In the seventeenth century Vienna was seen as the capital of the world,
a city displaying the majesty of the Empire, very much as Rome did in
the past. In its heyday the Habsburg territory covered the greater part
of the original Holy Roman Empire. Austria was the core of the
Habsburg hereditary lands. After the death (1526) of the Jagiello king
of both Bohemia and Hungary the Habsburgs also held these elective crowns.
With their diverse territories, the Habsburg dynasty also inherited
a multiplicity of residences. Frederick III (1448-1493) resided mainly
in Vienna; Maximilian I (1493-1519) preferred Augsburg and Innsbruck.
Charles V, who maintained his court in Brussels, in 1526 assigned
the government of the hereditary lands to his brother Ferdinand, who
became Emperor after Charles’s abdication in 1556. During Ferdinand’s
reign Vienna became the customary residence, but the capital of the
newly acquired Bohemian lands offered another attractive option,
and in 1583 Rudolf II (1576-1612) transferred the court to Prague.
In the seventeenth century Vienna regained its position. Although
the court became much more sedentary, it still travelled regularly at
the time and Vienna was never its sole residence. The Bohemian and
Hungarian capitals Prague and Pressburg (and later Budapest),
archducal capitals such as Linz, Graz and Innsbruck and imperial free
cities such as Frankfurt or Regensburg, as well as Brussels in the
Southern Netherlands, all retained their own importance.
Vienna could pride itself on at least ten tennis courts. Five were
associated with the Habsburg court, the rest were public, commercial
courts. The first Habsburg tennis court (Ballhaus) was built
during the rule of Emperor Ferdinand I, but soon other aristocratic
tennis courts followed. A Ballhaus (or Ballenhaus)
was virtually automatically incorporated in the lay-out of the major
Habsburg residences in Austria and Bohemia. As far as we know now,
only the Ballspielhaus of the Neugebäude has retained its original
exterior. It proves to be a specimen of a particularly large size and
may well originally have incorporated two tennis courts.
Emperor Ferdinand’s court was constructed as early as 1525,
probably inspired by the tennis courts of Northern
Italy, especially the Sala della Balla in Milan’s
Castello Sforzesco. The imperial tennis court was erected
close to the castle, at a site that was later to become
Hofburg. This court soon fell victim to a fire in 1526
and in 1534 another court is mentioned, virtually on the same spot.
Hofburg. During extensive refurbishments and renovations of
the castle a new Pallhaus (sic) was built between 1536-1552,
which measured 10.72 x 26.31 metres, with a height of 13 metres,
as can be interpreted from a plan of 1640. This is the court that
was converted into a theatre, the (Hof)Burgheater, in 1741
by Emperor Leopold, in 1855 also used as tennis court, 1864-1871
museum, 1888 pulled down. Now Kanzleramt
New Ballhaus in 1741, by Marie Theresa, at Ballhausplatz
Schloss Neugebäude, Ballspielhaus in 1570-1580 by
Emperors Maximilian II and Rudolf II, one of the largest examples
known: 650 square metres, height 14 metres. Building in dilapidated
state, but still standing. In 2000 a Society for the Preservation of
the Neugebäude was founded to preserve and revitalise the
vast complex of buildings.
Auersperg, Lerchenfelderstrasse 2. Prince Auersperg had a
tennis court built at his palace in the 19th century.
Used for tennis until his death in 1872, again from 1881-1914 by
British Embassy staff. This former tennis court is now incorporated
in a restaurant
Jagdschloss Ebersdorf, Ballhaus, by Emperor Maximilian II,
c. 1566. Destroyed. Now new Ebersdorf at same site, near
Schloss Ebersdorf (1566) with tennis court
Vienna also had three commercial courts, one of which became a
Theatre, in Teinfaltstrasse
Hofburg, had three Hofballhäuser in 1612
(according to Ernstiger Raisbuch, see also Merian engraving).
One burnt down in 1667
Hofburg, Ballspielhaus by Archduke Ferdinand II in 1582
(architect Giovanni Battita Fontana, including frescoes).
Became Italian Comedihaus in 1631 by Claudia de Medici,
destroyed in 1944
Ballhaus that served as
Comediehaus on the right
Ballspielhaus, under Archduke Ferdinand, 1675 converted into
university building. Now Congress Centre Leopold-Franzens
Ballhaus, built in 1615, burnt down in 1626
New Ballhaus in 1630, at same site. Burnt down in 1682
New Ballhaus in 1697, became Theatre in 1751.
Now incorporated in Landestheater (photo)
Detail of painting of 1742 with Ballhaus at
Linz, second building, with high windows.
[+ 2 commercial courts, one Grosses Ballhaus, built in 1645,
in Klammstrasse 7]
Ballspielhalle, 1625 under Archbishop Paris Graf Lodron
(by architect Santiono Solari), became Hoftheater
in 1775 for 12,000 guilders, room for 600-700 spectators.
Pulled down in 1895. Now Landestheater
Schloss Ambras, Ballenhaus built in 1572 for Ferdinand II.
The imperial court painter Giovanni Battista Fontana embellished
the Ballenhaus in 1575. Engraving by Merian of 1649 (see photo),
1824 plan and cros section shows tennis court. Ballenhaus pulled
down in 1880
Ambras, with tennis court, (see
Grosses Ballhaus, c. 1620, Theatrein 1738.
Pulled down in 1810. At same site now Stadttheater
Grosses Ballhaus, linked to Burgschloss. Pulled down
Kleines Ballhaus, pulled down in 1848, site: the present