Marking a rare and remarkably valuable addition to its collection, today sees the blood-stained shirt of Archduke Franz Ferdinand go on display at Vienna’s prestigious Austrian Military Museum, the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (or HGM if you don’t feel quite up for giving its full title a go!).
Said to have triggered the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand is one of the museum’s main focal points, containing more artefacts related to this world-changing incident than any other institute. Because of its delicate condition, the once-white shirt, now stained a dark brown, will be exhibited behind glass for just 12 days in a dimly-lit room and is expected to receive large numbers of visitors, not just because it goes on display so infrequently, but also as it approaches the centenary of the assassination itself.
Travelling in an open-top car, both the Archduke and his wife were shot from close range when their vehicle stalled close to the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo on the 28th of June 2014. They were accompanied by a Jesuit priest who was later given the shirt and the assassin’s weapon for safe-keeping. Remaining in the possession of the Jesuit religious order until 2004, the shirt was passed to the HGM on permanent loan and for safe preservation. Other artefacts on display from this pivotal moment in history include the chaise-longue on which the Archduke died, the car itself and three of the four weapons used in the assassination.
Attracting some 170,000 a year, the HGM is Vienna’s oldest building and is a striking attraction in itself, showcasing as it does a range of architectural styles from Byzantine and Hispano-Moorish to Neo-Gothic. Its impressive collection is divided into five sections starting with the history of the Habsburg Empire from the end of the 16th century to 1918, and Austria’s fate following the dissolution of the monarchy up to 1945. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm.