The Rudolfina Redoute is the oldest, most traditional ball organized by a student fraternity. Of the many Redoutes that once took place, the Rudolfina Redoute is the only one that still survives today. Redoute means 'masked ball' where the ladies, who come alone or with a partner, wear a mask and can invite the men to dance. Every year on Carnival Monday ("Rosenmontag"), guests from all over the world come to the Vienna Hofburg for the Rudolfina Redoute.

The Rudolfina Redoute dates back to the Austro-Hungarian empire (the oldest known 'Damenspende', a small gift given to ladies at the ball, from the Redoute is dated 6th February 1912 and states the location as the military barracks on Schwarzenbergplatz). The Rudolfina Redoute is traditionally organized by the student organisation K.Ö.St.V. Rudolfina in Vienna, from which it gets its name. This organization is known to have been holding dances (Maikränzchen) in Fischbach a small town near Vienna, as early as 4th May 1899. On the 27th January 1910, a "Rudolfina Kränzchen" took place, and from 1912, the Rudolfina Redoute began, with a fixed date of Carnival Monday. From 1921, the Redoute took place alternately in the Hoburg, the Sophiensälen, and the military barracks on Schwarzenbergplatz. From 1928 onwards, it took place solely in the Hofburg and it was also at this Redoute that modern dancing (with the exception of the Charleston) was permitted for the first time. However, this did not apply to dancing in the Festsaal where latin American dancing was only permitted after the second world war.

Under national socialism in Austria, student organizations - including the K.O.St.V. Rudolfina - were banned and dissolved, and so no Rudolfina Redoutes took place between 1938 and 1945. In 1947, the first post-war Redoute took place on a much smaller scale in Ebendorferstraße, Vienna. The few guests celebrated together and brought their own wine, sausages and rye bread. In 1948, the first large Redoute after the war was held at the Palais Pallavinci, before returning to the Sophiensälen for many years (1949 - 1958), and finally to it's traditional pre-war home of the Vienna Hofburg, where it has taken place on Carnival Monday ever since.

All women, whether they are accompanied or not, are obliged to wear a mask. "Redoute" means masked ball, and the masks are essential for the most important aspect of the ball: only ladies who wear a mask can invite a gentleman to dance. After the de-masking Quadrille is danced, and ladies have removed their masks, both ladies and gentlemen can invite each other to dance until the ball ends at 5 a.m. As the last large ball before Lent, the Rudolfina Redoute is a glorious end to the Viennese Carnival season.

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Historical invitation

The oldest available ball presents