May 3, 2013 / 11:18 AM / 6 years ago

Liechtenstein princely palace opens gates in Vienna

VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna’s Stadtpalais Liechtenstein, the city palace that launched a revival of Rococo in the mid 19th century, will offer public tours for the first time on Friday after an extensive face-lift.

A traditional Fiaker horsecarriage passes the Stadtpalais Liechtenstein in Vienna May 2, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

The late 17th century palace was once the main residence of the princely family of Liechtenstein, one of Vienna’s richest families considered to be at the cutting edge of art and architecture, before they moved to the tiny Alpine principality.

The Baroque building, which was revamped in the 1840s in the neo-Rococo style, was damaged during a bombing raid in World War II and when an Allied aircraft crashed into its roof in the final days of the war but it remained standing.

It was briefly patched up in 1970 and the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs used the space for offices with the gilded ornamentation hidden behind fake walls and under raised floors until restoration started in 2008.

The 100 million euro ($130 million) revamp returns the private structure to its pre-war glory and opulence, with plastered ceilings, gold leafing, and Thonet wood floors.

“The rebuilding was like a puzzle for the architects,” said a palace spokeswoman. “We only had fragments and many of the original chandeliers had to be tracked down in basements of art dealers around Vienna.”

While some of the renovated building will be kept as private living quarters, the public will get a look at many of its gilded Rococo rooms, its high Roman Baroque architecture and a selection of neo-Classical art.

The project was paid for by Prince Hans-Adam II whose family has ruled the 160 square km (62 square miles) principality of Liechtenstein since 1699 although Vienna remained their primary residence until the 1938 political annexation of Austria by Germany.

The family is credited with transforming the principality from a rural backwater into a wealthy banking center, making the country’s 36,000 inhabitants some of the world’s richest, with national output per head of $141,000 in 2012.

In addition to the Stadtpalais, Prince Hans-Adam owns the lavish sister garden palace just outside the city center - where he keeps his collection of Old Masters including Rubens, Amerling and Waldmueller - as well as the family’s namesake castle in the Vienna Woods.

Liechtenstein is the only monarchy in Europe to still have any real executive power and last year voters rejected a proposal to abolish the ruling prince’s right to veto the results of popular referendums.

Crown Prince Alois, who was given the task of running the day-to-day government by his father in 2004, said the monarchy would quit the country if the veto were removed, undermining stability and affluence for all.

($1 = 0.7676 euros)

Reporting by Derek Brooks, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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