Archduke John's idea

As early as 31 January 1809 John communicated his plans in a letter to his brother, Emperor Franz I.. He wanted to build a museum from the "collections given by me", whereby "to promote the education of the youth of Styria" was his clearly expressed intention.

Originally, the project was to be implemented in Innsbruck, but this was not possible for political reasons. On the other hand, John was already looking for a house in Graz in 1808 to house his library and other valuable collections. 

In 1811, Archduke John's revolutionary idea of combining a scientific and technical educational institution with a museum became reality in Graz.

The Lesliehof in what is now Raubergasse 10 in Graz - a palace built by the Graubünden architect Domenico Sciassia in the 1670s as a monastery courtyard for the monastery of St. Lambrecht - was chosen as the location. The Styrian estates acquired the building from Prince Dietrichstein and handed it over to Archduke John.

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It started with a lot of nature in this main house

John's preferences lay in the natural sciences. His private collection with several thousand mineral specimens formed the basis for the mineral collection. Friederich Mohs was the first professor of mineralogy and also the first curator of the collection.

His successor Matthias Joseph Anker expanded the collection and produced one of the first of its kind in Europe with his geological map of Styria.

The botanical collection, including the garden, was the Joanneum's second scientific pillar. In the chemical laboratory, the professor of botany, Lorenz Chrysant Edler von Vest, was also concerned with suggestions for improving the Styrian iron industry. Progress in this field was just as close to the Archduke's heart as the further development of coal mining in western Styria, especially in connection with the emerging railway system.

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The Botanical Garden at the Joanneum

From the birth of the Joanneum, the Botanical Garden was an essential part of the natural history collections. This so-called Joanneum Garden had many tasks to fulfil: "Here the teaching of botany, the art of plant care and the dissemination of plants of public utility are united". First and foremost, the garden was a place of instruction and education; the lectures of the professors were well complemented by the illustrative material in the garden.

The relatively small garden plot adjoining the Lesliehof formed the original cell of the garden. It was bordered to the east by the Joanneum building, to the north by today's Landhausgasse, and to the west and south by the Bastei walls with the Neutor building (roughly at today's Neutorgasse and Kalchberggasse respectively).

As early as 24 August 1814, the Estates declared that the enlargement of the Botanical Garden was an absolute necessity. On their initiative, the first major extension of the garden was undertaken the following year. 

From 1823 to 1825 the Ravelin, a fortress building with a mostly triangular ground plan, situated in the moat and somewhat lower than the bastions, was united with the Joanneum Garden. 

A major redesign of the garden began in 1839, when the bastions and city walls were completely demolished and the lower parts of the garden were filled in. The small glacis, characterised by its somewhat lower position, was not completely levelled and planted until 1841, whereby the south-eastern border of the garden extended to today's Radetzkystraße. With this, the Joanneum Garden had reached its maximum extension with an area of around 5 hectares.


Archduke John had very clear ideas about which plants should be cultivated in the garden. He was advised by Leopold Trattinnick, the curator of the imperial and royal Natural History Cabinet in Vienna, and determined in an extensive document drawn up by his own hand which groups of plants should be given priority. 

From the very beginning, the garden served several purposes: It provided illustrative material for teaching, it made plants available for examination by scientists, and it was a place to gain experience in plant culture. The exchange of seeds with other botanical gardens, seed dealers and professional gardeners was of utmost importance.

In 1850, the creation of a living Styrian flora, the "Flora styriaca", was begun. Every plant species found in Styria was to be cultivated in the Joanneum Garden. This was the ambitious goal of this project, which was driven forward primarily by the botanist Josef Maly and the gardener Josef Schneller.

The Joanneumgarten was a popular park with the local city population, but also with strangers - probably especially after it reached its maximum extent and the associated disappearance of construction sites.