"built to commemorate the occasion when the young emperor survived an assassin's knife."
The Attempted Assassination of Franz Josef
Public DomainAttempted Assassination of Franz Josef Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien

     In the fifth year of his reign, Franz Josef, then 23 years of age, was walking on a bastion of the city walls when he was attacked by a Hungarian nationalist. Janos Libenyi came at the young emperor with a knife. Franz Josef was wounded but the high, stiff collar of his uniform deflected the knife. The quick actions of Imperial Adjutant Count Maximillian O'Donnell and a passing citizen, Josef Ettenreich, saved the Emperor's life. O'Donnell struck the man down with his sabre and Ettenreich helped subdue him. As a reward, O'Donnell was made a count of the Habsburg Empire and Ettenreich, a butcher by trade, was elevated to the nobility becoming Josef von Ettenreich. Libenyi was subsequently put on trial, condemned to death for attempted regicide and executed.



Votivkirche 1900
Public DomainVotivkirche 1900
Library of Congress




    Designed in the neo-Gothic style, work on the Votivkirche began in 1856 and was completed in 1879.  The Emperor's brother, Maximillian, solicited funds from Europe's royal families for donations to build the church near the site of the attack as an offering of thanks for the Emperor's survival. It is located on the Ringstrasse, the broad boulevard encircling the Old City of Vienna, near the University.







Franz Josef
Public DomainFranz Josef

     Franz Josef (1830-1916) became Emperor in 1848 during the tumultuous revolutions that gripped Europe. He reigned as an absolute monarch for 68 years constantly juggling his empire of many nationalities. Although very much respected, he was not a forward looking monarch. He preferred to ride in his carriage rather than in an automobile. Telephones were barely in use in the Imperial Palace. At his insistence, all correspondence was handwritten, he having forbidden the use of the newly invented typewriter. His personal life was marred by loss: his first daughter Sophie died as an infant; his brother, Maximillian, was executed after his brief, self-proclaimed rule as Emperor of Mexico; his son and heir-to-the-throne, Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889; his wife of 44 years, the Empress Elizabeth, was assassinated in 1898; and his nephew, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 triggering World War I. Franz Josef died in Vienna in 1916, a classic case of a man who had outlived his times.