• Prince Eugen of Savoy after the Battle of Belgrade
      Prince Eugene - Vienna's Cultural Visionary

    Discover the remarkable story of Prince Eugene, a military general who transformed Vienna's cultural landscape and left an enduring legacy.

    How a diminutive, queer military general changed the cultural face of Vienna.

    A Prince with a stigma

    Born in Paris on October 18, 1663, into a noble but impecunious branch of the Italian Savoy family, Prince Eugene was an unappealing figure with crooked shoulders, a weirdly shaped nose, and eccentric queer affinities.

    He had big dreams for a military career. But due to his short height of less than five feet – and most likely because of his scandalous mother with a reputation as a poisoner – France refused to accept him into military ranks. At the age of 20, Prince Eugene decided to flee the country, and he did so disguised as a woman.

    The Prince's rise to heroism

    When he arrived in Vienna, Emperor Leopold I of Austria desperately needed military recruits and welcomed him with open arms. The Prince gratefully dedicated his loyalty to the Austrian military and rapidly rose through the ranks. He enjoyed a heroic reputation when he saved Christianity in Western Europe after decades of siege by the Muslim Ottomans. Eventually, he served three Habsburg emperors and became their most successful military leader.

    The queer Prince

    Yet, his personal life remains a mystery to many. Prince Eugene never married, was childless, and his contemporaries called him "a Mars without a Venus." Rumors of his queerness persisted; however, during his lifetime, neither the concept of homosexuality nor queerness existed. 

    Prince Eugene was unconventional and brought new ways of thinking and living to Vienna. Parisian fashion with pompous clothes, make-up, and wigs for men, rumors about men 'entertaining' among themselves while at war, and dressing as women to escape from their responsibilities as heads of the families – common stories at the time, yet labeled as eccentric behavior by the Viennese society. Today, the local gay community claims Eugene as one of their own, and he is front and center in every Vienna gay city tour.

    The extravagant Prince

    With increased success and wealth, the Prince’s longing for official recognition grew. He increasingly showcased his power with grandiose representation.

    During his lifetime, he built three majestic palaces: his summer residence, the Belvedere Palace with its upper and lower buildings, his Winter Palace - both in the heart of Vienna's old town - and his hunting manor Schloss Hof, 50 minutes east of Vienna; three architectural masterpieces that significantly influenced Viennese Baroque architecture. The sums spent on decorating the representative rooms of these palaces with tapestries, fabrics, chandeliers, mirrors, and grotesque frescoes far exceeded those of the buildings. His gardens, filled with unusual plants and trick fountains, and menageries housing exotic animals added to the allure of his estates.

    A Prince with a passion for the arts

    He developed a great passion for the arts, philosophy, and the sciences. In almost fifty years of unwavering dedication as a general, statesman, and later diplomat, he amassed an unparalleled collection of paintings, copperplate engravings, art objects, and exotic fabrics from all over the world and established one of the most extensive libraries of his time.

    The Prince's closest friend

    In the 72 years of his life, it may have been his beloved tame lion that was closest to the private Prince. The lion represents power and strength, symbols Prince Eugene admired and freely used to adorn his entrances and coat of arms, and his relationship with this lion is said to have been special. Legend has it that on the hour of Prince Eugene's death, the wild animal began roaring terribly, like it knew his friend was dying, feeling this transcending bond with the Prince.

    The Prince's legacy and influence

    Despite his eccentricities – or maybe because of them – his impact on Vienna's cultural heritage is undisputed. After Prince Eugene's death, Empress Maria Theresia gave the Belvedere palace a new purpose. It became a gallery where the imperial art collections were displayed, making it one of the first museums in the world to be open to the public.

    Today, three centuries later, the Belvedere in Vienna is still a central stage for art and stands as a testament to his vision, housing one of the most significant art collections in the world, including Gustav Klimt's iconic masterpiece, "The Kiss."

    Follow in Prince Eugene's Footsteps

    Visit these places in Vienna to explore Prince Eugene's legacy today.

    View from the baroque palace Upper Belvedere over the palace park / Belvedere

    Belvedere Palace & French Gardens

    Travel back to the era of Prince Eugene and experience the Lower Belvedere Palace, Prince Eugene's main point of residence during summers, and the Upper Belvedere, where glamorous balls and receptions were held.

    Besides the Belvedere Museums' exhibitions housed within the palaces' premises, explore architectural highlights of the time, such as the grand staircase and the Marble Hall. Wander the iconic French gardens and enjoy a panoramic view over Vienna's historic city centre, a UNESCO world heritage sight. 

    Prince Eugene's Winter Palace

    Prinz-Eugen-Straße & Winter Palais

    Take a walk along Prinz-Eugen-Straße towards the city centre, past the Belvedere Palaces towards Schwarzenbergplatz, and cross the extravagant Ring Boulevard into the first district.

    Within a short walk, you will find Prince Eugene's Winter Palace (or City Palace), located at Himmelpfortgasse 8. The High Baroque palace served the Prince primarily as a winter residence. Today, the building houses the Federal Ministry of Finance and is not open to the public. However, the baroque facade, the opulent portal, as well as the narrow winding streets of Vienna's old town offer a pleasant historical retrospect. 

    St. Stephen's Cathedral

    Prince Eugene Chapel at St. Stephens Cathedral

    Once in the first district, finding your way to St. Stephens Cathedral is easy – just walk toward the church spires visible from almost every street. Vienna's landmark is also the final resting place of numerous Habsburgs, Viennese cardinals, and Prince Eugene. His tomb, a marble obelisk with bronze sculptures and a relief of one of his most notable battles, can be observed in an intimate chapel, Prince Eugene Chapel, on the left upon entering the church's grand nave.

    Prince Eugene Memorial in front of the New Castle/Vienna Hofburg

    Prince Eugene Monument

    A giant bronze equestrian statue of Prince Eugene overlooks the historic Heldenplatz square in front of the Imperial Palace, just 10 minutes walking distance from St. Stephens Cathedral. Unveiled in 1865 by Emperor Franz Joseph on Prince Eugene's 203rd birthday, the statue commemorates Eugene's outstanding military achievements. Various inscriptions on the statute's plinth demonstrate the most notable battles and his influence as a military leader.

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