Kreuzherren Palais in Vienna
Many little known but fascinating edifices can be found in Vienna besides the typical landmark buildings that draw most tourist crowds. One of these small treasures is the palais (actually the Provinzialatshaus, meaning the provincial seat) of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star (Kreuzherren mit dem Roten Stern) right behind St.Charles Cathedral (Karlskirche).
History of the Kreuzherren Order
The Knights of the Cross with the Red Star are a religious order originating from Bohemia and devoted mainly to offering medical care. Throughout its history it was accustomed to the use of arms, a custom which was confirmed in 1292 by an ambassador of Pope Nicholas IV. The grand master is still invested with a sword at his induction into office, and the congregation has been recognized as a military order by Popes Clement X and Innocent XII, as well as by several Holy Roman Emperors.
The order is first found in Bohemia as a fraternity attached to a hospital at Prague under a community of Clarisses, established by Princess Agnes, daughter of Przemysl Ottocar I and Queen Constantia, in 1233. In 1235 the hospital was richly endowed by the queen with property formerly belonging to the German order, a gift confirmed by Pope Gregory IX (May 18, 1236), who stipulated that the revenues should be divided with the Clarisse monastery.
The order, which by 1253 had extensive possessions in Bohemia, soon spread to neighboring lands. The Breslau house in particular was the center of many other foundations. It is Bohemia, in an especial manner, to which the knights have rendered incalculable services. Their success in hospital work is evidenced by the rapidity with which their houses multiplied, and the frequent testimony borne to it in documents of kings and emperors.
At the present time, besides the motherhouse at Prague, there are about 26 incorporated parishes, and 85 professed members, several of whom are engaged in gymnasia and the University of Prague. There are benefices at Hadrisk, Vienna, where the order has been established since the thirteenth century, Eger, Briix, and Schaab.
The Kreuzherren Palais in Vienna
Located right behind St.Charles Cathedral (Karlskirche) at Kreuzherrengasse 1 (just off Karlsplatz), the palais was planned and constructed in 1897/1898 by the Austrian architect Karl Mayreder (1856-1935) together with his brother Julius Mayreder.
Karl Mayreder, at this time dean of the technical university in Vienna as well as chief architect of the influential municipal Stadtregulierungsburo, was strongly influenced by the Austrian baroque style which was en vogue at that time.
This style combined the ambition to construct splendiferous edifices with national and romantic elements that supported the by then very popular historic and patriotic artistic taste. In the case of this palais, constucted as a massive apartment building that stands in close connection to the adjacent Karlskirche, the baroque motives by Fischer von Erlach (who constucted this church 1716-1737) were obviously taken as a prototype.
This fact can be seen from the rich arrangement of the building front and in particular from the centrally located large pediment decorated by figurines and ornaments above the main entrance.
Locating the Kreuzherren Palais
See the aerial view of the Karlsplatz just south of the city center:
Standing in front of Karlskirche (1) at the water basin, you will see the Technical University of Vienna (2) to your right and the Vienna Metropolitan Museum (Wien Museum) to your left (3).
To locate the Kreuzherren Palais (4), keep to the right side of the church on Argentinierstrasse and turn into Kreuzherrengasse, the first small street to the left behind the church.
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