Palais Niederösterreich, Vienna:
Statthalterei & Landtagsgebäude at Mioritenplatz

The Minoritenplatz Square in central Vienna has been the city′s most exclusive neighbourhood for centuries: Right around the corner was the Imperial Court at the Hofburg and the little square around the Minoritenkirche Church was surrounded by the city palaces of the empire′s most distinguished families.

The Minoritenplatz became particularly fashionable after the Second Turkish Siege of 1683, when the construction of Palais reached a previously unknown scale. Today, these Palais of the Minoritenplatz form the Austrian "government district" (Regierungsviertel), as most of the noble families have long gone (only the Liechtensteins are somewhat resistant in holding their ownership of a Palais - and even use it). Today, most of the Palais on Minoritenplatz Square are used by Austrian federal ministries.

The "Landesstatthalterei" and the "Landtagsgebäude" of the so-called Palais Niederösterreich were the administrative buildings for the province of Lower Austria. Since 2005, they are home to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Landesstatthalterei is a fairly recent addition to the Minoritenplatz ensemble of palaces: It was built between 1846 and the year of the revolution, 1848. Since the building in a way represents the growing urge for regional and national autonomy (if not freedom), this seems quite appropriate.

Style of Palais Niederösterreich - if any

Stylistically, it is said to be a borderline-case between late Classicism and early Historicism. Since I can′t stand either of the two, I don′t really care. The architect responsible for what reminds me of a Las Vegas Casino was Paul Sprenger, the honourable court architect at his time. The Statthalterei is said to be the most significant example of Sprenger′s work.

Matching with its Baroque neighbours, the building has a representative staircase that leads to a marble hall (Marmorsaal). It is smaller and less opulent than in proper Baroque Palais, but this was generally the case with historicist palais. The marble hall is filled with romantic paintings by the historicist frescoes by Leopold Kupelwieser. The painter was among the stars of Viennese historicism; for the Statthalterei he produced a glorifying overview on the Austrian (and mostly Habsburg) history.

When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs moved into the Statthalterei in 2005, the building was connected with the Landtagsgebäude with a glass-bridge which I actually like a lot. It is surprisingly frivolous - at least for Austria - and a welcome counter-point to the heavy symbolism of Baroque and its 19th century echoes.

Additional Uses of the Landtagsgebäude, Vienna

The Landtagsgebäude is not entirely used by the ministry. It is based on a Baroque court, which in turn made use of a Gothic building; but the current Palais was extensively re-modelled in the 19th century. The architect in charge was Alois Pichl, he is the one who usually gets the credits for the now Classicist building.

The bigger share of the Landtagsgebäude is still used by the federal province of Lower Austria; some parts are rented by companies, fraternities and associations, but there are also political and lobby groups, as well as a conference centre. These groups occupy the nicer, (Baroque) part of the building, including a congregation hall (Landtagssaal) with frescoes by Antonio Beduzzi. This part of the building is called "Palais Niederösterreich", a term that is often used to refer to the entire thing.

Attractions nearby are numerous, so I name only the ones in the immediate surroundings: Palais Ferstel, Palais Harrach, Palais Kinsky; Schottenstift Abbey and the Freyung Square; BA-CA Kunstforum; Minoritenkirche, Ballhaus and Hofburg; Burgtheater and Ringstraße.

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Further Reading

Austrian Ministery for Foreign Affairs in Palais Niederösterreich

Official Website of Palais Niederösterreich, Vienna

City of Vienna on Palais Niederösterreich