Discover Ceremonial Hall
A symphony of shapes and colours – that is the Ceremonial Hall (Zeremoniensaal), one of the most splendid in the whole of the Hofburg. The Belgian architect Louis Montoyer designed the hall as a throne room for Emperor Franz II/I. With its ornate coffered ceiling and 26 crystal chandeliers, which once held 1,300 candles, the hall has a truly imperial aspect. The 24 Corinthian columns have an artificial marble finish; the surface is not real stone but a form of painted gypsum known as stucco lustro. This is where Napoleon asked for the hand of Marie Louise, the daughter of Emperor Franz II/I, and where the exclusive Ball at the Court (Ball bei Hof) was held. On Maundy Thursday, Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth would each invite twelve poor old men and women to have their feet washed in a traditional Maundy ceremony.
Discover Knights‘ Hall
The Swiss Wing also houses the Knights‘ Hall (Rittersaal). It is here that Maria Theresia was baptised by the Papal Nuntius Spinola as the representative of Pope Clemens XI on 15 May 1717 with baptismal water containing a few drops from the River Jordan. Maria Theresia, the only woman ever to ascend the Austrian throne, ruled for forty years. She also had sixteen children. Next to the Knights‘ Hall is the Guard Room (Trabantenstube), where the duty officer of the Household Guards kept watch over the Emperor.
The Anteroom (Antekammer) to the Marble Hall is in the Swiss Wing, the oldest of the Hofburg buildings. It has particularly thick walls, which were originally part of one of the towers of the old fortress. An adjoining section of the Swiss Wing houses the Radetzky Apartments. In recognition of his services in the Italian campaign during the revolutionary year of 1848, Franz Joseph permitted the meritorious Field Marshal Radetzky to live in these apartments in spite of the fact that he was not a member of the court. In the corners the rooms have old tiled stoves, which were stoked from the corridor outside.
Discover Marble Hall
The walls of the Marble Hall (Marmorsaal) next to the Ceremonial Hall date back to the 16th century, while the artificial marbling for the interior was added around 1840 to match the appearance of the Ceremonial Hall. During the imperial period it was used as a dining room and for balls for the children at court. It offers a striking view of a sequence of five communicating rooms, all with the same star parquet floor.
Discover Privy Council Room
The adjoining Privy Council Room (Geheime Ratstube) is part of the Early Baroque Leopold Wing. This is where Emperor Franz Joseph held his opening speeches at the sessions of the AustroHungarian Delegation. It is also where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a nephew of Franz Joseph who was first in line for the succession, spoke the Oath of Renunciation on 28 June 1900 and in so doing renounced all claim to the throne in the name of his future wife and descendents.
The Ambassadors’ Staircase (Botschafterstiege) leads to the Swiss Courtyard (Schweizer Hof). Maria Theresia had this Baroque staircase built into the walls of the medieval Swiss Wing by Jean Nicolas Jadot de Ville-Issey in the middle of the 18th century. It was the first prestigious style of staircase to be added to the Hofburg. Today it serves as a second entrance to the congress centre and thus permits two events to be held there simultaneously. On the landing stands a sculpture of “Jason and Medea” created by Joseph Kässmann in 1829. In keeping with the Greek myth, Jason is carrying the Golden Fleece, which is also a reference to the prestigious imperial order of merit.