“Treasury,” or, “that’s, like, a thirty-foot tall unicorn”

This past Friday was rather eventful – you’re looking at the first of three posts devoted to the events of one day.
The day began in Vienna, where we walked from the Institute over to the Treasury. Once full of money, now it’s full of a museum. That’s full of probably a billion dollars of gold and jewels. So… not much has changed, actually.


The first room you get into contains a lot of stuff about the Duchy (or Archduchy, after a certain point) of Austria, the core of the Habsburg empire.

From there, I’m going to be entirely out of chronological order because I honestly can’t remember where everything was, and it’s more fun this way anyways.

There were quite a few swords to be seen. The lower one, here, was one of my favorites – the hilt is made of narwhal tusk, and the rest of the tusk was turned into a sheath for the blade. Pretty cool aesthetic, if you ask me.

There was actually quite a lot of narwhal-tusk-based things – though, if you ask the Habsburgs of the time, or the people who made the things, at least, you’d be told it was unicorn horn, and no mention of whales would be made.1

Because the family was in power2 through the Baroque period, there’s quite a lot of gaudily-gilded things. I called this one “the most ostentatious Pandora bracelet ever.”

In a similar vein, here’s a bible that belonged to Charlemagne. And then the Habsburgs wound up with it and covered it in gold.

This crown just looks painfully heavy to wear. And is worth more than the entire town where I live.3

I don’t know what this thing is supposed to be, I’m going to continue referring to it as “the gaudy blender from the 11th century.”4

As “gaudily gold-covered things” go, this one is actually pretty nice, it’s something I could see having in my house.5

Oh, what, did you think that was all the crowns they had? Oh no. Go look at a list of titles held by the Habsburgs through the ages – there are a lot, and basically every single one of them had different ceremonial wear.

Speaking of which, one of the other things they had in the collection was a lot of ceremonial wear – some of it included less than 20 pounds of gold, too!

I don’t want to make it sound like everything in the collection was a bunch of gaudy gold and jewels – they had a few reliquaries, including this one, which contains a piece of Jesus’ loincloth.6

But okay yeah, most of the collection was “horrifying expensive” stuff. The last thing I got a bunch of pictures of was this emerald the size of my fist, which I can only assume was used to kill someone at least once.7


  1. This one, by the way, is where the title of the post comes from – that was seriously a couple meters of tusk, and the concept of a unicorn large enough for that to be proportional is terrifying
  2. And thus, obscenely wealthy 
  3. Well, technically speaking, it’s “priceless” but if you were to make something of similar material value, without all the history piled up on it, I’d be willing to bet you could sell it and buy out literally the entire town. 
  4. I have no idea if it’s from the 11th century, I just like the sound of it that way. 
  5. Except I would hate to have that in my house, because then I’d need to worry about cat-burglars and whatever. I’ll stick with reproductions of paintings that’re worth $40 for the materials, thanks. 
  6. Now, I’m not saying that the screaming fans at concerts are basically the same as wealthy christians through the ages, but… 
  7. This is a fairly safe assumption with all large gems.