Palais Esterhazy an der Wallnerstraße:
Another Esterhazy-Palace in Vienna
The house of Esterhazy has been among the most distinguished families of the Habsburg Empire for many centuries and even today, after loosing most of their possessions to Hungarian communism, they still rank among the richest people in Austria. In this light it is not surprising that the Esterhazys owned several palaces not only in the Burgenland (where their "headquarters" can be found nowadays), but also in Vienna, near the Emperor and the Imperial Court. One of these palais was Palais Esterhazy an der Wallnerstraße, the central one or the "Stadtpalais" („City Palace").
A garden palais could be found just behind today′s Mariahilferkirche, stretching down to the Haus des Meeres (thus surrounded by the "Esterhazy Park" and Apollokino. Only very little of the garden palais is preserved - with Palais Esterhazy an der Wallnerstraße, it is a different story. It is not only well-preserved, but it was also refurbished with much consideration rather recently. It can be found just off the Kohlmarkt, Vienna′s most exclusive shopping lane full with boutiques.
In the late Middle Ages, the site of today′s Palais Esterhazy was occupied by three burgher houses, of which two belonged to Nikolaus Olah, Hungarian Chancellor and Archbishop of Erlau. Through inheritance, they went to the Esterhazy family in 1616. In 1664, the Esterhazys had been upgraded from counts to princes, they purchased the third house and started to build themselves a fancy little palace.
Palais Esterhazy: Construction of Current Palace
Prince Paul I of Esterhazy hired the architect Francesco Martinelli, one of the most fashionable architects of his time in Vienna, and the construction took place between 1685 and 1695. A chapel was added in 1699, a new gate and staircase in 1745 and 1751. In 1755, Prince Paul Anton of Esterhazy acquired two houses that he had re-modelled and integrated as "supplementary edifices" to the main Palais Esterhazy - the architect in charge was Johann Ferdinand Mödlhammer.
In 1791, the interiors were modernised; Prince Anton of Esterhazy had to cut costs and gave up his court in Esterhaza, to the advantage of his Viennese palace. His son, Nikolaus II Prince of Esterhazy purchased another two houses neighbouring to Palais Esterhazy and replaced them with yet another extension to his family′s palace between 1806 and 1820.
This covered a rather glorious time for the Esterhazy family; noteworthy guests to Palais Esterhazy included Joseph Haydn (not surprising, he was the court composer of the princes) and the English naval officer Admiral Horatio Nelson. During the Congress of Vienna, Palais Esterhazy was one of the key-stages for balls, receptions, meeting and parties. Among other moves, this was one of the reasons why the Esterhazys got into increasing financial difficulties after 1830.
Palais Esterhazy in Difficult Days: It's the Economy, Stupid!
Palais Esterhazy was publicly administered and the family had to sell property and its once enormous art collection. Nevertheless, it took the family decades to recover from the crisis and sort out their financial situation - the public administration of Palais Esterhazy was lifted only in 1900. Afterwards, the family did not spend much time at Palais Esterhazy anymore. It was damaged by bombs in the Second World War, but repaired after 1945. In 1989, Prince Paul of Esterhazy died. His widow sold the palais in 1990 to an Austrian bank, which lets it as office space to shops, doctors, organisations. The "Esterhazykeller" is a restaurant that was founded in 1808 and is well-known in Vienna.
The Palais Esterhazy itself is not open to the public; you can go inside the courtyards, though, and marvel at the partly Baroque, partly neo-Classical facade. The chapel contains Baroque altars and an organ from 1800, which Joseph Haydn is said to have played.
Attractions nearby are numerous, so I focus on those in two-minute walking distance: The Minoritenkirche with Palais Dietrichstein, Palais Liechtenstein and the Ballhaus, Palais Starhemberg, Palais Niederösterreich, Palais Porcia and other representative Baroque palais in its surroundings. Palais Ferstel with Café Central, the Hochhaus Herrengasse. And finally Kohlmarkt, Michaelerkirche, Spanish Riding School and Hofburg.
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