Kaunitz Palace (21)

Ort der Mitte
Münchendorfer Strasse 2

Leopold Philipp Montecuccoli bought an empty parcel from the Laxenburg municipal government in 1695. In 1698 his heir, Maria Antonia Montecuccoli, sold the property to Dominik Andreas Kaunitz-Rietberg, who was able to acquire town property as far as the Mühlbach stream and the lock in the following years and erected a solid garden wall on the street side, corresponding to the present cloister wall that runs along Münchendorferstrasse, Kaunitzstrasse und Guntramsdorferstrasse. Domenico Martinelli was probably responsible for the design of the palace. Construction lasted until 1703 under the direction of building master Simon Carove with stonemason Pietro Bombelli. Josef Pichler created the interior murals in multiple rooms and on the staircase around 1775. After the property changed hands multiple times, owned by the Schlick, Lobkowitz and Chotek families, and by Count Luigi Canale (actually Malabaila conte di Canale), who served as the Piedmontese ambassador to the imperial court, in 1774 state chancellor Wenzel Anton Kaunitz-Rietberg acquired the palace. He immediately expanded it in the style of the period. Sections of the murals are still intact, such as the design of the staircase with seven niches containing frescoed busts of classical statesmen, philosophers and poets.
In 1803 the palace was sold once again, this time to cabinet minister Franz de Paula Colloredo.
Already by 1806 the widowed countess Victoria Colloredo sold the palace and garden to prince Nikolaus Esterhazy. In 1898 it passed to the Salzer line and in 1907 Clara Wittgenstein and her siblings (aunts and father of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein) acquired the palace. Clara Wittgenstein was a major benefactor of Laxenburg’s school and kindergarten as well as the town’s less-well-off citizens. With the death of Clara Wittgenstein in 1935, the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross were able to purchase the adjacent property, inherited by Paul Wittgenstein, for the favourable price of 102,000 Austrian shillings. The mother superior at the time, Theodosia Albrecht, named the palace Stella, Latin for star, in association with the old inn building, called the Sterngebäude, meaning star building. The palace was renovated true to its original style. Afterwards, the ‘Stella building’ was used as a schoolhouse, with a home economics school, an institution of higher education for women’s professions, a teacher training institute for kindergarten teachers and day-care providers, ‘as one of the best and most modernly equipped female education institutions’. It was consecrated by Cardinal Innitzer in June 1936. In 1938 the Sisters were forbidden to teach and operation of the school had to be suspended. The Stella building was converted into a military hospital after seizure of the cloister complex in 1941. From 1945 to 1947 the palace was occupied by the Russians, who established an officers’ garrison there. After the Stella building was released from occupation in 1947, operation of the school was able to resume and continued until 1988. In 1979 the upper storey was converted into a mediation and community centre, the ‘Ort der Mitte’, which was able to expand throughout the entire building in 1988 after the home economics school was closed. In 2007 there was the opportunity to sell Kaunitz Palace to the state of Lower Austria for use as an international training centre for the IACA (International Anti-Corruption Academy).