January 01


Ambras Castle is situated upon a rock ca. 100 meters above the valley floor created by the River Inn. News of Ambras, spelled “Amras” or “Omras,” has come down to us from as early as the 10th century. Long before Innsbruck became a city, it achieved more than just local importance as the established seat of the Counts from the House of Andechs, whose original lands lay in Upper Bavaria.

There remains nothing of the original Andechs castle, which was destroyed in 1133. The castle later passed by inheritance from the Andechs family into the possession of the Prince of Tirol. The only evidence of this early, medieval period can be seen in some of the materials that were used to build the Upper Castle.

Collection Holdings move to Vienna

Even in the 17th century, Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705) had the most valuable—and most vulnerable—items including books, manuscripts and early printed works brought to Vienna. Today these are kept at the National Library. The collection was in extreme danger in the year 1805, following the defeat of Austria by the French Empire. Only after Napoleon I (1769–1821) had recognized the private-law character of the Ambras Collection in 1806 was it brought to safety in Vienna.

Ambras during the 19th Century

In the period following 1855, the palace was remodelled for use as the summer residence of Tirol’s then-Statthalter (governor) Archduke Karl Ludwig (1833–96). In the process, deep-reaching changes were made to the palace and the surrounding park. The most noticeable changes were undergone by the Vorschloss (outer bailey) via the construction of an ivy-clad entrance ramp for carriages, while the park was redesigned as an English garden. Following Karl Ludwig renouncement of Tirolean rule, the palace remained in a more or less ruinous condition. Only in 1880 was it converted into a museum and subsequently renovated.

Ambras during the 20th Century

In 1919, Ambras Castle passed into the ownership of the Republic of Austria. In 1950, the Kunsthistorisches Museum took over the administration of the castle and its collections. During the 1970s, the comprehensive restoration of the Spanish Hall, the residential quarters in the Upper Castle and the painting work in the inner courtyard of the Upper Castle was begun. The year 1974 saw the Chamber of Art and Curiosities, and 1980–81 the Armoury, set up once again in the Lower Castle, and in 1976 the Habsburg Portrait Gallery covering the 15th to 19th centuries was completed.