On This Day: Empress Elisabeth Opens Her Hermes Villa

  May 24, 2016 at 8:24 am by

On this day 130 years ago in 1886, Empress Elisabeth of Austria aka Sisi opened her new palace in the Lainzer Tiergarten in Vienna. Construction on the palace, orginally called “Villa Waldruh,”  started in the summer of 1881. Emperor Franz Joseph hoped to encourage his wife -who longed for peace and soltitude- to remain in Vienna and stop her travels by providing her a secluded residence near the Austrian capital. The palace is situated in an idyllic setting in the middle of the former imperial hunting grounds, now Lainzer Tiergarten, is the “Palace of Dreams”, as Empress Elisabeth once called her villa.

It took over five years for the famous Ringstrasse architect Carl Freiherr von Hasenauer to build the palace, a model for many romantic country houses devised for the haute bourgeoisie. The villa took its name from the statue of “Hermes as Guardian” standing in the garden. The Empress herself commissioned the sculptor Ernst Herter from Berlin to create the sculpture, titled Hermés der Wächter (“Hermés the Guardian”) and instructed that it was to be placed in the garden of the villa. Murals by Gustav Klimt, Victor Tilgner and Hans Makart from an integral part of the intertior design. The apartments of the Empress are situated on the first floor. Among them a gymnasium where the body concious and possibly anorexic empress worked out every day. The bedroom of the empress was painted with scenes from Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.

On 24 May 1886 the Empress opened the Hermes villa and showed her husband the emperor and her youngest daughter Marie Valerie around in the new building. Until the assassination of the Empress in 1898 the imperial couple stayed in the villa for a few weeks each year, usually in late spring.


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