Favorita Imperial Summer Residence (Palais «Favorita»)
The Favorita palace is located in the district of Wieden in Vienna, Austria, not far from the city center. It was built as the first summer residence on the site of a large farmstead outside of the city walls in the early 17th century and was called “New Favorita” as distinguished from the “Favorita” hunting residence in Augarten. The Empress Anna of Tyrol (1585–1618) used the new residence as a venue for holding dancing parties, masquerades, concerts and opera performances for the Viennese courtiers, and this tradition continued after her death. The palace was totally destroyed in the course of the Second Siege of Vienna by the Turkish troops in 1683, and a new Baroque mansion with a large park was built on the site by architect Lodovico Burnacini in 1687–1690. It is here that Peter I had his first, informal meeting with Emperor Leopold I on June 19/29, 1698.
It was Sunday. At half past five, a carriage of Vice-Chancellor Count Thomas Cernini arrived at the residence and Peter I went up a spiral staircase to enter a gallery with nine windows on its both sides. The Tsar wore a dark Dutch kaftan and a shabby tie and had a gilded sword without a lanyard on his side. The meeting was attended by General Franz Lefort, Fyodor Golovin, Prokofiy Voznitsin and an entourage member whose name was not documented. The two sovereigns talked for about fifteen minutes. After that, Peter went down to the park where he found a Venetian gondola on the pond and circled around it rowing vigorously. Turned into a swimming pool, the pond existed until 1963.
On June 23/July 3, 1698, Peter attended an opera performance dedicated to the Name Day of Emperor Leopold I which took place in the Grand Hall of the palace. Upon seeing the Empress and her daughters, the Tsar stated his willingness to pay them a visit, which he did a day later. Empress Eleonora Magdalena and the princesses received Peter I in the Mirror Hall on the second floor of the palace. The meeting was attended by few courtiers and Franz Lefort who acted as an interpreter.
On July 11/21, 1698, the residence hosted a costume ball called “Wirtschaftsfest” (a host fest) to honor Peter I. The festival, which previously took place every autumn, was abandoned after the Siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683 because of being too expensive. Leopold I took the occasion of the Russian Tsar’s presence in Vienna to revive the festival and it was the first time ever that the ball was held in the summer. The Emperor and the Empress acted as hospitable hosts from everyday life, and the Viennese elite wore costumes from different times and peoples of the world, including Ancient Rome, China and many European nations. Peter I and his partner Johanna von Thurn were dressed like Friesland peasants. The party went on into the early hours.
On July 18/28, 1698, the palace hosted a solemn official audience of the Grand Embassy. Emperor Leopold I “stood in that chamber on a locker near the table under the yellow canopy <...>”. The chairs near the table “were covered <…> with yellow fabrics”, “and the dress of His Royal Majesty was <...> with golden lacework and his hat had diamonds on it”. The sources say that the Tsar attended the official reception incognito and during the ceremonial feast he was standing near Lefort’s table.
After the death of Emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresia sold the Palais Favorita to the Jesuits in 1746. As a condition of the sale, the Jesuits used the facility to open an academy for children of the Austrian noblemen who were to become civil servants. The school was called “Collegium Theresianum”. In 1783, Emperor Joseph II abolished all knight academies, including the Theresianum. However, it was re-founded under the reign of Emperor Franz II in 1797.
Today, the Theresianum (or the Theresian Academy) is a private school. Since 1964, the former Favorita palace has also been home to the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.