Even Emperors feel grief. Like Franz Joseph at the loss of his beloved Empress Elisabeth. The Sisi memorial dedicated to her memory fills a tract of the Volksgarten park.
- Finished in 1907, with water features, a statue, flower beds and a tree-lined avenue
- Very central, yet strangely hidden, too
- Don’t miss the nearby rose garden
- See also: Sisi museum | Sisi in Vienna
The Sisi statue
Habsburg marriages tended to be of the arranged variety, with very very few exceptions. The one between Emperor Franz Joseph and Elisabeth (“Sisi”) was, however, a mix of political expedience and romance. He truly loved her. She may have loved him (but certainly not to the same extent, frankly).
Despite Elisabeth’s ambivalence toward her husband and court responsibilities, and her regular absences from Vienna, there is no doubt she remains one of the great personalities in Habsburg history. No wonder, then, that she has an appropriate memorial to her name.
Work began on the Sisi memorial in 1904, around six years after her assassination in Geneva and following an exhaustive tender process involving dozens of competitive ideas (and locations).
Completed in 1907 and officially revealed to the public on April 4th, the memorial fills a tract of the Volksgarten park right in the heart of the city.
The Kronen Zeitung newspaper (still going strong today) dedicated its first four pages to the event, with the cover showing a picture of Franz Joseph and Maria Sophie (Elisabeth’s sister) at the opening.
At one end of the memorial sits the Empress in white marble, hands resting in her lap, the statue marked by a simple inscription that reads:
“Elisabeth. Kaiserin von Österreich” (Elisabeth. Empress of Austria).
In front of the Empress…a pond and fountains, then stone vases of flowers and a lawn that stretches down a narrow tree-lined avenue past more sculpted flower beds and topiary until you reach Heldenplatz square. It all has a turn-of-the-century feel with a touch of Greece (perhaps a nod to Elisabeth’s love of that region).
Sisi, I think, would have liked it. Although surrounded by imperial landmarks, the memorial tract manages to remain a remarkably secretive and tranquil location. To be honest, I must have walked past it a hundred times without realising it was there.
If you visit, be sure to explore more of the Volksgarten, particularly the rose garden. In summer, the roses form a glorious pageant of different colours; in winter, a strange landscape filled with tall stems, their tops encased in sacks of cloth, as if handcuffed and marching to a secret rebel hideout.
How to find the Sisi memorial
Follow the directions for the Volksgarten and the Rose Garden, which you leave by the side furthest from the Ring boulevard. Then cross over to the other side of the large Theseus temple (see the map below).
Address: Volksgarten, 1010 Vienna