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Kunsthistorisches Museum

Cellini Salt Cellar
Alchemist's Medallion
Some of the world’s most spectacular armour for knights and their horses was created for Emperor Maximilian the First, now on display at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum
This portrait of princess Margarita Theresa was painted so that her uncle, Leopold I of Austria, could get a look at his future bride as she grew up -they married in 1666.
King Carlos II of Spain with the ‘Habsburg jaw’, a sign of the in-breeding that plagued the Habsburg family for centuries.”
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Vienna

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is a treasury of antiquities and weaponry collected by the royal family known as the Habsburgs – a dynasty that ruled much of Europe for 500 years.

In this episode, we visit the crypt that entombs many generations of the Habsburg royal family, then meet a geneticist who is attempting to discover how inbreeding led to their demise. We go hunting with falcons to discover how one Habsburg emperor’s hobby lay the foundation for modern science, then recreate the alchemical experiment that led another emperor to believe that silver could be transmuted into gold. While learning the proper way to do the Viennese waltz, we discover how a dance craze impacted European history, then recreate a strange piece of ancient armor to find out how and why it was designed to explode. And finally, we meet a detective who takes us on the trail of a thief who purloined the museum’s most valuable treasure.

Secrets revealed in this episode

Exploding Armour

Why was a piece of 15th century armor designed to explode, and can we make it work in the 21st century?

Alchemist Coin

In 1677, in front of a crowd including Austria’s Emperor Leopold, an alchemist turned silver into gold. How did he do it?

Violin of the Waltz

Why was the Waltz forbidden, and how did it change the course of European history?

Falconry Gear

How did a Holy Roman Emperor’s love for falconry help him win a crusade, and bring Europe out of the Dark Ages?

Cellini Saliera

How did a smart detective catch the clever thief who stole a irreplaceable gold sculpture?

Royal Portrait

How did the Habsburgs become the most powerful family in Europe, and why did their family nearly die out?