Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and since the 1860s has also been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.
Emperor Leopold I gave architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach the order to design a new palace. His first draft was a very utopian one, dealing with different antique and contemporary ideals and trying to top its role model Versailles. His second draft showed a smaller and more realistic building. Construction began 1696 and after three years the first festivities were held in the newly built middle part of the palace.
Few parts of the first palace survived that century, because especially Maria Theresa of Austria to whom the estate was made as a present by her father (who, himself, had shown but little interest in it) had decided to make it the imperial summer residence, after she was crowned. She ordered her architect-of-the-court Nicolò Pacassi to reshape the palace and garden in a way of the style of the Rococo era. At the end of the so-called Theresianian epoch, Schönbrunn Palace was a vigorous centre of Austria's empire and the imperial family, and stayed their summer residence until the more-or-less "abdication" of Charles I of Austria, in 1918.
In the 19th century one name is closely connected with Schönbrunn's, Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. He was born there, spent the majority of his life there and died there on November 21, 1916 in his sleeping room. Through the course of his 68-years reign, Schönbrunn Palace was seen as a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) and remodelled in accordance with its history.