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Golden Roof – magnificent in the old town of Innsbruck
The Golden Roof – once a symbol of power, now a point of attraction and a photogenic spot. But the Gold Roof is much more! In 1420 the building was constructed by the Tyrolean sovereign as a residence, back then without the magnificent bay window with the roof. Only under the rule of Emperor Maximilian did this extension of the building occur. He wanted the Golden Roof as a status symbol, a sign of his power. He aimed to display his wealth to his enemies. However, after his reign, the grand balcony fell into disrepair. Despite that, the Golden Roof remains the masterpiece of Innsbruck’s old town. It was recognized late. The building spent a long time in a deep slumber: Until its restoration, it served as an administrative building and even as a barracks. With the emerging tourism in the 19th century, things changed. The Old Town of Innsbruck became a popular tourist destination. Therefore the Golden Roof was meticulously restored. Today, Tyroleans take pride in their Roof. It has once again become the centerpiece of the city. Anyone visiting Innsbruck cannot miss it. But do you know the stories behind the late Gothic ornate bay window at the New Court on Herzog-Friedrich Street? I’ll reveal some background information and stories in the following lines.
Why is the Golden Roof the most visited attraction in Innsbruck?
We easily answered this question when we took a city tour in Innsbruck’s old town under the beautiful sunshine. When the Golden Roof, with its 2,657 golden shingles, gleams in the sun, and the splendid bright houses around it shine with their stucco decorations, the answer becomes obvious. It just looks imperial! I found such a magnificent roof made of gold nowhere else in Europe. It’s unique and now globally repaired. So famous that it has been replicated elsewhere. More on that later. First, a tip for anyone wishing to capture a good image of this attraction in Innsbruck: The Golden Roof shines in its full glory in the afternoon when the light comes in from the side. It’s the perfect time for the best photo of the Golden Roof!
Emperor Maximilian & the Golden Roof
The Golden Roof was a status symbol then and continues to be so for the city even today. Status was the reason why Emperor Maximilian commissioned the Golden Roof about 500 years ago. He aimed to create a monument and adorn Innsbruck. He succeeded. He even immortalized himself in reliefs on the bay window of the house (somewhat sheltered by the Roof). Look closely, and you’ll find depictions of him with his Bianca Maria Sforza, alongside the court society, and even alone. Yes, yes, the Emperor… He knew how to stage himself and be immortalized. However, there are also accounts of the darker sides of the Emperor. It’s said that he apparently did not pay some craftsmen for their work on his monument.
Shingle Theft in Innsbruck
The 2,657 golden shingles not only attract the attention of visitors and the lenses of cameras but also thieves. Whenever possible, attempts are made to steal these golden shingles. Once the shingles are out of reach, it takes special circumstances to even get close to them. People are particularly ’susceptible‘ to shingle theft when there’s scaffolding or a crane on the building… How can one steal a shingle from the Golden Roof? The roof of the Golden Roof, more precisely the shingles, are so coveted that reports of thefts surface during renovation work. While the building is under renovation, a scaffold is set up, providing access to the shingles. This tempts thieves. Almost every renovation sees a ‚clever‘ thief taking advantage of the situation. However, the joy in the past was short-lived. Since the material value of the shingles is low (there’s very little gold on them), stolen pieces have surfaced in public places in Innsbruck or the neighboring Schwaz. Let’s see how long it takes before this spectacle is observed on a webcam of the Golden Roof.
The Museum in the Golden Roof
Previously the Golden Roof served Emperor Maximilian as a viewing balcony. There’s a bay window on the house, with a golden roof. From this balcony, the monarch is said to have enjoyed the view of his city, especially during festivities. Today, a museum is located in the building. During a visit, you can take a look from the bay window yourself. Additionally, the Golden Roof Museum showcases the history of this landmark, tightly connected to the captivating figure of the Emperor. Emperor Maximilian made Innsbruck known to the world by building the Golden Roof. According to Wikipedia, there was even a stamp with the famous Innsbruck sight. The museum largely revolves around Emperor Maximilian. Want to know more? The museum is opened daily from 10 am to 5 pm, closed on Mondays during the off-season from October to April.
The Legend of the Golden Roof – which isn’t true
The legend of the Golden Roof tells of Duke Frederick IV of Austria, also known as Frederick with the empty pockets. The story goes that due to his frugal and economic actions, Duke Frederick accumulated considerable wealth, after which the nobility and the clergy bestowed upon him the nickname ‚Frederick with the empty pockets‘. The citizens gossiped about the duke and derogatorily referred to him as ‚Frederick with the Empty Pockets‘ due to his supposed poverty. When Frederick learned of this nickname, he is said to have said, ‚I will fill my empty pockets.‘ Indeed, through astute financial policies and frugal actions, he managed to increase his wealth. Eventually, when he had amassed enough wealth, he had the roof of his residence in Innsbruck covered with fire-gilded copper plates to shame those who had mocked him for his supposed poverty. This gilded roof became the famous ‚Golden Roof‘ and today stands as a symbol of Duke Frederick’s successful financial management and astute economic policies.
The legend of Duke Frederick IV of Austria, known as Frederick with the Empty Pockets, supposedly building the Golden Roof, does not align with historical facts. According to modern research findings, the bay window of the Golden Roof was added to the building after 1500. There are differing opinions regarding the exact year of construction, but it’s generally believed that the bay window was built during Emperor Maximilian’s rule. A dendrochronological study, analyzing the tree rings in the wood, indicated that the roof structure of the Golden Roof was erected after 1497. Thus, the tale of Duke Frederick with the Empty Pockets as the builder of the Golden Roof is a widely circulated misconception deeply rooted in popular belief but historically incorrect.
Hardly known: The fountain at the Golden Roof
At the Golden Roof, there’s also a small fountain – which is unnoticed by most visitors. It was manufactured by the renowned Innsbruck bell foundry Grassmayr. Best drinking water flows here, quenching the thirst of visitors and locals who notice this special fountain. Previously, this fountain was made of wood. In 1934, Innsbruck historian Hans Hörtnagel donated the fountain in its present form.
Secrets of the Golden Roof – not everyone knows about
If you have more time, take a look at the figures in the arcades beneath the roof. One small figure is showing its naked backside, while another has open trousers… Some claim these are the craftsmen’s revenge on the Emperor for unpaid bills. Whether it’s true, the Emperor took it to his grave. For centuries, the inscription on the facade remained a puzzle – precisely 520 years. In the summer of 2020, Erhard Maroschek from Lermoos deciphered the saying: ‚Ego sum lux mundi‘ – ‚I am the light of the world.‘ That would fit perfectly with the Emperor – hence it’s assumed that Maroschek, who worked as an accountant, finally solved the puzzle.
Golden Roof – how to find it
Are you now tempted to come here and see all of this? I completely understand. The Roof is in the pedestrian zone. Parking directly around the Golden Roof is therefore prohibited. In the morning, the pedestrian zone is open for delivery traffic but not for private parking. If you’re arriving by car in Innsbruck and want to visit the Golden Roof, I have all the information here about parking in Innsbruck. Then, you can reach your destination on foot. Overall, arriving on foot is the best way when you’re in the city. The city center isn’t large, so you can cover the distance on foot. If you’re arriving by public transport to Innsbruck, the Innsbruck train station isn’t far from here. Here’s a Google Map with the Golden Roof for your reference.
Christmas Market at the Golden Roof
In the weeks around Christmas, you’ll find a large Christmas tree in front of the Golden Roof and many stalls around it. One of the oldest Christmas markets in the world has its place here. There’s a special atmosphere when the big Christmas tree shines with its lights, brightening up the dark winter night. It’s an experience you must have. The winter experience becomes particularly intense when snowflakes fall. Are you interested in the Christmas markets in Innsbruck? –> then read on here: Christmas Market Innsbruck
Golden Roof – FAQ
The Golden Roof, known as the „Goldenes Dachl“ in German, is a famous landmark located in the city of Innsbruck, Austria. It is an ornate bay window adorned with a roof covered in over 2,600 gilded copper tiles. This architectural marvel was built in the late 15th century during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I. The name „Golden Roof“ originates from the striking appearance of its golden roof.
Originally intended to serve as the residence for the Tyrolean sovereign, the Golden Roof later took on various roles, including functioning as a courthouse. However, it gained prominence and significance during Emperor Maximilian I’s reign, who used it as a symbol of his power and affluence. The Emperor had himself depicted in reliefs on the bay window, which was seen as a representation of his authority and wealth.
Today, the Golden Roof stands as one of the primary attractions in Innsbruck, drawing numerous visitors due to its historical significance and architectural beauty. It also houses a museum that showcases the building’s history, as well as exhibits about Emperor Maximilian I and the region’s heritage.
The Golden Roof, known as the „Goldenes Dachl“ in German, is situated in the old town area of Innsbruck, which is the capital city of Tyrol, Austria. Specifically, it is located on Herzog-Friedrich Street, a central thoroughfare within Innsbruck’s historic district. The exact position of the Golden Roof is at the corner of Pfarrgasse. This famous landmark stands prominently in the heart of Innsbruck’s historic center, making it easily accessible to visitors exploring the city’s cultural attractions.
To reach the Golden Roof in Innsbruck, Austria, there are various transportation options available:
By Car: While direct access to the Golden Roof by car is not possible due to its location in the pedestrian zone, there are parking facilities available in the vicinity. Several parking garages are situated nearby, making it convenient to park and then walk a short distance to the Roof.
On Foot: If you’re already in the city center, walking is the most straightforward way to reach the famous roof. It’s positioned in the old town of Innsbruck, and pedestrian access is allowed in the surrounding area. Once in the historic district, follow signs or directions to Herzog-Friedrich Street.
Public Transportation: If you’re arriving by public transport, such as train or bus, the Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof (main train station) is approximately 800 meters away from the gold roof. From the train station, you can walk to the historic center, where the Golden Roof is situated.
Visiting the gold roof in Innsbruck does not require an entrance fee. It is free to view the exterior of this landmark. Visitors can admire its splendid architecture, particularly the gilded roof, from the publicly accessible pedestrian zone.
However, if you wish to explore the museum housed within the Golden Roof or access specific exhibitions that delve into the history of the building, Emperor Maximilian I, and the region, there is an admission fee for entry into the museum.