Prunk means pageantry or splendour, and stall means stable. So the Prunkstall is where Belvedere’s horses probably enjoyed better housing than many people of the time. Today, it’s home to much of the gallery’s medieval collection.
- Part of the Lower Belvedere complex, which reopens January 28th, 2022, after completion of renovations and improvements
- Altar panels, paintings, and statues from the medieval period
- Just three rooms, so quick to get around
- The Belvedere is a dynamic museum, so the actual works on display may vary
- All info available in English and German
- See also: Belvedere tickets & visitor tips
You get a feel for the original purpose of this building from the horse-faced reliefs on the decorated ceiling and the stone water basins along the walls of the largest gallery.
The only horses inside the Prunkstall today, though, are those pictured in the religious art on display – the three main rooms host Belvedere’s medieval collection, though many of the true masterpieces have moved to the upper palace.
The medieval highlights
(This messenger seems a little suspicious. Photo courtesy of and © Belvedere, Wien. Reproduced with permission under the terms of Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 4.0.)
In the first gallery, walls that once held hay now bear altar panels and paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as a giant intact altarpiece.
The second gallery has more of the same, while the third features sombre-looking statues made of sandstone, pottery and various types of timber that include limewood, Swiss stone pine, walnut and willow.
The condition of the works is often extraordinary when you remember they can date back over 500 years. And though these are not the crème de la crème of the Belvedere medieval collection, you still have much to enjoy.
As a non-expert, here are my highlights…
- I enjoyed the rather unpleasant devil character in the early 16th century painting of a scene from the legend of St. Cosmas and St. Damian (see photo above – number 57 in the guide booklet).
- Not sure if it was deliberate, but the painting of the Adoration of the Magi from around 1500 (number 12) has Joseph (or perhaps the innkeeper?) at the back looking slightly miffed at the lack of attention.
- The painting of the martyrdom of St. Erasmus from around 1500 (number 84) doesn’t hold back in its depiction of how that martyrdom came to be (grotesque torture instrument included). No spoilers, but there’s a very good reason Erasmus is kind of the patron saint of abdominal pain.
- My wife says it’s not an anachronism, but the painting of St.Ambrose from 1498 (number 80) shows him wearing a pair of glasses.
- British visitors will enjoy the altar wings from 1490/95 on the wall in Gallery 2 shared with Gallery 1: they depict George and the dragon (who you can also spot in the previous gallery, too).
- In Gallery 3, look for the pearwood relief of the Fall of Man from 1521 (number 146). It’s incredibly detailed and reminds me of the tiny boxwood rosary pendant on display in the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s Kunstkammer.
Tickets & visitor tips
A ticket to Lower Belvedere includes entry to the stables and medieval collection. See here for general information on tickets. Note that the Lower Belvedere area is closed until a planned reopening on January 28th, 2022.
Inside the entrance room, be sure to pick up one of the free English-language booklets. It guides you through the history and contents of the collection.
Vienna has other medieval gems outside of Belvedere’s collections. Consider, for example, a visit to the Schottenstift museum, home to the Schottenaltar panel paintings.
How to get to the Prunkstall
See the directions for Belvedere article. You access the Prunkstall from the end of the west wing of Lower Belvedere palace.
Address: Rennweg 6, 1030 Vienna
N.B. Don’t forget the r: a Punkstall would be something completely different.