The Castle of Miramare and its Park were built by order of Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg who decided to have a residence befitting his rank built on the outskirts of Trieste, facing the sea and surrounded by a large garden.GIZ_0023-after

Struck by the tough, untamed beauty of the promontory of Grignano – a sheer Karst outcrop, then almost devoid of vegetation – Maximilian purchased several plots of land at the end of 1855.   The laying of the foundation stone took place on 1st March 1856. On Christmas Eve, 1860, Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, took up residence on the ground floor of the building, which was already completed externally. Internally the first floor was still in preparation. Designed in 1856 by Carl Junker, an Austrian architect, the architectural structure of Miramare was finished in 1860.

The style reflects the artistic interests of the Archduke, who was acquainted with the architectural style of the time which was mainly eclectic: Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance models combine in a remarkable blend, recalling other examples of the great houses of the time, built by noblemen in Alpine landscapes on the banks of rivers and lakes.

In Miramare Castle, Maximilian creates a perfect combination of the sweet scent of the Mediterranean and the austerity of European form, recreating a unique atmosphere thanks to the presence of the sea, which gives the light-blue colours to the tapestry on the ground floor of the Castle, and inspires the names and furnishings of many of the rooms.

The craftsman Franz Hofmann and his son, Julius, were entrusted with the furnishing and decorations: the ground floor destined for the use of Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, has an intimate, family atmosphere, while the first floor was set aside for guests who couldn’t help being struck dumb by the sumptuous furnishings decorated with coats of arms and by the tapestry adorned with imperial symbols.

The Park of Miramare, with a surface of 22 hectares, is the result of Maximilian’s long and demanding project on the rocky promontory of Grignano, which originally resembled a Karst area almost devoid of vegetation.

The site was planned and arranged by Carl Junker, though as far as the botanical features were concerned a gardener, Josef Laube, was called in. He was later
Replaced, in 1859, by Anton Jelinek, a Bohemian who had taken part in the frigate ‘Novara’’s expedition around the world. Large quantities of soil were imported from Styria and Carinthia, and nurserymen, mostly from the Lombardy – Veneto region, obtained a rich variety of tree and shrub species, many from abroad. Maximilian constantly kept up with the work, which started in spring, and never stopped being interested in his garden even when he had moved to Mexico, whence he sent back numerous species of trees.

The dominant aspect of the area is “woodland”, in harmony with the orological features of the place: trees alternating with grassy spaces, winding paths, gazebos and ponds, recall the romantic principles of the English landscape garden. The south-west zone, protected from the wind, accommodates geometrically imposed areas, as in the case of the Italian-style garden in front of the “Kaffeehaus”, or of the well-arranged flowerbeds around the harbour.

The Park of Miramare, which in its purchaser’s intentions was to be an experimental centre for the reforestation and acclimatisation of rare botanic species, is a complex at once natural and artificial: in it one can, even today, breathe a meaningful atmosphere intimately linked to the life of Maximilian, and at the same time capture the relationship with nature characteristic of an age.

In the one should point out, in particular: the sculptures produced by the Berlin firm Moritz Geiss; the greenhouses, with glass partitions opening within the original iron framework; the “Swiss Cottage” which is on the edge of the swans’ pond; the small square with the cannons donated by Leopoldo l of Belgium; the Chapel of  San Canciano with a wooden crucifix which, according to tradition, was carved from the wood of the warship Novara, dedicated in 1900 to Maximilian by his brother Ludovic-Viktor.

Parallel to the building of the Castle, Maximilian had the small Gartenhaus – also called “Castelletto” (small castle) for its exterior resemblance to the Castle – constructed in the Park.

Inhabited occasionally by Maximilian and Charlotte from 1859 to 1860, theCastelletto is situated in a panoramic area, overlooking the harbour of Grignano, preceded by a parterre surrounded by trees and a clearing in front of the greenhouses, at the centre of which there is a fountain. It is modelled on a square base with a terrace, tower and an arbour entrance, and the surviving ornamentation on the first floor is in many respects very similar to that of Maximilian’s first residence in Trieste – Villa Lazarovich, which he rented in 1852 from Nicolò Marco Lazarovich, arranging it according to his personal taste. Many furnishings of this Villa – which still exists as Via Tigor 23, located on the top of the hill of S. Vito – were brought to Miramare at Maximilian’s behest.

The Castelletto is closely linked to the tragic history of Maximilian and Charlotte. It was here, in fact, that Charlotte was locked up, on her return from Mexico with a nervous breakdown, between the end of 1866 and the beginning of 1867. It also housed part of the furnishings of the Castle of Miramare during the period of the Duke of Aosta’s residence there.

The Stables of Miramare Castle, commissioned by Maximilian of Hapsburg, were planned by the engineer Carl Junker and built between 1856 and 1860.
The building, positioned on the access road to the Castle coming from Trieste, is in a sheltered, healthy place, far enough from the residence. Consisting of a central yard open to the sea and two wings, perfectly symmetrical, it was made for horses and carriages.

Between the two World Wars, when the Castle was inhabited by the Duke of Aosta, the first changes were made to the Stables. Recently restored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, they are now used for temporary exhibitions.

1832 – JULY 6
Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg-Lorena, Archduke of Austria and Imperial prince, was born at Schönbrunn, in Vienna, second son of the Archduke Francis Charles and the Archduchess Sophia, Princess of Wittelsbach. Francis Joseph was born two years earlier.

1850 – SEPTEMBER 2
Maximilian set out from Trieste on a voyage to the Eastern Mediterranean.

1850 – 26 OTTOBRE
Entra nella Marina Austriaca.

1850 – OCTOBER 26
He entered the Austrian Navy.

In another cruise he reached Sicily, the Balearic Islands, Algeria and Albania.

Promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Commander of the “Minerva”.

1853 – FEBRUARY 27
He decided to build a Church in Vienna, the Votivkirche in gratitude for Francis Joseph’s escape from the assassination attempt by Johann Libenyi.

1854 – SEPTEMBER 10
He became Rear- Admiral and Commander of the Austrian Fleet.

1857 – FEBRUARY 28
Francis Joseph appointed him Civil Governor of the Lombardy – Veneto region.

1857 – JULY 27
Married Charlotte of Belgium.

1859 – APRIL 20
He resigned from the post of Governor of Lombardy – Veneto and moved to Trieste.

He began a voyage to Brazil.
He bought the island of Lacroma  off the coast of Ragusa in order to restore a monastery situated there.

1863 – OCTOBER 3
The Mexican deputation, led by Gutiérrez de Estrada, informed Maximilian that part of the Mexican people were in favour of restoring the monarchy, and offered him the crown on the initiative of Napoleon III. Maximilian became Emperor of Mexico.

1864 – APRIL 9
In the presence of Francis Joseph, Maximilian renounced his right to succeed to the Imperial Throne of Austria.

1864 – APRIL 14
Maximilian and Charlotte left Miramare for Mexico, where they arrived on May 28. He found there a country disrupted by civil war and in a political situation more difficult than he expected.

Failing the support of the French Army, Maximilian was taken prisoner at Querétaro  by Juarez’s Republican troops.

1867 – JUNE 19
He was shot by order of Juàrez.

1868 – JANUARY 18
The mortal remains of Maximilian reached Trieste on board the “Novara”. Thence they were transferred by rail to Vienna where they were buried in the crypt of the Capuchin church.

1840 – JUNE 7
The princess Marie Charlotte of Sassonia-Coburgo-Gotha was born in Laeken and she was the youngest and sole female child of Leopold I King of Belgium and his second wife Louise Marie of Orléans.

On her mother’s death she was placed in the care of her governess, the Countess Denise of Hulst, of whom she was  deeply fond.

During a ball at the palace of Laeken Charlotte met the Archduke of Austria Ferdinand Maximilian.

1856 – DECEMBER 23
She was officially engaged to Maximilian.

1857 – JULY 27
She married Maximilian and they left for a honeymoon through Europe, visiting  Schönbrunn, Trieste and Venezia.

1857 – SEPTEMBER 6
She officially entered Milan, capital of the Lombardy-Veneto region,  with Maximilian, its previously appointed Civil Governor.

1859 – JULY
After having resigned  from the post of Governor of Lombardy – Veneto  Maximilian and Charlotta moved to Trieste, where they came to live first in the Castelletto and then in the Castle itself.
During a voyage started in November with Maximilian, Charlotte stayed for some months in Funchal, on Madeira Island, while Maximilian went to Brazil.

1864 – APRIL 14
Charlotte, with Maximilian, left Miramare for Mexico where, as Empress, she devoted herself to the needs of the local population.

1866 – JULY 13
When military and economic aid dried up, Charlotte set off for Europe in search of support from Napoleon III and Pope Pius IX.

1866 – AUGUST
She arrived in Paris where, after many vain attempts, she obtained an audience with Napoleon III.

1866 – AUGUST 19
Napoleon III communicated to Charlotte that France could do nothing for Mexico.

1866 – SEPTEMBER 27
She obtained a Papal audience, but Pius IX went back on his previous promises. Charlotte began to show signs of the mental breakdown from which she never recovered.

1866 – OCTOBER 9
Back in Miramare, Charlotte was placed in the care of the doctors Riedel and Jilek, who diagnosed her state of madness.

Charlotte was kept in the dark about the tragic death of Maximilian for many months.

1867 – JULY 27
She was brought back to Belgium: she never returned to Miramare.

1927 – JANUARY 19
Charlotte died in Bouchot. Her mortal remains rest in the Church of Nôtre Dame in Laeken.

In 1867, with Maximilian’s death and Charlotte’s departure for Belgium, Miramare became the occasional residence of the Hapsburg family.
In the period 1869-96, the castle was visited at least fourteen times by Franz Joseph’s wife the Empress Elizabeth, better known as Sissi, and he also stayed there in September 1882, on the occasion of an official visit to Trieste.

On March 22, 1900 the Chapel at Miramare saw the wedding of the Hungarian nobleman Elemér de Lónyay and Stefania of Belgium. On March 1914 Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, had the Prussian Emperor William as his guest; two months later he was assassinated in Sarajevo. The last Hapsburgs in Miramare were the Emperor Carl and his wife Zita, with whom the history of the Hapsburg Empire ends.

With the outbreak of the war in 1914, all the furnishings in the castle were transferred to Vienna. Then, at the end of the conflict, when Trieste came under Italian sovereignty, the Castle became State property, and an agreement was reached with Austria for the return of the furnishings and the opening of the Castle as a public museum.
After the necessary restoration made by the Soprintendenza, on March 24, 1929 the museum was opened, to be closed afterwards on the arrival of the Duke Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta, who lived there from 1931 to 1937.

In 1943, during the Second World War, the Germans turned the castle into a training school for officers, and the furnishings were removed and kept in various buildings of the town.
In 1945 the New Zealand troops took possession of the Castle, followed by the English, and finally the Americans, who stayed there from 1951 to 1954, when Trieste was returned to Italy thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding signed in London on October 5.

The Castle, the Castelletto and the Park, again State property, underwent some restoration works carried out by the local Soprintendenza. On the basis of graphic records and period pictures, it is possible to recreate the wooden decorations and replace furniture, paintings and tapestries.

On March 1955 the Park was reopened to the public, and on June 2nd of the same year the Museum – officially called the “Historical Museum of the Castle of Miramare” – was opened and entrusted to the “Soprintendenza per i Beni Storici Artistici ed Etnoantropologici del Friuli Venezia Giulia”.

In 1930 the Italian Government assigned the Castle of Miramare to Duke Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta. The architect Alberto Riccoboni, of the Royal Monuments and fine Arts Office, took charge of renovating the Castle in order to meet the modernizing demands of the Duke.

The rooms of the Castle lost some of their more pompous decorations, and were covered with functional furnishings that combine the aesthetic with the practical: they are pieces of furniture in the rationalist style that are still to be seen in the left wing of the first floor. Here it is possible to visit the private apartments of the Duke, which previously also included the “mezzanin”, the last floor of reduced height.

The renovation of the Castle at the time of the Duke was not only aesthetic: the Civil Engineers provided the building with two lifts, phone lines, a neon lighting system, running water and central heating.
The Duke inhabited the Castle from 1931 to 1937, when he became viceroy of Ethiopia, whereas his wife Anna of Orléans and their daughters Margherita and Maria Cristina continued to live there – on and off – until 1943.

During this period visitors were granted access to the higher part of the Park, and also the Castelletto, containing the pieces of Maximilian’s furniture removed by the Duke from the Castle.

Room XX of the Castle of Miramare, located on the first floor, is called the “Historical Room” because the painter Cesare Dell’Acqua, at Maximilian’s behest, depicted the most important events in the history of Grignano, the place chosen by the Archduke for his residence.


Uno sguardo su Venezia. Canaletto a Miramare
Cinisello Balsamo (Milano) 2009, ed. Silvana Editoriale
A cura di Fabrizio Magani e Rossella Fabiani
Saggi di: Fabrizio Magani, Rossella Fabiani, Alberto Craievich, Francesca De Bei, Stefania Comingio, Francesca Grippi
Il catalogo si riferisce alla mostra allestita nel 2009 all’interno del Museo Storico del Castello di Miramare, Sala della Rosa dei Venti, in omaggio a Giovanni Antonio Canal detto Canaletto. Il volume comprende una serie di contributi che indagano la presenza di Canaletto e del vedutismo veneziano nel collezionismo triestino, la preziosa collezione di disegni di Canaletto appartenenti alla Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica di Trieste. Il vivo interesse degli arciduchi Massimiliano d’Asburgo e Carlotta del Belgio per Venezia è trattato nei saggi che riguardano l’apparato iconografico del Castello di Miramare e la fortuna del vedutismo veneziano nell’Ottocento, vista attraverso le opere dei seguenti artisti presenti nelle collezioni di Miramare: Ippolito Caffi, Luigi Steffani, Roberto Roberti, Giuseppe Borsato, Carlotta del Belgio e Jean Baptiste Van Moer.
Rossella Fabiani
Museo Storico del Castello di Miramare
Milano 2006, ed. Mondadori Electa
La guida, dopo una breve introduzione sulla figura di Massimiliano d’Asburgo, sulle vicende costruttive dell’edificio e sugli arredi interni, illustra l’intero percorso di visita del museo. Una pianta consente l’immediata individuazione delle singole sale dell’itinerario.

Il Museo Storico del Castello di Miramare.
I cataloghi scientifici dei Musei del Friuli Venezia Giulia
Vicenza 2005, ed. Terraferma
A cura di Rossella Fabiani
Saggi di: Rossella Fabiani, Piero Del Negro
Collana diretta da Caterina Furlan
Schede di: Sara Bergamasco, Rossella Fabiani, Irene Candelieri, Lorenza Fonda, Stefania Comingio, Francesca Grippi, Daniela Crasso, Francesco Krecic, Francesca De Bei, Paola Valentin
Il catalogo, corredato da un ricchissimo apparato iconografico, ci restituisce attraverso le decorazioni, gli arredi e le opere d’arte puntigliosamente raccolte da Massimiliano, la memoria della personale dimora di uno dei protagonisti della storia europea del XIX secolo; fornendoci però, in parallelo, anche un più generale orizzonte del gusto dell’epoca.

Cesare Dell’Acqua. I colori della storia
Trieste 2005, Edizioni del Comune di Trieste
A cura di Maria Masau Dan, Rossella Fabiani
Schede di: Stefania Comingio, Adriano Drigo, Francesca De Bei, Susanna Gregorat.
Il volume illustra la collaborazione del pittore Cesare Dell’Acqua con Massimiliano d’Asburgo e il barone Pasquale Revoltella, analizzando e mettendo a confronto i dipinti di carattere storico eseguiti dall’artista piranese tra il 1855 e il 1877.