Palais Starhemberg am Minoritenplatz:
Another Baroque Palais in Central Vienna

For centuries, the Minoritenplatz was Vienna′s most exclusive neighbourhood and ideal for high-ranking nobility that wanted to reside close to the Emperor and the Hofburg. One of the many Baroque palais of Minoritenplatz is the Palais Starhemberg. It is considered to be one of the oldest genuinely Baroque palaces of Vienna - of which there are few, some art historians say that they can be limited to Palais Starhemberg and the Leopoldinertrakt of the Hofburg. Palais Starhemberg′s neighbour, by the way, is the Stadtpalais Liechtenstein - considered to be the first high-Baroque palais in the city.

The property had belonged to Hans Friedrich von Sondernhof. Palais Starhemberg was built in 1667 upon order of Count Conrad Balthasar of Starhemberg. The architect in charge is unknown, but was certainly of Italian origin. During the Second Siege of Vienna through the Ottoman Empire in 1683, Palais Starhemberg played a key-role in the defence of Vienna; it was here that the son of Count Conrad Balthasar of Starhemberg co-ordinated the Viennese troops: Graf Rüdiger von Starhemberg is still fondly remembered in Vienna and a memorial can be found in the nearby park of the Rathaus (City Hall).

The interiors of Palais Starhemberg were completely re-modelled in 1783 upon order of Prince (by that time the Starhembergs had received an up-grade from count) Georg Adam of Starhemberg. The architect in charge with this project was Andreas Zach and further adaptations to more modern needs followed: A new gate in 1815, using expensive stone from Kaisersteinbruch, for example.

Financial Trouble: Palais Starhemberg is sold again

By that time, the Starhemberg family had come into financial difficulties and sold Palais Starhemberg in 1814 to the family of Nadasdy. Later, it was bought by Cound Ladislaus of Festetics de Tolna (a descendent of this family is a popular biologist and presenter of documentaries in Austria). Count of Festetics ordered some further re-modelling of the palais into the then fashionable Empire Style.

In 1853, Sir Jakob von Löwenthal purchased Palais Starhemberg. He sold it on in 1862, to the Austrian National Railway Company. In 1871, the public bought Palais Starhemberg and re-modelled it into an administrative building with office space until 1875. It was used by the ministry for art and education. This is essentially still the main reason why people in Austria will know the building: Since 1971, Palais Starhemberg is home to the ministry of science and research (Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung).

Palais Starhemberg is not open to the general public. However, you should have a look at the early-Baroque façade of the palace. Attractions nearby are numerous, so let me focus on only the most important ones in a 2-minute walking distance: The Minoritenkirche with Palais Dietrichstein, Palais Liechtenstein and the Ballhaus, Palais Niederösterreich, Palais Porcia and other representative Baroque palais in its surroundings. The Burgtheater, Palais Ferstel with Café Central, Palais Kinsky and Palais Harrach on the Freyung, and the Hochhaus Herrengasse.

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Further Reading

Austrian Federal Ministery of Science and Research

German Wikipedia on Palais Starhemberg

Pictures of Palais Starhemberg Vienna