on March 25, 2007
"Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria nubeNam quae Mars aliis, dat tibi regna Venus""Let others war, thou, happy Austria, wed; What some owe Mars, from Venus take instead."One of the best-known sights in Innsbruck is the Goldenes Dachl (Little Golden Roof) at the t-junction of Maria-Theresien-Straße and Herzog-Friedrich-Straße in the heart of the old town. It is, as the name clearly hints, a small golden roof on top of a spectator’s gallery.According to legend, Tyrolean Duke Friedrich the Penniless had this roof covered with golden coins to put paid to rumors that he was bankrupt. Friedrich was indeed poor but the golden roof was only erected six decades after his death by Emperor Maximilian I, who ironically was once refused entry into Innsbruck because of his entourage’s debts.In the building is a small museum, the Maximilianeum, which focuses on the life of Kaiser Maximilian I, who ruled from 1493 to 1519. He was one of the most interesting figures in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’s history and is often referred to as the Last Knight in Europe. Due to conservation concerns, visitors cannot actually enter the famous balcony itself but you can peak through the open door onto the balcony where a mirror reflects the painting of Maximilian and his two wives. The famous quote above, often wrongly thought to refer to Maria Theresa’s 16 children who married nobility throughout Europe, actually refers to Maximilian I and his children. They all married well. Maximilian’s first wife, Maria of Burgundy, brought most of the Netherlands (including modern-day Belgium) and Burgundy under Habsburg control. His second wife, Maria Bianca Sforza of Milan, brought large parts of Italy under Habsburg rule. Marrying off his children and grandchildren, as well as the odd war or two, vastly expand Habsburg power. His grandson and successor, Charles V (1519-1556), ruled the Holy Roman Empire, Burgundy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Bohemia, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Spain, and much of America and other colonies. As Charles V put it himself, "in my realm the sun never sets."The museum has further interesting facts on the life of Maximilian including his coronation. Several rulers, including the French king and Venetian doge, were against Maximilian’s election as German king and clearly hoped for a break from Habsburg rule. At his coronation, Maximilian wanted to make it clear he would defend his throne militarily if necessary. A few choice words might have been called for, but why risk the message getting lost in translation or misinterpret by diplomats. Leaving the orb in storage and carrying a cannon ball instead got the message through loud and clear: the Venetian doge extended his sincerest felicitations within days (but still refused Maximilian permission to travel through his territory for a formal coronation by the Pope; a 500-year tradition thus fell away conveniently with the last coronation prior to the Lutheran Reformation).
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