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History of the Apothekertrakt

Press photo © SKB, Photo: Edgar Ketzer

History of the Apothekertrakt (Apothecaries' Wing)


The Apothekertrakt (Apothecaries' Wing)

The so called Apothekertrakt of Schönbrunn Palace was built shortly after the mid-eighteenth century in the course of remodelling the hunting lodge into a residence palace. This extension of the palace complex as summer residence for Maria Theresa also included the construction of ancillary buildings in the Meidling and Hietzing direction, thus assuring provision management for the entire court household.

Several ground plans for Schönbrunn dating to the 1760s/70s show the ground-level Apothekertrakt all the way to the “Cedrat House” – where the rare citron was cultivated – and the Orangery; this is more or less identical in design to today’s building, except for the interior room arrangement.

According to nineteenth-century plans, the guards and the metalworking shop were accommodated in this wing; the courtyards are designated as “Schlosser- und Gardehof” – metalworking shop and guards courtyard; some stables, probably for the mounted guard, were connected to the Cedrathaus, which opens up onto the Orangery garden. In 1906, the so called guards wing at the palace entrance northeast of the Ehrenhof (cours d’honneur) was extended to provide modern accommodation for the guards, including the kitchen and sanitary facilities in the cellar; the Imperial Court administration leased the vacated wing to restaurant tenants, and also used it to house the court pharmacy, the Apotheke, which was probably located (presumably much smaller) in the guards’ wing.

The court pharmacy was intended in general to provide medicaments free of charge not only for the Royal Family, but also for the court servants and officials. Also after the end of the Monarchy, the pharmacy continued to operate in Schönbrunn until 1976 in the eponymous Apothekertrakt, which forms the east end of the Meidling side of the building.


Cedrathaus

The so called "Cedrathaus" on the east side connected to the Schönbrunn Orangery and forming the end of the Orangery garden is renowned as the sole example of its kind in the whole of Europe. Probably built at the same time as the Orangery wing, the Cedrathaus was used especially for the housing and wintering of the exceptionally valuable and frost-sensitive cedrat or citron plant(Citrus medica L.). The citron is a special variety of the citrus fruit plants and should not be confused with the ‘common’ lemon (Citrus limon L.), which is a kind of lime.

Oriented in architectural style on the Orangery, the Cedrathaus was built low in room height and depth, the smaller room volume making it easier to control the temperature with the original rear-side stove heating; hence it was better suited for housing the not only more sensitive but also smaller citron plant cultivated in the eighteenth century. However, the unusual step of creating its own house for the citron also underlines the unusually high status of the citron compared to the other numerous varieties in the Schönbrunn Orangery that were cultivated in the eighteenth century.


History and background of the citron (Citrus medica L.)

The Citrus medica was the first kind of citrus fruit known in Western antiquity. Its fragrance is comparable to cedar wood and, because of the similar usage as protectant against moths, it was originally known as kedromelon (cedar apple). Kedros was Latinised to citrus and subsequently gave the name to the entire plant species. The adjective medica indicates the ancient name of the fruit, which probably came as “median apple” from the North Indian region. It had already been cultivated in antiquity in the Persian region, namely in the kingdom of Media, before it arrived in the East Mediterranean region and thence came to Europe.

Ever since antiquity, a variety of the citron with the name etrog (Citrus medica var. Etrog) was of particular ceremonial significance in the Jewish religion at the Feast of the Tabernacles (the Jewish pilgrims feast); it was highly valued and subsequently spread throughout the Diaspora and the whole of Europe.

Much coveted and appreciated already in the Middle Ages as one of the most expensive spices, the use of the citron is indispensible today in confectionary as candied lemon peel.

 


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