Why did the "" (Türkenbefreiungsfeier) by the Austrian Homeland Protection (Heimatschutz) on May 14, 1933, take place in Schönbrunn? For a nationalistic rally of this type and scale, the Heldenplatz seems the more appropriate venue in Vienna, with its very name (literally "Heroes' Square") a military commemoration. After all, the speeches that were given expressly emphasized the merits of Prince Eugene of Savoy in the campaigns against the Ottomans and the Battle of in 1809, when, under Archduke Charles, Austrian troops defeated Napoleon's army for the first time. , the federal leader of the Homeland Protection, and Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss were thus praising those two historic heroes who had been eternalized as equestrian statues on the square in front of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. So why choose the Baroque palace with its French garden and not the heroic memorial site in the city center?
The Austrian State Archives seem to offer an answer. A letter has been preserved there with which the federal leadership of the Homeland Protection League (Heimatschutzverband) applied to the palace captainship (Schlosshauptmannschaft) for permission to hold the "Turks Deliverance Celebration," which was planned for May 14, 1933, in Schönbrunn. "As it has transpired that the Heldenplatz is too small for the masses of expected participants," the letter from April 13, 1933, states, "the federal leadership requests the use of the parterre in front of Schönbrunn Palace (garden side) in order to provide this patriotic event with an appropriate, worthy setting." It was anticipated that 20,000 to 25,000 Home Guard (Heimwehr) members would attend. The palace captainship subsequently recommended that the Ministry of Trade and Transport grant the application "by way of exception" under the condition that all costs be borne by the event organizer and the gardens be reliably protected from any damage. The federal leadership of the Homeland Protection duly received the corresponding authorization from the ministry in late April.
In principle, Schönbrunn had been closed to events since 1924. This explains why the Homeland Protection League had to apply to the palace captainship and the Ministry of Trade and Transport for this special permit. For example, the previous year, the Vienna gau administration (Gauleitung) of the NSDAP had wanted to hold a political rally in Schönbrunn but was ordered instead to use the Heldenplatz. In the case of the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" of May 14, 1933, the approval presumably came from the top, because Starhemberg mentions in his memoirs that he obtained it from Dollfuss directly. However, he does not explain why the rally was supposed to take place in Schönbrunn. Was it really because Heldenplatz was not big enough? This argument is not very cogent, considering that events were indeed held there in the interwar period with well over 25,000 participants. During the state funeral for Dollfuss on August 8, 1934, some 200,000 people were said to have gathered on Heldenplatz and the nearby Ringstrasse, and when on March 15, 1938, Hitler declared from the balcony of the Neue Burg section of the Hofburg Palace that Austria now belonged to the German Reich, it is estimated that up to 300,000 people had congregated to listen to him.
Due to this relative lack of evidence, we can only speculate as to the real reasons for holding the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" in Schönbrunn on May 14, 1933. Several motives are conceivable, however, and two of them will be discussed in detail below: the historical connection between the "deliverance from the Turks" and the construction of the palace, and the centralized arrangement of leaders and troops in the geometric garden.
As early as the Middle Ages, mills had been built in what are now the palace grounds, which lie along the river Wien between the former villages and now city districts of Hietzing to the west and Meidling to the east. The plot of land known as Katterburg belonged to the estate of Klosterneuburg Monastery, which sold it to Emperor Maximilian II in 1569. He then set up a hunting reserve on the premises where, according to legend, one of his sons, the future Emperor Matthias, found the "beautiful spring" (schöner Brunnen) that gave the Habsburgs' stately home its name. After the death of Ferdinand II, his widow, Eleonora Gonzaga of Mantua, had the manor house at the foot of the hunting grounds converted into a palace, which G.M. Vischer depicted as the "Imperial Pleasure Garden and Hunting Grounds of Schenbrunn" (Khaiserlicher Lust- und Thiergarten Schenbrunn). Published in 1672, this copperplate engraving shows the Katterburg on the river Wien, which was extended to the right with the Gonzaga wing between 1640 and 1645. Behind it the hunting grounds stretched over the Schönbrunn hill; in the mid-1660s, the stations of the cross were incorporated in its northern wall, which is visible by the river in the lower section of Vischer's engraving.
In summer 1683, during the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman troops, the palace and garden of Schönbrunn were laid waste. No notable improvements were made to this condition in the years after the successful defense of the city, as the reconstruction of the Hofburg Palace and other imperial residences took precedence. However, in 1688 the sculptor Johann Bernhard Fischer from Graz, who had trained as an architect in Rome, presented a design for an imperial palace to Leopold I that was to be constructed in Schönbrunn. It can be presumed that Fischer hoped to achieve two things with this oversized project, namely on the one hand to demonstrate his architectural skill and on the other to design a residence that would befit the House of Habsburg. In the engraving of the design, which was produced by Johann Adam Delsenbach and published by Fischer in 1721, several terraces lead from the river Wien up to the palace, which is positioned on the crest of the Schönbrunn hill like an otherworldly object. The literature often compares Fischer's Schönbrunn project from 1688 with the Palace of Versailles, which Louis XIV had converted into a residence from the 1660s. In competition with the French king, who famously styled himself as the Roi-Soleil, references to the architecture of antiquity and the sun god Apollo were intended to stress that the Habsburgs were the legitimate heirs of the Roman emperors.
Although this premier projet for Schönbrunn was never realized, Fischer was appointed the architecture teacher of the heir to the throne the following year, 1689. For him, the future Emperor Joseph I, he now planned a feasible hunting retreat (Jagdschloss), which was constructed from the mid-1690s on the site of the Katterburg and integrated elements of the original building. According to an engraving published by Fischer, the path to the retreat led through a gate with two obelisks, across a spacious cour d'honneur, to a rounded ramp from which guests could access—via a perron—first a columned hall and then the ballroom of the bel étage, which on the opposite side offered a prospect of the garden. In Fischer's floor plan, the state and private apartments are arranged in an enfilade, meaning threaded (French enfiler) along an axis, in the right, west wing. In fact, the initial plan only envisaged the construction of the central wing, the corps de logis with its seventeen axes, which was opened amid festivities in spring 1700. However, two wings were subsequently added to the retreat at the suggestion of Leopold I in order to accommodate the entire court. In other words, around 1700 Schönbrunn had been upgraded from a mere hunting retreat or pleasure-house (Lustschloss) to an imperial residence.
Yet the premature death of Joseph I in 1711 meant that this construction work remained unfinished. Only in 1743 did Maria Theresa decide not only to have Schönbrunn restored but to finally have it converted into a summer residence. Consequently, under the direction of the architect Nikolaus Pacassi, the ballrooms in the corps de logis were restructured, for example, and the imperial apartments relocated to the east wing. Instead of the access ramp designed by Fischer, two curved perrons were constructed on each side, which made it possible for carriages to travel unhindered across the cour d'honneur, through the palace, and straight into the garden. Imperial Garden Engineer (Garteningenieur) Jean Trehet had already started laying out the palace gardens in 1695. He took Fischer's schematic garden design, which was still in the tradition of the Renaissance with its beds arranged in a square grid, merely as a guide. Instead, the Parisian Trehet realized a French Baroque garden, which combined parterres and bosquets, i.e., level flower beds and formal hedges. While Maria Theresa devoted herself to the alteration of the palace building in the mid-eighteenth century, her husband Francis I Stephen, supported by experts from his homeland of Lorraine, turned his attention to the redesign of the palace gardens. Among other things, he had the Great Parterre elongated to the foot of the Schönbrunn hill and added to the right-angled network of avenues two large diagonal axes, which radiate from the palace into the garden as a patte d'oie, meaning in the shape of a goose's foot. In 1779, a year before Maria Theresa's death, the majority of Schönbrunn's gardens were opened to the public.
The status of the palace grounds subsequently became dependent on both the political climate and the personal preferences of the respective ruler. Generally speaking, however, Schönbrunn served as a regular summer residence for the Habsburg emperors in the nineteenth century. Francis Joseph I was born in the palace in 1830 and spent much time in the gardens in his childhood and youth. During his reign, the residential and working areas were located in the west wing of the building; a private apartment for his wife Elisabeth was set up on the ground floor. After Francis Joseph's death in Schönbrunn in 1916, his successor, Charles I, planned alterations to the palace, which would never come to pass. Instead, the last Habsburg emperor abdicated in the fall of 1918, shortly before World War I officially came to an end, handing power to the representatives of the newly founded Republic of German-Austria, and emigrated to Switzerland with his family the following spring.
By law, all royal estates, including Schönbrunn, became the property of the state in 1919. The palace captainship that had existed since 1700 was transformed in 1921 into a bureau of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Transport. Regardless of the fact that the emperor had left Schönbrunn, some annexes continued to be inhabited by the former palace staff. However, the way the use of other parts of the former residence was managed was very controversial. Over the course of the 1920s, a motley range of individuals, societies, and organizations moved into and out of Schönbrunn, e.g., the war-wounded, the Social Democratic association "Kinderfreunde" ("Friends of Children"), a bourgeois private school, the Boy Scouts, and a youth hostel. In addition, not long after the war had ended, the Habsburgs' private and state apartments were converted into a museum. However, the number of visitors to the palace was much lower than to the menagerie in the gardens, which had existed since 1752 and was renamed Schönbrunn Zoo (Schönbrunner Tiergarten) in 1926.
The "Turks Deliverance Celebration" on May 14, 1933, thus took place on a plot of land that had belonged to the House of Habsburg for 350 years, from 1569 to 1919, and had since been used by the public for diverse purposes. The imperial residence, originally planned by the important Baroque architect Fischer von Erlach, had been created shortly after and in living memory of that same "deliverance from the Turks" in September 1683 whose 250th anniversary was now to be celebrated (a couple of months early) by the Austrian Homeland Protection. Yet the palace building only played a role in the event to the extent that it provided the backdrop for the rally being held in its garden, for which Home Guard members had traveled from all over Austria in special "Homeland Protection chartered trains" (Heimatschutz-Sonderzüge). The logistics for the celebration were regulated by instructions, which had been published shortly beforehand by the federal leadership of the Homeland Protection League. In addition to the train timetables, the brochure contained instructions on the dress code (green Home Guard jacket), hygiene (tallow feet), provisions (cocoa and bread), and some rules of conduct (such as the advice that smoking was prohibited during the field Mass). A vital part of these instructions was the plans and information about the "march to the assembly area," which explained in detail how the occupants of the twenty-three chartered trains should march to the palace gardens and then to the Great Parterre, i.e., the area between the palace and the Schönbrunn hill.
These maps demonstrate the marching routes from the east through the Meidling gates into the gardens and the arrangement of the troops on the area in front of the palace. All routes led to the palace's south terrace, where the altar for the field Mass and the speakers' podium would be set up. This centralized arrangement is no accident but rather precisely mimics the architecture of the palace gardens, which from every angle direct one's gaze to the center, the imperial residence. Conversely, the emperor or empress could go out onto the terrace from the ballroom and enjoy the prospect of the garden kingdom that they had created from a central position. What then could Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg, who took up this sovereign position on May 14, 1933, see from there? There is a photograph of the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" that was taken during Starhemberg's speech. The federal leader of the Homeland Protection and initiator of the rally stands on the podium with his arm raised in greeting; the photographer must have been standing behind him on his left, aiming his lens above the audience so that not only is the speaker in front of the microphones visible, but also the mass of listeners.
The central perspective of this picture shows thousands of Home Guard troops positioned according to plan in the main axis of the garden. In the Great Parterre—the gardens' ballroom, as it were, that guaranteed an unobstructed view of the residence and in this specific case of the leader on the balcony—only the planted areas of the parterre around the flower beds were unoccupied, in compliance with the palace captainship's stipulation that they remain unharmed. The level assembly area is fenced off to the sides by tall walls of hedges and to the back by the Neptune Fountain, which was completed in 1780 and whose form—ascending on both sides to the tallest point in the center—is emphasized by a row of trees. It is not clear on the photo that the god of the sea, leaning on his trident, is frozen in a similar pose to that of Starhemberg in the picture. With his raised arm, he stands over his followers, the Tritons controlling the seahorses, and has the power to churn up or calm the waves.
The Schönbrunn hill towers behind the fountain with its zigzag paths, where civilians could witness the rally. The composition culminates in the Gloriette on the crest of the hill, which had already been conceived as a belvedere in Fischer's design from 1696 but was only constructed under Maria Theresa in 1775. On the one hand, this backdrop is an impactful conclusion to the view of the garden as seen from the palace, and on the other it is an observation platform that makes it possible to overlook not only the (former) summer residence but also the city (and former imperial seat). On the central section of the arcade, an eagle sits atop a globe, holding a laurel wreath as a symbol of victory in its beak. That the Gloriette is interpreted in the literature as a monument to the "just war," is thematically quite fitting for the "Turks Deliverance Celebration," which according to Starhemberg was intended to commemorate the "world-historical fact that Christianity, German customs and culture, and thus also the then German Reich were rescued from Eastern barbarism 250 years ago on Austrian soil."
The photograph taken during Starhemberg's speech makes clear the distinctive position of Schönbrunn's garden between the palace and the hill, which does not provide a seemingly infinite view, as conceived by André Le Nôtre, the famous landscape architect of Louis XIV, in the parterre of Versailles, but rather creates and shapes a limited space. In another regard, however, Schönbrunn implements the principles of the French Baroque garden systematically, namely in the complex of avenues, which was intended to function like an urban transport network. At the center of this miniature city, as mentioned above, is the garden-side terrace of the palace, from which five monumental "streets" radiate out. During the "Turks Deliverance Celebration," they were all occupied by Home Guard troops. In the photo, only the north-south "main road" is visible, the Great Parterre; however, select units and honorary guests were also placed in the so-called Lichte Allee (Light Avenue), which is open above and runs laterally to the east and west immediately in front of the palace. Furthermore, the occupants of the chartered trains numbers fifteen and sixteen, as well as eighteen and nineteen, stood in a column along the two large diagonal avenues. If the photographer's camera were to turn left and right, one would see the Obelisk Fountain at the end of the southeast avenue and the pavilion of the menagerie at the end of the southwest avenue.
These structures are worth mentioning because they add meaning to the functions of Schönbrunn's gardens as described above. Constructed in 1777, the obelisk serves as a point de vue in the eponymous diagonal avenue, which extends from the castle terrace to the garden's easternmost limits. Brought to Europe from Egypt by the Romans, the rectangular, tapered column had symbolized the life-giving power of the sun since antiquity, but in the Baroque it also came to represent the constancy of a leader, which in the case of the Schönbrunn obelisk is emphasized by the four turtles that carry it. The top is crowned with a golden eagle, which mediates between heaven and earth like the sovereign. The Obelisk Fountain is connected thematically to the neighboring Roman Ruin, which was completed one year later. Likewise constructed as the focal point of an avenue, this garden structure shows an ancient building, which is half sunken in the ground and which, according to its original name, was intended to represent Carthage, the North African city that the Romans had destroyed in the Punic Wars. Therefore, the Schönbrunn ruin alludes to the vanquished enemies of the House of Habsburg, whose claim to eternal reign, dating back to the Roman Empire, is not only embodied in the obelisk and the Gloriette but is also the conceptual foundation of the statues around the Great Parterre.
The counterpart to the obelisk in the west is the pavilion in the zoo at the end of the diagonal avenue on the Hietzing side, which can also be seen from the palace terrace. Game animals had been kept in this area since Emperor Maximilian II had acquired the land. The menagerie was created in the mid-eighteenth century on the initiative of Francis I Stephen, Maria Theresa's husband. His architect from Lorraine, Jean-Nicolas Jadot, designed an octagonal pavilion on a round square from which sixteen axes radiate out: three avenues, an administration building, and twelve animal enclosures, which were designed as small Baroque gardens. It was only possible to look into them from the center, where the imperial couple would breakfast in the pavilion and observe the animals in the panorama, which had been brought to the imperial residence from all over the world. Moreover, below the menagerie, on the west edge of the palace garden, Francis Stephen had a botanical garden laid out, which was named after the homeland of its gardeners. Partly procured during expeditions, the plant populations of the Dutch Garden were arranged in square sections according to the taxonomy of the Swedish botanist Carl von Linné, the so-called Linnaean system. In the Baroque palace grounds of Schönbrunn, whether in the parterres and avenues or in the menagerie and the botanical garden, nature was controlled rationally, which meant first and foremost geometrically.
Schönbrunn Palace Gardens
Deployment of Home Guard troops
N 48.183006° | E 16.311253°
1933 a 133 d 9 h 0 min p. Chr.
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