“To the wise counsellor of three emperors… To the glorious conqueror of Austria’s enemies”
The two magnificent Belvedere palaces (Upper and Lower) were constructed as the summer residence of one of Europe’s greatest military tacticians, Prince Eugene of Savoy. Prince Eugene was not an Austrian – he was born in Paris in 1663 to an Italian mother and raised at French court.
The youngest of five sons, he had his heart set on a military career, but the French King Louis XIV (the Sun King) denied his request. Louis thought Eugene was an unimpressive specimen physically, and it’s been noted Eugene was not considered attractive either. Eugene’s mother had also caused a scandal at court, so this likely had an effect as well. Eugene left Paris for Vienna and offered his military services to the Habsburg emperor Leopold I instead.
This event in 1683 proved to be a momentous occasion for the Habsburgs as Eugene was exceptionally gifted in military strategy and quickly proved his worth. Within a month of arriving and pledging his service to Leopold, Eugene conducted himself well in the Battle of Vienna against the Ottoman Empire. For the next 40 years, Eugene distinguished himself again and again during the wars with the Ottoman-Turks and the War of Spanish Succession, his efforts instrumental in building the might and expanse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His legacy also influenced Frederick the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte, among others.
Prince Eugene also proved to be a prolific art collector and patron. His extensive collections were housed in his palaces at the Belvedere. Therefore, it is fitting that his palaces are art museums today. The Upper Belvedere houses Austrian art from the Middle Ages to present, including the Gustav Klimt collection. The Lower Belvedere includes a variety of temporary art exhibitions.
At one end of the Schloss Belvedere, you can find an immense memorial dedicated to the Soviet Army who liberated the city at the end of World War II. It includes both a colonnade and fountain.
Today’s post focused on the gardens and exterior of both palaces – check back tomorrow to see inside the Upper Belvedere palace.
Title quote: Inscriptions on Prince Eugene of Savoy equestrian statue in Heldenplatz in the centre of Vienna, noted in Prince Eugen of Savoy by Nicholas Henderson