5 Castle Series: Lower Belvedere

Prince Eugene of Savoy

Eugene of Savoy, the grandiose fop who put Austria on the map

One cannot consider the Lower Belvedere without immediately conjuring Prince Eugene of Savoy, he of minimal stature and ginormous ego.

marble hall of the lower belvedere

Marble, marble everywhere: the Lower Belvedere

In the late 17th century, Eugene fled France (where he was rejected by the Army due to his height) to Austria and began slicing and dicing his way to fame and fortune: slashing Turks, igniting the Spanish Succession, and leading charges up and down the continent. Eugene made up for his shortness with the size of his balls, and goes down in history as the fiercest fighter ever for the Austrian Army.

Lower Belvy’s ostentatious gold and marble rooms are a direct reflection of the Prince’s, um, short comings. Most importantly, his zealous drive to win made way for the success of the Habsburg dynasty, and, more concretely, this ridiculously fancy castle, bought by Maria Teresa in 1752 out of pride (NOBODY looks down on the Hof, and the Upper and Lower castles were an affront to MT–though legend has it that she never even set foot in the place) remains one of Vienna’s hottest properties on the tourism circuit.

hall of grotesques belvedere

Vienna loves its freaks almost as much as ice cafe!

The baroque summer castle is famous for such attractions as the Marble Hall, adorned with art by Martino Altomonte, the state bedroom where Eugene committed all matter of hijinks, the orangery, which is currently jammed with Medieval Art, the palace stables, and my personal favorite, the Hall of Grotesques. The so-called Groteskensaal represents Austria’s ongoing fascination and repulsion for all things freakish. Here you’ll see nightmarish gargoyles and bizarre paintings inspired by Roman frescoes.

As decorative as it is dark, The Lower Belvedere gets my vote for perfect Viennese metaphor.