The Belvedere Palace has been constructed for Prince Eugen of Savoia by the architect J.L. von Hildebrandt and reflects the Baroque architectural style. The palace is part of an immense estate which comprises beautiful parks and offers an impressive view over the old city.
The estate actually consists of two castles, the Upper Belvedere Palace, built between 1720 and 1722 and the Lower Belvedere Palace which was erected much earlier, between 1714 and 1716. It is in this smaller edifice that Prince Eugen resided. The two castles communicate through gardens which are decorated by the means of sculptures, water basins, wells, stairs and small waterfalls.
The entire ensemble reflects a theme of transcendence representing man’s journey from darkness towards the divine light. The death of Prince Eugen (in 1736) marks the moment when the estate becomes the property of the Habsburg family.
Upon entering the Lower Belvedere, tourists will find themselves in the Court of Honor and from then onwards, they will enter the Marble Hall. The Marble Hall was initially used for receiving guests (high officials). The way in which the walls are designed is representative for the triumphal arch architecture, a style selected as a reminder of Prince Eugen’s grand victories as a military commander.
On the ceiling of the Marble Hall, visitors can admire a fresco artistically done by Martino Altomonte. The Hall has both antique and baroque sculptures, the latter belonging to the famous artist Domenico Parodi.
On the walls of Sala Terrena (the gorund floor), you can see paintings of the grotesque as this was the current in Vienna in the first decades of the 18th century. The ceiling is painted in the same manner (in the grotesque style) by Jonas Drentwett and it depicts the seasons and the 4 primordial elements.
Overall, the original paintings have been maintained throughout the years. The only exception is one side of the edifice which has been badly damaged in a bomb attack during WWII. Because of this that particular part of the edifice had to be reconstructed.
The Upper Belvedere was transformed into an art gallery which held the imperial paintings from 1775 onward.
The Sala Terrena from the Upper Belvedere is enclosed by atlases in all of the four corners of the room. The structure of the room comprises 4 pillars which are pretty much essential to the edifice, as it prevents the hall from subsiding.
The Upper Belvedere has an impressive ceremonial staircase which leads to the main floor. The decoration of the edifice is exquisite. On the right wall lies a stucco relief which reenacts the scene when Alexander the Great defeated Darius, while on the left side, there is an illustration of the moment when Darius’ wives were presented to Alexander.
The Carlone Hall was named after the artist who decorated the hall room, Carlo Innocenzo Carlone and consists of beautiful fresco depictions, which have been preserved to this day (the majority of them).
The Marble Hall of the Upper Belvedere is made up of two floors and it is colored in red-brownish tone due to the marble used to decorate it.
Both of the palaces have been transformed into museums. The Lower Belvedere Palace has become the Austrian Museum of Baroque Art, whilst the Upper Belvedere houses the Austrian Art Gallery where visitors can indulge themselves with paintings dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. Paintings signed by well renowned artists, such as Van Gogh or Gustav Klimt, are on display at the museums. However, tourists are not allowed to take any photographs so all that is left is to imprint those images in their minds.
The first alpine garden on the European continent was designed in the Belvedere Park in 1803. Today, more than 4000 plants which are normally located in the Alps Mountains can be found in this garden.
Tourists can visit the estate in whatever period of the year they desire, but in order to grasp the beauty of the gardens, you should definitely schedule your visitation for spring or the beginning of summer because that is when the majority of the flowers encountered here are in bloom.
The palace gained the name of ‘Belvedere’ during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa because of the impressive view in conveyed over the old city.
The Orangery (the Greenhouse) is in close proximity of Lower Belvedere and hosts the Modern Gallery.
The estate is famous for its gardens with their lakes, cascades, statues and flower arrangements. Access to the gardens is free of charge whereas access to the museums and the orangery is allowed only after covering a fee.
For the Romanian population, the palace bears not so positive connotations. Belvedere is the place where on the 30th of August 1940 an international document called the Vienna Diktat was passed. Through this document Romania was urged to yield to Hungary almost half of the Transylvanian territory.