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Schönborn Palace History

The palace was built on the site of an earlier house that was destroyed during the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648) when the Lesser Town quarter was occupied by invading Swedish forces. The present palace was erected in the period 1643 – 1656 by Count Colloredo-Mansfeld, an Austro-Hungarian general. The Count, having lost a leg at the battle of Lutzen, had the flight of steps leading to the first garden terrace built with a special incline to enable him to ride on horseback into the palace.

In 1715 the building was remodelled by Italian architect Giovanni Santini, who was architect for Prince Charles of Lichtenstein. The decorative mouldings around the windows are adorned with ornamental heads and garlands in the baroque style, and the arch leading to the central courtyard is supported by two gigantic caryatids (Atlantes), the work of Matthias Braun, one of the best sculptors of the age. Behind the palace stretches a terraced garden and orchard of seven acres which extends up a hillside topped by the Glorietta, from which the American flag flies.

The Schönborn Palace is built in four wings around three courtyards. Altogether, it contains over one hundred rooms, many originally hung with damask and decorated with stucco. The ceilings of the rooms on the first floor are over 30 feet high.

The palace is known as Schönborn after the last titled owner before it was purchased by Crane, whose family, incidentally, was related by marriage to the Masaryk family. Among the owners of the palace before it was acquired by Crane were Cardinal Prince Dietrichstein; Count Rudolph Colloredo; Charles, Count of Hatzfeld; The Prince of Hatzfeld; and Count Schoenborn. Franz Kafka also lived in the palace very briefly in 1917.

After World War II, the palace became the property and office of the American Embassy and remains so today. Unfortunately the US Embassy doesn’t offer tours of the building.

PAT

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