The Paradise Garden
The originally steep slope down to the flatland of the River March to the east offered Prince Eugene an ideal terrain to plan a garden after the French model. Within a few years one of the most splendid gardens in the German-speaking regions was created after plans of the garden landscaper Anton Zinner. The vertical central axis with its fountains divides the garden on each terrace into two laterally reversed areas.
An optimally devised sculptural programme by the sculptor Johann Christoph Mader pays homage to the former lord of the manor Prince Eugene. The water quantity needed for the fountains and watering the plants was conveyed from ponds in the township of Groissenbrunn.
The garden became more and more neglected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One of the most important sources for the gradual reconstruction of the individual terrace zones since 2002 was provided by the three views of Schloss Hof, created around 1760 on commission of Maria Theresa by Bernardo Bellotto, called Canaletto.
Terraces by mouseclick
Situated on the first terrace was the main drive to the palace complex, originally adorned with trophies. Two large grey-roofed indoor riding arenas from the nineteenth century and the horse stables from the time of Prince Eugene characterise the appearance of this level today.
The south stables house the Lapidarium and a photo documentation on the revitalisation of Schloss Hof.
The original fountain from the time of Prince Eugene was dismantled in the nineteenth century. Missing in the reconstructed ensemble is most importantly the lost figural group of Neptune with dolphin.
The lateral groups of the fountain represent the fight of Hercules with Antaeus, in which the virtuous hero defeats his adversary through strength and cunning. This motif was often used to allude to the princely virtues of the palace owner.
The second terrace is the area upon which the palace is built. In accordance with Baroque rules, in the eighteenth century so-called parterres de broderie adorned both sides of the palace, composed of box trees, flowers and polychrome gravel, their patterns imitating embroidery. Today the meadows with fruit trees extend an irresistible invitation to visitors to spread out their picnics.
From the third terrace the view opens up towards the far-reaching landscape and Slovakia. Here the so-called parterres de broderie spread out like a great carpet. These form a typical feature of the Baroque garden, its sections composed as arabesques with flowers, box trees and polychrome gravel.
The centrepoint of the third terrace is formed by a basin, in the middle of which the Earth and fertility goddess Cybele rides on a lion. This goddess was a particular favourite in Baroque gardens, an allusion to her as queen of Nature and the world of flora and fauna.
Two concave-curving sets of steps lead to the so-called grotto. This wall fountain with three recesses is still kept in its original state, as it was in the days of Prince Eugene. Two sculptures in the outer recesses represent the rivers of the region, the Danube and the March.
A lavishly ornamental iron gate leads from the grotto onto the fourth garden level. It is an outstanding masterpiece of the art of forging, executed around 1730 by Christian Kremer and Johann Georg Oegg. It was shown at the 1895 World Exhibition in Antwerp as a prime example of home-grown handicraft.
The high bastion wall along the fourth terrace still has its seventeenth-century core and provides the support for the espalier trees. The two round bastions recall the original function as fortification.
In the central axis of the fourth terrace a grand set of steps leads down to the next level. The sphinxes (ancient chimeras between man and beast) at the top end of the steps are Classical guardian figures frequently encountered in Baroque gardens. The reliefs on the ornamental vases at the bottom end show ancient deities, representing the four elements.
Sculptures of the Seasons
Standard features of a Baroque garden included sculptures of the four seasons. In Schloss Hof they are sited alongside the outer ramps leading from the fourth to the fifth level. These ramps were a later replacement for the eighteenth-century steps.
The outer areas of the fifth terrace are defined today by clipped chestnut and lime-tree avenues. Originally the rows of chestnuts enclosed a wide arbour path into which four garden pavilions were integrated. The shady walks and gazebos built mostly of wood and overgrown with creepers were among the most cost-intensive features of a garden. They were removed in the nineteenth century, the foundations of the gazebos can still be seen today, however.
The so-called parterres à l’anglaise – lawns surrounded by strips of flowers – on both sides of the central axis have been recreated after their layout of around 1800.
The so-called Great Cascade formed the spatial and conceptual focus of the garden. The fountain was demolished in 1843, and a supporting wall erected in its place. The two sculptures refer to Prince Eugene. The south group is interpreted as an allusion to the successful military commander through Mars the god of war, crowned by a victory goddess.
In the north group Hercules accompanied by the allegory of Government alludes to the Prince’s role in diplomacy. The fountain is being reconstructed at present, its completion planned for autumn 2017.
A hedge and coppice area with field maple, called bosquet, harbours niches with benches inviting strollers to linger. Closing off at the terrace centre are lime trees with hive-shaped crowns, a typical design feature of a Baroque garden. Two extensive parterres à L’anglaise (lawn with floral strips) accentuate the vertical line of the garden’s central axis.
Embedded in two concave-curving ramps commissioned by Maria Theresa, is the so-called Lesser Cascade. A mascaron (grotesque mask) spurts out water via two cascades into the basin. The original fountain from the days of Prince Eugene was covered over in the nineteenth century and in 2010 reconstructed on the preserved foundations.
The last garden terrace covers the most extensive area of the garden; a central crossing path divides it up into four rectangular zones, today consisting of wild wooded areas. Originally these four areas were laid out with bosquets surrounding boulingrins (the French word is taken from the English “bowling green”), which were sunken lawns.
At the intersection of the cross in the seventh terrace is an octagonal water basin, with three putti in the middle playing with a water-spurting dolphin. In the eighteenth century people greatly admired this high fountain, generated alone through natural water pressure from the sloping terrain.
A splendid wrought iron gate with opulent vine-scroll and tendril ornaments made by Johann Georg Oegg and Christoph Kremer forms the grand finale crowning this garden expedition. At the top of the gate we can see the initials of Prince Eugene and his ducal hat. The trophy groups and the gods Mercury and Mars allude once again to the warrior prince.
In order to provide a worthy environment for Prince Eugene’s botanical treasures, Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt erected an orangery ensemble consisting of two laterally reversed greenhouses with gardens in front.
The orangeries were built according to the latest glasshouse architecture, in which the south side is designed as a pure wood and glass construction. Just as modern is the warm-air heating, still working today. Air is heated in underground compartments from large furnaces and conveyed into the space along a conduit system with square openings.
In 1757 the west glasshouse – and in the early nineteenth century the east – was rebuilt ascro a residential building for service staff. In the course of the Schloss Hof revitalisation process starting in 2002, both orangeries were successfully reconstructed to take on their original appearance.
As in the days of the Prince, today the plants winter in the east glasshouse and in summer are put on display the orangery garden.