Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595), housed his world-famous extensive collections in the Unterschloss (Lower Castle), the building constructed especially for the museum purpose.
The core of Ferdinand’s collection was the Heldenrüstkammer (Heroes’ Armoury). Thus, the Archduke realised the very first systematic presentation of objects in museum history, based on his novel museum idea of methodically collecting. He treasured the original armours that had been owned by all the famous personalities of his time and previous centuries, as well as weaponry and portraits. In order to preserve the memory of their deeds and to emphasize the leading historical role of the Habsburg dynasty, his collection encompassed more than 120 armours, mainly from military commanders. Eight of the original high wooden cabinets still exist today, in which their initial armours bear witness to the history. In the middle, Ferdinand also included himself among the heroes.
Ferdinand selected jousting arms and armour from his ancestors Archduke Sigmund (1427–1496) and Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519) to display the forms of knightly tournament. Today’s presentation shows the use of weapons and the procedures of the tournament acquainted from the Freydal, the tournament book of Emperor Maximilian I.
The second armoury presents Archduke Ferdinand II as the host, organizer, and director of courtly festivities and tournaments. The suits of armour were masterpieces by Prague and Innsbruck armourers. Armours for the Plankengestech (joust over the tilt), the Freiturnier (free tourney) and the Fußturnier (foot combat) are displayed.
In the centre of the Second Armoury is the magnificent wedding armour of Ferdinand in classical style. He presented the parade armour to the festivities of his second marriage to Anna Caterina Gonzaga in 1582.
The portraits depict famous sixteenth-century commanders, whose arms and armours Ferdinand exhibited in his Heroes’ Armoury.
The so-called Türkenkammer (Turkish Chamber), is located at the end of the Court Amoury. The collection of 'Turcica', which Ferdinand assembled, corresponded with the 'Turkish fashion' which was much-loved in the 16th century. The Ottoman armour and military equipment and luxury items, like saddles, arrows and quivers, sabres, shields and helmets, were diplomatic gifts or pieces of booty from the battlefield. These were trophies and mementos of military battles against the then muchfeared Ottomans, who had spread their territory up to the borders of the Habsburg’s realm.
The fascination for Oriental art and culture could also be seen in the courtly festivals and tournaments.
The third armoury displays arms and armour from the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). They come largely from the holdings of the former Vienna arsenal and illustrate the difference between magnificent Renaissance single-pieces to series-produced baroque period’s armaments. The armoury also visualises the way in which a baroque arsenal was installed.