Slovakia, Austria and other countries of the former Habsburg Monarchy commemorate this year the 300th anniversary of the birth of the ruler and reformer, Maria Theresa. While in neighbouring Austria several seasonal exhibitions will be held, of which two will take place just across the Slovak-Austrian border, Bratislava will mark the anniversary with scientific conferences and cultural events, highlighting especially the baroque period.
Schloss Hof and Niederweiden
Maria Theresa (May 13, 1717 – November 29, 1780) was one of the most important rulers in European history. She is known as the mother of the nation as she had 16 children, but also as a mother-in-law of Europe as through the marriages of her children, she gained allies across Europe and solved foreign policy problems.
Her reign lasted for 40 years, from 1740 to 1780. After a turbulent period at the beginning of her rule, the Habsburg Monarchy entered a golden age. In the fields of state administration and foreign policy, Maria Theresa, the daughter of Charles VI, enacted measures that were to have a decisive influence on the further development of the monarchy. Although the monarch had a sceptical attitude towards the ideals of the Enlightenment, this epoch is still seen as a period of reform in which the Habsburg lands underwent a distinct process of modernisation.
The life of Maria Theresa can be depicted from various angles. Within the Maria Theresa – Jubilee Exhibition 2017 – Strategist – Mother – Reformer, Austria has chosen four themes and presents them at various places. Two of them are easily accessible to residents and visitors of Bratislava as one will be held at the baroque palace Schloss Hof, while the second will be in the chateau Niederweiden which was originally used for hunting parties and celebrations. Both are open from March 15 until November 29.
Schloss Hof hosts the Alliances and Enmities exhibition.
“Organisers chose this topic due to the setting of the palace as it is located in Austria’s border region close to Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic,” said Barbora Hromjáková from the marketing department of Schloss Hof.
The exhibition deals with the initial difficulties of Maria Theresa in establishing her rule, wars and peace agreements, losses and gains of territory as well as Maria Theresa’s powerful creative political will. It is installed in 13 rooms that were renewed on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of her birth.
Maria Theresa bought Schloss Hof for her spouse Francis I in 1755. After his death in 1765, she took a liking to the place. She ordered its reconstruction in the classicistic style and also ordered the building of a bridge across the Morava River. Via the bridge she could easily visit her most beloved daughter Maria Christina, who lived with her husband Prince Albert of Saxony at the castle in what was then Pressburg, now Bratislava.
At Schloss Hof, visitors can also see the dower apartment of Maria Theresa, which is a rarity. While Maria Theresa probably had more such apartments in her residences, only the one in Schloss Hof has survived. This is because others were rebuilt after her death.
Niederweiden, located just three kilometres from Schloss Hof, hosts the Modernisation and Reforms exhibition. Here the focus is on the major domestic reforms enacted by Maria Theresa that were to change the state substantially.
There is also an original game kitchen, where various culinary events and preparation of baroque meals will be held.
Tickets and access
A combined ticket for both exhibitions, at Schloss Hof and Niederweiden, costs €16 for adults and €13.7 for children. Each visitor will also receive an audio guide either in English, German or Slovak. The exhibitions on Maria Theresa are labelled in Slovak and German.
Residents and visitors of Bratislava can easily get to Schloss Hof from Devínska Nová Ves on foot or by bike via the Freedom Bridge, as the eastern gate of Schloss Hof, only a few minutes’ walk from the bridge, will be open at weekends and on Austrian and Slovak public holidays. There is also a free shuttle bus from the Marchegg railway station. For more information go to www.schlosshof.at.
The remaining two shows of the jubilee exhibition are to be held in Vienna. The Family and Legacy exhibition takes place in the Vienna Imperial Furniture Collection and the High Office and High Spirits exhibition takes place in the Imperial Carriage Museum.
Conferences and exhibitions
Bratislava plans to organise exhibitions, conferences and events portraying the lifestyle of the times of Maria Theresa to mark the anniversary. Already on March 14 a conference was held: Bratislava – Coronation city of Hungarian Kings.
But the highlight event will be the 15th edition of the coronation festivities, i.e. a re-enactment of the original coronation ceremonies of individual rulers crowned in what was then Pressburg. It will take place between June 23 and 25. This time Elisabeth Christine, mother of Maria Theresa, will once again be crowned in Bratislava.
Bratislava hosts the re-enactment of the coronation ceremonies of Maria Theresa every five years. The latest re-enactment took place in 2016 to mark the 275th anniversary of her coronation.
The city council is promising to enrich the coronation festivities this year with several attractions. Some will be held directly at the Bratislava Castle which was recently rebuilt in the baroque style, i.e. into the form it used to look during the reign of Maria Theresa. Others will be held in the streets of the city, Iveta Kešeľáková from the press department of the city council said.
One of them will also be a scientific conference about Maria Theresa and her reign Vitam et Sanguinem. Maria Theresa and Hungary 1740-1780. It will take place some days before the Coronation Festivities, from June 14 to June 15.
At that time, visitors will also have the chance to hear period music or watch period dances performed by the Fringia grouping during the Baroque Partime programme in the renewed baroque garden at the Bratislava Castle. This event is planned for June 15.