The Heldenplatz in Vienna was built under Emperor Franz Joseph I. Not quite as large as planned, the forecourt of the Hofburg is still the scene of solemn rallies, parades and ceremonies today.
The magnificent Heldenplatz is the forecourt of the famous Vienna Hofburg and is located directly on Vienna's Ringstraße, between the two political heads of Austria. The Federal President is based in the Hofburg and the current head of government in the Federal Chancellery on the neighbouring Ballhausplatz.
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PICTURES: Heldenplatz in Vienna
Photo gallery: Heldenplatz in Vienna
Events at Heldenplatz
Heldenplatz is often the scene of events and public rallies. Adolf Hitler announced Austria's annexation to the German Reich from the balcony of the New Castle on 15 March 1938. Since then, commemorative events for the victims of National Socialism have been held at Heldenplatz time and again.
In the course of an army show, the largest swearing-in ceremony of the Austrian Armed Forces takes place on Heldenplatz on National Day, 26 October, every year. The finish of the Vienna City Marathon is also at Heldenplatz.
Places of interest on Heroes' Square
Heldenplatz was conceived by Emperor Franz Joseph I as part of the Imperial Forum. Originally, the rectangular square was to be framed by the Hofburg, the Habsburg Collections (now the Natural History and Art History Museum) and a counterpart of the Hofburg in today's Volksgarten.
All that remains of the spacious area today is the forecourt of the Hofburg, for the square between the Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum is already called Maria-Theresien-Platz- after the monument in its centre.
The north-west side of Heldenplatz is still unbuilt and opens onto the Ringstrasse with the magnificent buildings of the Parliament, the Vienna City Hall and the Burgtheater.
Outer castle gate
The "entrance" from the Ringstrasse to Heldenplatz is through the imposing outer castle gate. It was built in 1824 according to the designs of the Austrian architect and court architect Peter von Nobile. At that time it commemorated the fallen soldiers in the Napoleonic War, but now it serves to commemorate all war dead.
In 2002, a modern sculpture for the Austrian police officers and gendarmes killed in the line of duty was unveiled next to the castle gate, designed by the artist Florian Schaumberger.
Archduke Karl Monument
The impressive equestrian statue of Archduke Charles, then uncle of the Emperor and responsible for Napoleon's first defeat, was unveiled in 1860. The ceremonial inauguration was actually planned a year earlier, but due to Austria's defeats at Magenta and Solferino at the time, this did not seem quite appropriate.
The monument was created by the court sculptor Anton Dominik Fernkorn, who was highly esteemed at the time. His work is particularly impressive due to the fact that 20 tonnes of bronze are precisely balanced only on the two hind legs of the horse.
Prince Eugene Monument
Five years after the first statue, the second hero monument was also unveiled on Heldenplatz. However, Fernkorn was unable to complete the equestrian statue of the famous general and Turkish conqueror Prince Eugene for health reasons. After three strokes and an admission to a lunatic asylum, it was rumoured that the fear that the archduke's unsupported horse might fall over drove him mad.
His pupils could not achieve the technical perfection of their master - the prince's horse had to be additionally supported on the pedestal with its tail. The unveiling took place on 18 October 1865, on Prince Eugene's 202nd birthday.