Sunday, 6 September 2009
What to see: The Primate’s Palace, Bratislava
Bratislava, formerly known as Pressburg or Pozsony, is now the capital of the Republic of Slovakia, but was for a long time the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary – its kings were crowned in the city’s St Martin’s Cathedral. Since the middle of the 15th century the Archbishop of Esztergom had had his residence in a house located in the square behind the Town Hall.
The present building, known as the Primate’s Palace, was built when Archbishop Joseph Batthyany decided to pull down the old house and have a new and more modern one built. The task was given to the Austrian-born architect Melchior Hefele, who built the new, neoclassical palace between 1778 and 1781. Queen-Empress Maria Theresa had died the previous year and her son Joseph II’s transferred the Hungarian state institutions to Buda, while Batthyany’s successors later moved to Esztergom, meaning that the new Primate’s Palace never really came to be used for what it had been built for.
The palace was used to house visiting archbishops and royals, for offices, apartments and schools until the Archbishop sold it to the city of Bratislava in 1903. The old Town Hall had become too small and the Primate’s Palace was turned into the new town hall, which it remained until the 1940s, when yet another town hall was built opposite it. Today the Primate’s Palace is used for representation and as a picture gallery.
The Mirror Hall (third picture) serves as a session hall for the city representation. This hall was where on 26 December 1805, following the Battle of Austerlitz, the Peace of Pressburg was signed, whereby the Austrian Emperor ceded the Veneto, Istria, Dalmatia and Tyrol to Napoléon I. A memorial plaque in Slovak and German (fourth photo) was put up 100 years later, but unfortunately misspells Liechtenstein – it was of course not the artist Roy Lichtenstein but Sovereign Prince Johann I of Liechtenstein who signed the peace treaty on behalf of Austria, with Talleyrand signing for France.
The plaque is placed in the columned entrance vestibule (fifth photo), from where a grand staircase (sixth picture) leads up to the first floor. In the Red Drawing Room (seventh photo) are three of six valuable 17th century English tapestries which were discovered when the Primate’s Palace was renovated after the city bought it in 1903.