The Styrian Armoury (Landeszeughaus) at Graz
In the very heart of the old city of Graz there is the world's largest historic collection of weapons and armour - the Styrian Armoury with 32,000 exhibits. The weapons and armour date from the 15th to the 18th century and served to defend the state of Styria. As well as the abundance in objects, their original presentation in an arsenal will impress every visitor - this visit to a museum will excite even the kids!
The origins of this armoury extend far back in the past. When, towards the end of the 15th century, the Ottoman army threatened the Habsburg hereditary lands, the Austrians needed buffer zones and set up a military border which was about 150 km to the southeast of Graz, mainly in today's Croatia and Hungary. Being a frontier state, it was incumbent upon the Styrian estates to provide armour and weapons for the soldiers. Later, when the imminent danger from the Ottoman army ceased towards the end of the 17th century, military operations shifted to the suppression of rebellions in Hungary.
To begin with, armour for the Styrian troops was stored in various places at Graz. Later the armouries were centralized and the Styrian Armoury, set up between 1642 and 1647, became the sole arsenal of the Styrian estates. The early Baroque building, built according to plans by Antonio Solar, is decorated with an ashlar portal, crowned by the Styrian panther. Figures of Mars and Minerva, symbolizing war and militancy, vigilance and strength, stand in niches to the portal's right and left. However, the building gains most importance by virtue of being directly adjacent to the Landhaus, the house where political decisions for the state of Styria were (and still are) taken.
Once the Styrian Armoury housed 185,000 pieces of armour for up to 16,000 soldiers. Even nowadays, the count of 32,000 exhibits is impressive. In metre-high shelves helmets, suits of armour, shields, edged weapons and firearms line up in endless number. 5,000 soldiers could still be equipped; however, the equipment, worn centuries ago by grown up men, today would only fit children - evidence of how much mankind has gained in body height since then.
While the greater part of the armour was to equip privates, the collection also contains tournament armour including tournament lances and a few select examples of ceremonial armour for horsemen as well as for horses, amongst others from the famous Innsbruck arms workshop of Konrad Seusenhofer (deceased in 1517), who was in the service of Emperor Maximilian I. from 1504 on. Those representative pieces, which cost a fortune, were exclusively for wear by the high nobility on very special occasions only.
When Styria was no longer a frontier state and the military was centralized during the reign of Maria Theresia, the Stryrian Armoury was faced with permanent closure in 1749. Upon intervention by the Styrian estates, it was preserved as a historical monument to the past of Styria and was made available to the public. Give yourself a little break from the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle, shift away and breathe another period!
Styrian Armoury (Landeszeughaus)
Phone: 0316 / 8017 - 9810