Emperor Maximilian I.

A great Habsburg

By Austrian National Library

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Maximilian as sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece (1500/1599) by UnknownAustrian National Library

Emperor Maximilian I.

Like no other, Emperor Maximilian I stands for the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance: as "last knight" and "first gunner" he led numerous wars to enforce his claims to power. At the same time he proved to be a wise tactician, who tried early to use the power of the media and especially the newly invented book printing for his purposes.

Maximilians Vater Kaiser Friedrich III. (1522/1523) by Jörg KöldererAustrian National Library

Imperial Family

Maximilian was born on March 22, 1459 in the castle of Wiener Neustadt. His parents were Emperor Friedrich III. and Eleanor of Portugal. Only one more child of them reached adulthood: Maximilian's sister Kunigunde.

Prunk ABC-Buch Maximilians (1465) by UnknownAustrian National Library

„Er alle ander der
fursten vnd herrn kinder ubertraff“

Maximilian was not a brilliant student - despite such impressive textbooks as this ABC book. As a child, he suffered from a speech disorder and his overly strict teacher ruined him the joy of learning. The book "Weißkunig", commissioned by him later, sounded quite different: Even at a young age he surpasses all his teachers and contemporaries.

Maximilians birth in the Weisßkunig (1512) by Marx TreitzsaurweinAustrian National Library

„die stern und
einflus mit irer wurkung zu erkennen“

Maximilian's birth is said to have been under a unlucky star - at least that was claimed by an astrologer his father Friedrich III. had consulted. Maximilian later took advantage of the belief in astrology and turned the comet, which had appeared to his birth, in a lucky charm. The associations to the Star of Bethlehem, which suggests this image from one of his book projects, were intentional.

Maximilian's constructed pedigree (1500/1599) by Jakob MennelAustrian National Library

Descendant of Hektor and Aeneas

Despite political power and imperial crown - what Maximilian lacked was a the right pedigree. He solved this problem quite confidently by creating new facts: The lawyer Jakob Mennel constructed a lineage for Maximilian, which begins with the ancient heroes Hektor and Aeneas.

Maria von Burgund lesend (1470/1479) by Meister der Maria von Burgund; Lieven van Lathem; Simon Marmion; Willem VrelantAustrian National Library

Great love

With his marriage policy Maximilian laid the foundation for the rise of the House of Habsburg. He was married twice. While he is said to have had genuine love for his first wife Maria of Burgundy (pictured here in her famous prayer book), after Maria's early death it was rather financial considerations that led to the marriage of Bianca Maria Sforza.

Ironclad Knight (1540/1560) by UnknownAustrian National Library

With sword and armor

In the military history Maximilian went down as "last knight" ...

Scharfmetze (1540/1560) by UnknownAustrian National Library

Modern war technology

... and as the "first gunner".

World map with the coast of Brazil / Orbis Typus Universalis Iuxta Hydrographorum Traditionem (1513/1513) by Claudius PtolemäusAustrian National Library

The world is becoming "bigger"

During Maximilian's reign, great voyages of discovery took place: Bartholomew Diaz was the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa, and Vasco da Gama led the first Portuguese fleet around Africa to India. In 1492, Columbus believed that he had reached India on his way across the Atlantic and discovered America. In the year of Maximilian's death in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan finally launched the first circumnavigation of the world.

Tyrolean Fishing Book (1504) by Wolfgang HohenleiterAustrian National Library

Contact and conflict with the Ottomans

While in the West there were mostly opportunities for wealth, Maximilian's reign was threatened from the East. After the conquest of Byzantium in 1453, the Ottomans advanced further and further towards Vienna. However, this did not prevent the emperor from maintaining diplomatic relations with the enemy. In 1497 he received a delegation of Sultan Bayezid II in Stams Abbey; its companion took advantage of the opportunity to hunt, as this illustration from the "Tiroler Fischereibuch" shows.

Maximilian I. with his secretary Treitzsaurwein. (1512) by Marx TreitzsaurweinAustrian National Library

For his own memory

„Wer ime (dt. sich) im leben kain gedechtnus macht, der hat nach seinem tod kain gedechtnus, und demselben menschen wird mit dem glockendon vergessen.“ In the last sentence of the 'Weißkunig', written by his personal secretary Treizsauerwein,here kneeling at the feet of Emperor, Maximilian reveals the intention behind many of his book projects: to enter the memory of the world.

Woodcut (1519/1519) by Albrecht DürerOriginal Source: http://data.onb.ac.at/rec/baa4617826

A great Habsburg

When Maximilian died in 1519, he had left his mark on the world. Not only his successful marriage policy, but also his book projects and the works commissioned by him contributed to his fame. And the numerous paintings and prints that were made by him, as this posthumously published portrait of Albrecht Dürer.

Kaiser Maximilian I. (1500/1599)Austrian National Library

Emperor Maximilian I. reigns at the State Hall

The Austrian National Library presents the person of Maximilian and his role in Austrian and world history from March 15 to November 3, 2019 with than 90 precious objects, drawings, paintings and a portrait woodcarving by Albrecht Dürer. They show the emperor, his time and the mark he has left on the world.

Credits: Story

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Project Management and Editorial Services Online-Ausstellung: Martin Hechenblaickner, Thomas Zauner

Exhibition "Emperor Maximilian I. A great Habsburg"
Austrian National Library, State Hall
Josefsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna

Tue-Sun 10-18, Thu 10-21
June to September
daily 10-18, Thu 10-21 Uhr

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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