Ambras Castle with its collections is the only former princely collection of art that can still be visited at its original, historical site.
While the so-called Upper Castle was conceived as a residential building, and was rebuilt and expanded into a Renaissance castle, in contrast the so-called Lower Castle, located to its south-west, was a new construction.
The irregular, four-wing building that emerged here after the 1570s housed stables in the south and a granary under the roof, whereas the other tracts accommodated the collections of Archduke Ferdinand II. These sections housed the armouries, the Chamber of Art and Wonders, as well as a library.
In 1589 the site was enlarged towards the west to create an additional tract to accommodate the so-called Heldenrüstkammer (Armoury of Heroes), which nevertheless was demolished in 1881 for structural reasons.
The Armoury was distinguished from others of the time in that the collection was purposefully put together; its formation was due to a specific concept which integrated the interested public as well as the aesthetic aspects of light and colour.
For the exhibitions Archduke Ferdinand II brought together inherited armour in order to convey the various forms of the chivalric tournament. The so-called Armoury of Heroes formed the centrepiece of the Armoury. Here, more than 120 pieces of armour, weapons, and objects of equipment of worthy soldiers and military leaders were presented as evidence of history and in memory of their deeds.
In the Renaissance chambers of art and wonders were encyclopaedic universal collections that attempted to capture the entire knowledge of their era. The Chamber of Art and Wonders at Ambras Castle was already viewed in the sixteenth century as one of the most significant of its type.
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