomy, astrology and alchemy were important components of the education of a worldly prince at that time. All of these aspects flowed into the concept of the new building, which was intended to create a well-ordered, mathematically logical and explainable system. It should represent the universe.
Schloss Eggenberg 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 floors higher than the rest of the building. Each of these four towers faces one of the four cardinal points. The number 4 represents the four seasons and the four elements. The inner courtyard is divided into a rectangular courtyard and two smaller courtyards by a connecting wing and a transverse wing. It is surrounded on three sides by three-storey pillar arcades. There is a wide dry moat with stone bridges around the castle.
Another basis for this “Schloss Eggenberg Universe” is the calendar. The system of the Gregorian calendar reform represented a major innovation at the time the palace was being built. It arranged the palace construction logically and mathematically and also reflected all the values of the calendar. Schloss Eggenberg has 365 exterior windows for every day of the year. On the second floor, the Beletage, there are 52 exterior windows for each week of the year. Each floor in the house holds 31 rooms for the maximum number of days in a month. On the second floor, 24 state rooms are arranged in a ring, symbolizing the hours of a day. The entire building is symmetrical. This results in two halves of the same size on the second floor, each with 12 rooms that stand for the hours of the day and 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 economic purposes. The first floor was used for everyday life. This is where the family's living quarters were located, 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 representation and celebration rooms. Exactly in the central axis above the gateway and the audience hall is the planetary hall as the highlight of the program.
The Planet Hall
The main and ballroom is the center of the program, the beginning and
the end of the ring of 24 state rooms. The cycle of paintings created by
Hans Adam Weissenkircher combines the architectural program with the
pictorial decoration of the castle and thus creates a powerful allegory
of the golden age that reigned under the rule of the Eggenberg family.
On the ceiling and the mirrored vault of the hall are seven framed oil
paintings representing the seven classical planets and their properties.
The symbolic power culminates in these paintings as they simultaneously
represent the seven alchemical metals, the seven days of the week, the
seven great family possessions and the seven most important members of
the family. The four elements are represented in the corners of the
vault. The wall surfaces between the windows bear large-format oil
paintings depicting the 12 signs of the zodiac and thus addressing the
The piano nobile
The 24 state rooms on the second floor are arranged in a ring on the outside. The program of ceiling paintings includes 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 range of ceilings with the surrounding stucco comes from the first furnishing period of the 17th century.
Under the Eggenberg-Herberstein couple, the 24 rooms on the bel etage were renovated from the middle of the 18th century. Furnished in Rococo style. In addition to new seating, chandeliers, wall appliques and faience stoves, almost all rooms were also given 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 each room to a different theme. In addition to social scenes and depictions of hunting, there are also shepherd plays, theater and play scenes in Eggenberg. The rooms were connected by high double doors, and a baroque castle church was built in the west wing instead of the Eggenberg theatre. In addition, three precious East Asian cabinets were built into the room sequence. The first two adorn valuable Imari porcelain plates and bowls as well as Chinese silk paintings. The eight panels of a precious Japanese folding screen were let into the wall coverings of the third cabinet. These screen parts show the castle and fortified city of Osaka in Japan. They can probably be dated to the first half of the 17th century. There are very few views of Osaka from the early modern period. Therefore, this room is particularly important. The Eggenberg Screen presents a unique view of Osaka Castle and City during the Toyotomi period.
The Eggenberg Palace Park
The park area of the chateau covers 17.9 ha. All owners and builders have always considered the chateau and the surrounding garden as an integral part. So each generation has made major changes.
Already at the time when the palace complex was built in the 17th century, sources report on an enclosed garden to the south-east of the palace. This complex is shown on the copper engraving by Matthäus Merian of Eggenberg Castle in the "Topographia Provinciarum Austriacarum" from 1649. With its four square corner towers and the enclosing wall, the complex is reminiscent of the Mannerist park of Schloss Neugebäude Palace near Vienna. The broken pediments of the park gates in 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 around 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 enclosing wall that still exists today. Otherwise only the pavilion and the four colossal figures in front of the palace have survived from this period. The Eggenberg Palace Gardens were opened to the public in Graz as early as the 1870s.
At the time of the Enlightenment and the increasing liberalism under Emperor Joseph II, the awareness of nature also changed fundamentally. The baroque gardens were understood as ugly nature that was compressed and trimmed into norms. Jerome Graf Herberstein, as a fanatical garden lover, shared this view and, starting in 1802, initiated the 'fashionable' redesign of the Eggenberg Palace Park into a romantic English-style garden. The labyrinth, fountains, the grid-like routing and hierarchical structure of the entire garden, as well as the large viewing terrace north of the palace had to give way. Apart from the straight access road, which was retained, the intention was to recreate a landscape painting with the curved route, the targeted views and the purposefully planted individual trees and bosquets of trees. The highlight of this garden from the 19th century was the rose hill, which one could easily climb via a curved path in order to settle down on the plateau under an artificial shade (parapluie) and to overlook and enjoy the entire garden in Biedermeier style.
Already at the beginning of the 20th century, interest in the garden dwindled and the Eggenberg Palace Park no longer had a gardener. As a result, the individual parts of the garden were demolished, over the decades they became more and more wild and the entire complex became a simple city park.
The Schlosspark Eggenberg is one of the most important garden architecture monuments in Austria and is one of a small group of historical gardens in Austria directly under monument protection (No. 35 in the appendix to § 1 Para. 12 DMSG). Therefore, in 1993, a garden maintenance work was commissioned in cooperation with the Federal Monuments Office, 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 were to be made recognizable, the precious 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 ruler's garden set up in 1848 behind the castle. 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 of 2007/2008.
The Planet Garden
The extra garden, which is fenced in at the northern corner of the garden, has had a wide variety of designs and uses over the course of history, until it was finally only perceptible as a spatial structure.
After no usable plans or views were preserved for this complex, it
was decided in 2000 to create a new flower garden that would integrate
the remaining fragments of the historical complex. A new garden was
created on top of an old idea. Architect Helga Tornquist took up the
main idea of the Eggenberger program and implemented it in a
contemporary garden design. This redesign takes up the ancient system of
planetary signature theory in a playful way, which is of great
importance for the pictorial program of Schloss Eggenberg.
The lapidarium was built over the foundations of the former orangery as a point de vue and to give the Joanneum's Roman stone collection an adequate place.
The Archeology Museum, which opened in 2009 in the north-west of the palace garden, lies deep in the terrain and is therefore not very visible as a building. It shows the cult chariot from Strettweg from the Hallstatt period, excavations from Styria but also from Egypt.
The park also forms the European protected area Schloss Eggenberg (ESG 42, AT2245000). It was designated under the Fauna Flora Habitats Directive in 2015 to provide hunting grounds for the resident greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), a strictly protected bat. The requirements of European protection (e.g. preservation of the woody population, preservation of the existing standing water, minimization of possible use of pesticides) must be taken into account in the garden design, but they meet the goal of restoring the romantic landscape garden anyway. The protection intention also includes some structural and maintenance measures at the castle itself, where the animals have their quarters.
At the end of March 2022, Eggenberg’s application for membership in the European Royal Palaces network (Association des Résidences Royales Européenes, ARRE) was accepted at the ARRE General Assembly. As head of the Schloss Eggenberg and Alte Galerie department, Paul Schuster is to succeed Barbara Kaiser on June 1, 2022.