The Parliament Building – View from Ringstrasse
Viewers looking at the Parliament Building from Ringstrasse are first and foremost attracted by the impressive fountain in front of the edifice.
Its predominant feature is the statue of Pallas Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom, strategy, war and peace. In her right hand she holds Nike, the goddess of victory, in her left a spear – both insignia often associated with her.
According to Architect Theophil Hansen’s original plan the monumental fountain was to display a symbolic statue of Austria. Political restraint in view of the national tensions that prevailed in the Danube Monarchy around 1878 was the likely reason for a change of plan that gave preference to the Pallas Athene statue.
The statue, which is 5.5 metres high, was erected as late as 1902, after Hansen’s death, but its creator, the sculptor Carl Kundmann, abided strictly by the architect’s plans.
Allegories of the “executive“ and “legislative powers“ are seated to the left and right of the statue. They underscore a basic principle of democratic constitutions and the rule of law – the separation of powers between Parliament and the Executive. The “legislative power” bears a tablet of the law in her hands, while the “executive power“ wields a sword of justice and a pair of scales.
The intermediate platform in the middle of the large fountain bowl bears personifications of the main rivers of the Austrian half of the Empire – the Danube, Inn, Elbe and Vltava rivers. This was to symbolise the ambit of Parliament, i.e. all the kingdoms and lands represented in the Reichsrat.
Four winged dolphin riders round off the figural composition of the fountain.