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Rudolf IV of Austria
Rudolf IV der Stifter (the Founder) (born November 1 1339 in Vienna, died July 27 1365 in Milan) was a member of the House of Habsburg and Duke and self-proclaimed Archduke of Austria from 1358 to 1365.
The oldest son of Albert II. and Johanna von Pfirt , he was a member of the third generation of Habsburg dukes in Austria. He was the first of his line born in the country and considered it his home, which contributed to his popularity considerably. One of the most energetic and active rulers of Austria in the late middle ages, it was said of him that he already had the air of a king as a young man.
He was married to Catharine of Bohemia , which made him the son-in-law of Emperor Charles IV. His eagerness to compete with his father-in-law, who extended Prague to a radiant center of culture, was an important motivation of his plans and decisions.
As Charles did with Prague, Rudolf desired to raise the importance of Vienna, which is stressed in many of the documents of his time.
One thing that had bothered all Austrian dukes for more than a century was the fact Vienna was not the residence of a bishop, but still part of the diocesis of Passau. This state of affairs was considered awkward for a ducal residence. With the Bishops of Passau having excellent connections to the Pope, the project to establish a bishopric in Vienna was bound to fail. Instead, Rudolf resorted to something which could be considered imposture: He initatiated the creation of a Metropolitan Chapter at the Cathedral of Saint Stephan (which, according to the name, should be assinged to a bishop), whose members wore red garment as cardinals do. The provost of the chapter received the title of an Archchancellor of Austria.
The extension of the Cathedral of Saint Stephan itself was no bluff, with the construction of its gothic nave being started under Rudolf's rule. Rudolf had himself be depicted at the cathedral's entrance. The construction efforts can be seen as an attempt to compete with St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Similarly, the University of Vienna, which was founded by Rudolf in 1365 was expected to match the Charles University of Prague founded by Charles IV only in 1348. It is still known as Alma Mater Rudolphina today and, with the German section of the University of Prague abolished after World War II, it is the oldest continuing German-language university. However, a faculty of theology, which was considered crucial for a university at that time, could only be established after Rudolf's death in 1385.
Many other measures were introduced by Rudolf to improve the economy of Vienna, such as the mayor's duty to supervise sales of real property, which was meant to prevent sales to the dead hand, i.e. economically unproductive chruch ownership. Rudolf also managed to establish a relatively stable currency, the so-called Wiener Pfennig (Vienna Penny).
Rudolf is most known for another bluff, the forgery of the Privilegium Maius, which de facto put him on par with the electors of the Holy Roman Empire after Austria had not received an electorship in the Golden Bull. The title of Archduke, which was invented at this opportunity, became a honorific of all princes of the house of Habsburg in the 16th century.
He also concluded a contract of inheritance with his father-in-law, namely the so-called Contract of Inheritance of Brünn of 1364, which provided for mutual inheritance between the houses of Habsburg and Luxemburg .
In spite of the high-flying (and maybe sometimes megalomanic) character of his plans, he managed to modernize his territories and his residential city, the prominence of which considered markedly. His untimely death stopped his plans, as his brothers Albert III and Leopold III, who should have ruled jointly under the Rudolfinische Hausordnung (Rudolfinian House Rules), began to quarrel without remorse and decided to split up the territory between themselves in 1379.
His portrait, the first Half Frontal Portrait of the Occident, can hardly be overestimated in its importance for the History of Art. It had been on display above his grave in St. Stephen's Cathetral for several decades after his death, but can now be seen in the Museum of the Archdiocesis of Vienna. Apart from the (invented) archdukal crown, the foreshortening of which the artist did not completely master, the portrait is completely realistic. Even the duke's incipient facioplegia is shown.
Rudolph is also remembered for founding Novo Mesto, the German name of which the town being Rudolfswert in his honor.
| Preceded by:|
| Duke of Austria|
Duke of Styria
Duke of Carinthia
| Succeeded by:|
Albert III and Leopold III
| Preceded by:|
|Count of the Tyrol,|
- Wilhelm Baum: Rudolf IV. der Stifter. Seine Welt und seine Zeit, Graz-Wien-Köln 1996
- Website of the Museum of the Archdiocesis of Vienna
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