We go into the Capuchin Church and grab tickets at the front for Kaisergruft, the Imperial Crypt. This place is a sacred tomb containing members of the House of Habsburg who were one of the most influential of the royal houses of Europe, ruling the Holy Roman Empire from 1438 until 1740. We follow stairs down into the basement. Whoa! Ok, let’s just get right into it with some super elaborate coffins.
Unfortunately, we immediately get stuck behind an Austrian tour group. Wouldn’t be so bad if we could speak German, we could be getting some free intel. But instead this guide goes on and on for a good ten minutes in a language we don’t understand with no pause and we’re too polite to push our way passed.
So we take our time and snap pics of all the crazy coffins around us. Like Kaiser Ferdinand III, who died in 1657.
Let’s see who we’re dealing with here. I look him up. Wow, ok, this dude was the Archduke of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Croatia and Bohemia and then the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1648 he helped negotiate a peace treaty to end the Thirty Years’ War, which was one of the most gruesome conflicts in all of human history. He was also a well respected musical composer.
So that’s the caliber of coffin we’re looking at in here. And that’s just one of a long, long line of these types of entombments. All rulers and their descendants for the last 400 years. Ferdinand III has been lying here for 362 years. Crazy.
The foundation stone for this place was laid on September 8th, 1622 in the presence of Ferdinand’s daddio, Emperor Ferdinand II.
There are some less regal looking sarcophagi behind us.
This place is kinda nuts
The guide finally finishes her history lesson and notices a growing number of non-tour folks building up behind her group. She let’s us pass and we’re free to explore the crypt at our own pace now.
This super ornate one belongs to Emperor Charles VI, who died in 1740. Last male heir in the Habsburg line.
These are wild. Those hooded heads are creepy.
The next room is dedicated to Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress. She died in 1780.
Emperor Charles VI was the end of the male Habsburg line. His only son died in infancy and the other three children were daughters (one of them also died in infancy). Recognizing this worrisome predicament, Charles spent his reign securing his succession and ensuring hereditary possessions could be transferred to his first daughter, Maria Theresa. We’re not talking about who’s gonna get the fancy dinnerware and that old Porsche crazy Uncle Chuck was working on, we’re talking about the Archduchy of Austria, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Kingdom of Croatia, the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Austrian Netherlands.
After many concessions with other European super powers over years and years of negotiating he was finally able to secure it with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. Of course, immediately following the death of Charles VI, a lot of those same European super powers said “Nope. Just kidding!” and Maria Theresa instead inherited a war to defend all her worldly goodies. But despite the 7-year-long War of Austrian Succession (mainly against Ferdinand II of Prussia), she managed to defend her inherited empire for a long 40-year reign while also cranking out a healthy 16 children with Francis I.
Her marriage to Francis I, then the Duke of Lorraine, established the House of Habsburg-Lorraine which still has many living members today.
Long story short, she gets some deadly real-estate in the imperial crypt
I think we’re far enough away from the tour group to douche it hard in front of this one
A number of the royal family died during child birth or didn’t last a year even. So there are tiny sarcophagi for their remains here as well.
We tour through the remaining halls gawking at all of the details
There are some more conservative ones in the next hall
And here we have a rather simple entombment for Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, and monarch to a bunch of places in the Austro-Hungarian empire. He was the longest-reigning Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, as well as the fourth-longest-reigning monarch of any country in European history.
Alright, that was cool. Crazy to think of all the history involved in this place and the people lying here. Rulers overseeing massive empires and making decisions to evolve boundaries, economies, technologies, ideologies, religions and the fate of wars and millions of people. Like playing Civ VI but for real. Emperors (12), Empresses (18), Kings, Queens, Grand and Archdukes and Duchesses, Presidents, all of them buried here. Almost every sarcophagus has a stacked resume on Wikipedia. And there are 145 people buried here.
We get back up to the street. “Well, what’s next?”, “There’s that big green space over here on the left. Could just pick a museum over there and check it out”, “Let’s do it.”