The Imperial Crypt is a historical site in Vienna, Austria, where 149 members of the Habsburg dynasty are buried, including 12 emperors and 19 empresses and queens. The crypt is located beneath the Capuchin Church and monastery on the Neuer Markt square, near the Hofburg Palace. It was founded in 1618 by Empress Anna of Tyrol and her husband Emperor Matthias, and has been expanded several times over the centuries. The crypt contains various styles of sarcophagi, ranging from simple to elaborate, reflecting the tastes and personalities of the rulers. Some of the most notable sarcophagi are:
- The double sarcophagus of Emperor Franz I Stephan of Lorraine and his wife Empress Maria Theresa, who ruled over a large empire in the 18th century. The sarcophagus is made of white marble and adorned with statues and reliefs depicting their family and achievements. It is considered a masterpiece of Baroque art by sculptor Balthasar Ferdinand Moll.
- The plain sarcophagus of Emperor Joseph II, the son of Maria Theresa and Franz I Stephan, who was a reformer and an enlightened ruler. He chose a simple design for his tomb, with only his name and titles inscribed on it, as a sign of his modesty and rejection of pomp.
- The sarcophagi of Emperor Franz Joseph I, Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) and Crown Prince Rudolf, who were the last rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their tombs reflect their tragic lives and deaths: Franz Joseph I died after a long reign marked by wars and revolutions; Elisabeth was assassinated by an anarchist in Geneva; and Rudolf committed suicide with his lover Mary Vetsera at Mayerling.
- The crypt chapel with the sarcophagi of Empress Zita, Otto von Habsburg and his wife Regina von Sachsen-Meiningen, who were the last members of the Habsburg family to be buried in the crypt. Zita was the wife of Emperor Charles I, who was exiled after World War I and died in 1922. Otto was their son and the head of the House of Habsburg until his death in 2011. He was also a prominent European politician and advocate for democracy and human rights. Regina was his wife and a descendant of several German royal families.
The Imperial Crypt is open to visitors every day from 10:00 to 18:00. The entrance fee is 8 euros for adults, 6 euros for students and seniors, and free for children under 6 years old. Guided tours are available on Wednesdays to Saturdays at 14:00 (in German) and 15:30 (in English). The tours last about one hour and cost an additional 3 euros per person.
To get to the Imperial Crypt, you can take the subway line U3 to Herrengasse station or line U1 to Stephansplatz station. From there, it is a short walk to the Neuer Markt square. You can also take the tram line 1 or 2 to Weihburggasse stop or line D to Kärntner Ring stop.
Some tips for visiting the Imperial Crypt are:
- Respect the silence and solemnity of the place. Do not touch or lean on the sarcophagi or take flash photos.
- Dress appropriately for a religious site. Avoid wearing shorts, skirts above the knee, sleeveless tops or hats.
- Explore the different vaults and admire the artistic details of the sarcophagi. Each vault has a nameplate with information about the rulers buried there.
- Learn more about the history and culture of the Habsburgs at the nearby Hofburg Palace, which houses several museums and exhibitions.
- Enjoy the atmosphere of the Neuer Markt square, which has a fountain, cafes and shops.
The Imperial Crypt is a fascinating attraction for anyone interested in Austrian history, art and royalty. It offers a glimpse into the lives and deaths of one of Europe’s most influential dynasties.