The baroque city of Salzburg - Rome of the North

Salzburg  Stockfoto-ID: 378880429 Copyright: yasonya Over 400 years ago the powerful prince archbishops started to transform the city of Salzburg into a baroque jewel. Impressed by the luxurious splendor the influential Papal States of Rome, the capital of the Salzburg diocese was to blossom, having become extremely affluent through its trade with salt, gold and other raw materials. The most famous architects of the time were called to Salzburg to create an urban masterpiece that has meanwhile become a World Heritage Site nominated and preserved by UNESCO.

Urban redevelopment at the beginning of the Baroque Era
The baroque style found its way into Salzburg's cityscape during the rule of Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1587-1612). The avowed admirer and promoter of the arts had ambitious plans, destiny having played into his hands: a fire destroyed large parts of Salzburg Cathedral in 1598. Wolf Dietrich had the damaged part of the cathedral and dozens of the adjoining burgher houses torn down to build the new Residence (to accommodate honorable guests), five magnificent squares such as Residenzplatz, Domplatz and Kapitelplatz and streets lined with houses such as Griesgasse, Kapitelgasse and Hofstallgasse. He commissioned the Italian architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi, to rebuild the city, transforming the medieval town of Salzburg into the "Rome of the North."

The Old Residence, having housed the state rooms and private apartments of Salzburg's archbishops since the Middle Ages, was rebuilt to its present state under Wolf Dietrich. The spacious building has 180 rooms and three large courtyards, including the 600 m3 Carabinieri Hall, the magnificent Audience Room, the Throne Room and the bedroom with its private chapel. The precious items preserved to this day include the ceiling frescoes by Johann Michael Rottmayr, Venetian mirrors, crystal chandeliers made of Bohemian smoked glass, gold-plated baroque ceiling stucco and valuable clocks and paintings. The state rooms continued to be used to receive crowned heads of state, sovereigns and VIPs after Salzburg ceased to be an autonomous archbishopric: Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth received the French Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie at the Old Residence on their state visit in 1867. The young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played regularly for the powerful ruler at the Old Residence.

In 1606 Wolf Dietrich had a palace built for his mistress, Salome Alt, with whom he had 15 children. He called the palace and its magnificent park "Altenau." His successor, Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, subsequently renamed it Mirabell Palace. Wolf Dietrich became involved in a conflict with the Bavarian duke over revenues from salt mining, resulting in being disempowered and incarcerated by his own nephew, Markus Sittikus. Wolf Dietrich died in Hohensalzburg Fortress after having been imprisoned for six years.

The years of culture and joie de vivre
During his brief, seven-year rule (1612-1619) Markus Sittikus had Salzburg Cathedral rebuilt, commissioned Hellbrunn Palace to be built as a unique summer residence and founded Salzburg High School. Now named "Akademisches Gymnasium" the school's most famous graduates include the authors Hermann Bahr, Georg Trakl and Thomas Bernhard, the Silent Night lyricist Joseph Mohr, the physicist Christian Doppler and the conductor Herbert von Karajan.

Shortly after ascending the throne, Markus Sittikus commissioned the famous architect, Santino Solari, to build a summer residence in the style of a "villa suburbana" matching the elegance and spaciousness of its Italian counterparts. Solari created a "pleasure palace" in Hellbrunn with a spacious park and the world-famous Trick Fountains just south of the city. Its architectural style follows the transition from Mannerism to Early Baroque. A dominant element in the design of the grounds was the multitude of springs in the Hellbrunn Mountain. The magnificent rooms of Hellbrunn Palace, its enchanting gardens and the Trick Fountains made Hellbrunn a venue for the baroque lifestyle, boisterous celebrations and cultural highlights. Visitors to the Trick Fountains in Hellbrunn can still experience what Markus Sittikus was once so fond of: mysterious grottos, water-powered figurines and mischievous water jets.

The culture-loving prince archbishop also commissioned a new theater to be built (today's Salzburg State Theater), festively opened on January 27, 1614. Markus Sittikus became the forefather of Salzburg as a city of music and theater, being the first city to give opera performances outside of Italy.

Elaborate festivities and a University founding during the war
Paris Lodron's regency (1619-1653) was overshadowed by the Thirty Years War. The prince archbishop commissioned the architect, Santino Solari, to fortify the city and the entire archbishopric, reorganizing the military in the process. His financial prowess and political skill allowed Paris Lodron to preserve Salzburg's territorial integrity and independence from Bavaria.

Despite the military and political problems, Paris Lodron completed the construction of Salzburg Cathedral begun by his predecessor. The imposing Cathedral was consecrated on September 25, 1628 during the biggest and most magnificent celebration Salzburg had ever seen. In 1622 Paris Lodron founded the University of Salzburg, consisting of a Department of Theology, Jurisprudence and Philosophy. Today the university is called Paris Lodron University and has approx. 18,000 students enrolled in its four departments.

Salzburg Cathedral Quarters in transition to the Baroque Era
Guidobald von Thun und Hohenstein (1654-1668) was a ruler who loved splendor. The Salzburg Cathedral towers in their present state were completed under his rule and two Cathedral archways built. Today the Cathedral archways are the mainstay of the new "Salzburg Cathedral Quarters" museum project, connecting the centers of archiepiscopal power and splendor with a circular walkway. The walkway will be opened on May 17, 2014, leading from the Old Residence through the Cathedral Archways into Salzburg Cathedral, into the Wallis Tract and the new St. Peter's Monastery Museum, past the Franciscan Church and back to the Residence. Visitors will be able to follow in the footsteps of the former rulers while obtaining unique views of the baroque city and new insight into Salzburg's history and cultural legacy.

Guidobald Thun also had the magnificent fountain constructed on Residenzplatz, accentuating the full splendor of the spacious square. Impressive mythological figures made of marble and the architectural design are responsible for the fountain's visual impact: The fountain's major axis lies on the line between the Hercules Fountain in the Old Residence and the Carillon of the New Residence. The way the fountain captures sunlight creates the impression that light is flowing from the fountain to the heavens.

The Golden Age of church architecture
Johann Ernst von Thun und Hohenstein (1687-1709) gave Salzburg the silhouette for which the baroque city is famous today. The prince archbishop commissioned the renowned baroque architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, to build the four most beautiful churches in Salzburg: the Collegiate Church, the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Ursuline Church and the Church in St. John's Hospital.

Next to the Cathedral, the Collegiate Church or University Church is the most significant church in Salzburg. It was consecrated on November 20, 1707 during an eight-day celebration. The University Church was Fischer von Erlach's masterpiece, although he never saw its completion, having meanwhile lost his eyesight. The monumental building with its magnificent façade is one of Austria's most grandiose baroque churches. Its unique style had a decisive influence on late baroque church architecture in Southern Germany. To make the effect of the imposing building tangible, Fischer von Erlach omitted the decorative elements: the interior has no paintings but is entirely painted white. The church towers do not have cupolas but seem to merge delicately into balustrades crowned by allegorical figures. Large, oval windows give the façade – crowned by a statue of Maria Immaculata – an immense buoyancy.

The St. Cajetan Church was consecrated seven years earlier. Johann Ernst von Thun had taken over the construction site from his predecessors. The St. Cajetan Church is a masterpiece of Italian baroque: the broad palatial façade is topped by a mighty dome, making the building's sacred character visible from afar. The stuccowork inside church lends a festive, elegant and distinct atmosphere. The dome, designed to allow light to flood in, and a beautiful ceiling fresco dominate the room. The Holy Stairs, built in 1712 as a replica of the original Scala Santa in Rome, is a special feature. It is one of the few Holy Stairs found outside of Rome and should only be ascended on one's knees to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Magnificent gardens and grandiose palaces
While the baroque was at its peak, the prince archbishops Franz Anton von Harrach (1709-1727) and Leopold Anton von Firmian (1727-1744) had two other masterpieces of baroque architecture built:  Leopoldskron Palace and Klessheim Palace. The Mirabell Gardens were redesigned to their present state and the famous Dwarves Garden added. Today the Dwarves Garden is the biggest and oldest of its kind in Central Europe. Mirabell Palace was generously remodeled by the prominent baroque architect, Lukas von Hildebrandt: he is responsible for the world-famous Angel Staircase and the magnificent Marble Hall in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once played. Today the Marble Hall is used by couples from around the world as a wedding venue.

Further information:
Tourismus Salzburg, Auerspergstraße 6, 5020 Salzburg, Austria,
Tel.: +43/662/889 87 - 0, Fax: +43/662/889 87 - 32,, #visitsalzburg