Universität WienAn Historical Tour of the University of Vienna

Archiv der Universität Wien



The construction of the Main Building took place between 1877 and 1884, according to plans by the architect Heinrich von Ferstel that combined the forms of the Renaissance and the monumentality of the Baroque era. On the site of the former military parade area on Vienna's splendid new Ringstraße the Parliament, the City Hall and the University were all built at the same time. The architecture of these three monumental buildings echoes the democracy of the Greeks (in the Ancient Grecian style of the Parliament), the aspirations of the bourgeoisie in the Middle Ages (in the Gothic City Hall), and the flowering of Humanism (in the Renaissance style of the University). In 1871 Ferstel had studied the older university buildings in Bologna, Padua, Genoa and Rome during a trip to Italy. In the creation of the arcaded courtyard the architect used the model of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome. It was intended to be a campo santo to commemorate renowned university teachers and a recreation area for young people engaged in studies. The first memorial was erected in 1888 to commemorate the lawyer Julius Glaser. Today there are some 150 sculptures and reliefs of Viennese scholars, and among them - as the only woman - is the poet and honorary doctor of the University, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach. Especially noteworthy is the commemorative group by the sculptor Carl Kundmann (1892), which is dedicated to the Austrian educational reformers Leo Graf Thun-Hohenstein, Franz Exner, and Hermann Bonitz. There are also remarkable sculptures by such important artists as Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, Caspar Zumbusch, Richard Kauffungen, Josef Tautenhayn jr., and others. The centre of the courtyard has been occupied since 1910 by the Kastalia Fountain, the "Spring of Wisdom", that was created by Edmund Hellmer. In 1926 it was decreed that a term of 10 years must pass between the death of a scholar and the erection of a memorial in the arcade.

In spite of the grand proportions of the whole complex (with a ground plan of 161m by 131m), the original intention of accommodating all bodies of the University in one central building could not be fulfilled. In addition to the official rooms of the Rector, two ceremonial halls and the central administration the building was able to accommodate the four Deans, the University Library and many departments and lecture halls. But a considerable proportion of the University's institutions had to be located in many other buildings away from the centre. The ceremonial opening of the new "University Palace" took place on 11th October 1884 in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph I.

Lit.: Die Universität am Ring 18841984, ed. Hermann Fillitz (Wien/München 1984); Thomas Maisel, Die Denkmäler im Arkadenhof der Universität Wien. Biographische Skizzen (Wien 1990).


The new Main Building on the Ring, 1884

The imposing University Palace on Vienna's splendid new Ring, in the immediate vicinity of the parliament, the City Hall, the Burgtheater and the Votiv Church, shows that the University was intended to hold an important position in Vienna. The building occupies an area of 161m by 133m and was originally intended to contain all the faculties. (Original photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


The Opening of the Main Building on Vienna's Ringstraße, 1884

On 11th October 1884 Emperor Franz Joseph opened Heinrich von Ferstel's renaissance style Main Building on Franzensring (today known as Dr. Karl-Lueger-Ring 1). (Original press cutting in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


The Arcaded Court in the University Main Building, 1884

The arcaded court (modelled on the Palazzo Farnese in Rome) was intended, by the architect Heinrich von Ferstel, to be a "Hall of Fame" for the University. The many sculptures and plaques testify to the capacity of scholars who have worked here. (Original photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


The University Main Building on the Ring

This shows the façade of the University's Main Building overlooking the Ringstraße. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


The University Main Building on the Ring

Etching by R. Kasimir, Archive of the University of Vienna