No major medieval history exhibition in Germany comparable to the important surveys of the Carolingians, Ottonians, Salians, Hohenstaufens and Wittelsbachs has ever explored the medieval imperial Habsburg dynasty. Speyer, the sole grave site of medieval Habsburgs outside Austria, is particularly suited among German museum and exhibition venues to trace the dynasty’s rise from Rudolf I to Maximilian I on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of Rudolf I’s accession to the throne.
Following the state exhibitions “Salians” (2011) and “Richard the Lionheart” (2017/18) shown at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate, the Habsburgs will make it possible to localize major history of the European Middle Ages in Speyer and the Palatinate once again.
The Habsburg dynasty shaped Europe’s fortunes for centuries. The family, known as the “House of Austria”, has its roots in southwestern Germany, though. Rudolf I, who in 1273 became the first Habsburg elected King of the Romans, laid the foundation for their rise from comital to imperial dynasty. Following his death in Speyer on July 15th 1291, he was laid to rest in the Imperial Cathedral of Speyer “where more of my ancestors are, who were also kings”.
The exhibition takes the grave site of Rudolf I and his son Albrecht I as its point of departure and, building upon this, recounts the history of the Habsburgs through the European Middle Ages. It follows the struggles for kingship in the 13th and 14th century and the resurgence of the House of Austria in the shadow of the crown through their return to the throne and ultimately Maximilian I’s presence on the European stage in the 15th century – both 300 years of imperial history and a success story with fateful detours and caesuras.
The special art and cultural history exhibition has been elevated to the status of a Rhineland-Palatinate State Exhibition under present Rhineland-Palatinate Minister of Science Konrad Wolf.
In preparation for the exhibition, the Europäische Stiftung Kaiserdom zu Speyer hosted a scholarly conference in April 2018, the year of Rudolf I’s 800th birthday, the findings of which are entering into the preparation of the exhibition.
An extensive and richly illustrated publication with essays by prominent scholars will be published to accompany the exhibition.