27 Aug

Preserving the Past: Styrian Armory

The Styrian Armory - just look at the scale of this place.

The Styrian Armory – just look at the scale of this place!

So, what is it about history on film or in games that fascinates people? At least for me, it’s about the idea of creating a connection with a time that is invariably gone. The same thing holds true for museums or historical buildings. Whenever I look at objects on display, I can’t help but letting my mind wander, thinking who those people might have been who held, wore, created these things.

So, with that in mind, this new category I chose to call “Preserving the Past”. It will be all about places that, well, preserve the past. Being in the fortunate position of living in the centre of Europe where there’s plenty of history wherever you go, I will be showing pictures of the places we visited while telling you a bit about them.

First off: The Styrian Armory. Situated in the heart of Graz, the second largest city in Austria, the armory holds the title of the largest, still existing historical armory in the world. That is no mean feat! It boasts 32.000 individual pieces, all on display on three floors.

Growing up near the city, I first visited the armory when I was a little kid, but I returned with my girlfriend at the beginning of this year. We were lucky, because we visited the city shortly after their winter break (during which you can only go in with a guided tour – for some reason I always prefer walking through places like that at my own pace).

So why the need for an armory of that scale? Well, between the 15th and 17th century Styria was a frontier province and it was vital that equipment was always at hand when needed against threats from the east.

In 1699, when the conflict with the Ottoman Turks officially ended, Hungary was ceded to Austria and Styria’s unique position as a frontier province ended. Apart from providing weapons during later conflicts in Hungary, the armory’s role was not nearly as vital as it used to be. This was reflected in Empress Maria Theresa’s decision to decommission and break up the Styrian Armory in the mid-1700s. Fortunately for us, the Styrian people had grown attached to the armory and petitioned for it to be kept intact, not least as a testament to Styria’s wild history. The Empress granted their wish, and while the armory was (partly) decommissioned, it was in fact kept intact.

Today it houses pieces that range from suits of armor to pistols, ammunition, halberds, pikes, swords, artillery and a slew of other most interesting pieces of equipment.

It’s definitely worth a visit, not least because its upkeep is exemplary. And hey, where else do you get to see row after row of 16th century pistols? (it’s a rhetorical question, but in case you’re wondering, the answer is “nowhere”).

So, on to some pictures. Enjoy!

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