In 1612, only a few months after ascending the throne, Salzburg's Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems commissioned a country residence to be built at the foot of the well-watered Hellbrunn Mountain.
A lover of Italian art and culture, Markus Sittikus commissioned the famous Cathedral architect, Santino Solari, to design a "villa suburbana", a summer residence matching the elegance and spaciousness of the magnificent Italian architecture with which he was so obsessed. Within a relatively short period of time an architectural masterpiece was created just south of the city that remains one of the most magnificent Renaissance buildings north of the Alps: the Lustschloss ("pleasure palace") of Hellbrunn with its spacious park and its unique Wasserspiele (trick fountains).
Water was the central theme in the palace's design. The numerous sources in Hellbrunn Mountain gave the estate effervescent life. Hidden in the shade of bushes and trees or jetting out from unexpected hiding places - the world-famous Wasserspiele have been the main attraction at Hellbrunn for almost 400 years.
Hellbrunn only served the archbishops as a residence in exceptional cases. With its magnificent ballrooms, the enchanting gardens and the unique trick fountains, the palace was primarily used as the site of luxurious celebrations and festivities, spectacular events and cultural highlights.
The spacious park was redecorated around 1730 according to plans by the inspector of the royal gardens, Franz Anton Danreiter, and adapted to the "new" style of the age. The mythical and historical statues date back to the beginning of the 17th century. A statue of Empress Elisabeth, sculpted by Edmund von Hellmer, which had formerly stood in front of the old "Hotel Europe" at the Empress Elisabeth Railway Station (today's central railway station) was placed in the so-called English Park.
Markus Sittikus had the natural stone quarry in Hellbrunn transformed into a stage, creating the "Steintheater" (Stone Theater), the oldest open-air stage in Europe. In this theater the first open-air opera in Europe was performed on 31st August 1617. It was the "Orfeo" from Claudio Monteverdi.
Today the Hellbrunner "Monatsschlösschen", originally called Waldems and built in 1615 for Archbishop Markus Sittikus, as its name suggests, within the record time of only a month, houses the folklore museum of Salzburg's Carolino Augusteum Museum. The manor, idyllically situated overlooking Hellbrunn Park, houses a collection of regional folklore with objects of popular customs and piety, furnishings, popular medicine and a number of beautiful Trachten (traditional costumes) worn in the Salzburg valley regions.
Visitors originally came to Hellbrunn for excursions, hunts and elegant receptions. Today they come for meetings, seminars and glamorous social events. And perhaps the reason that the palace has become a popular venue for international events is that it was built for that very purpose almost 400 years ago!
Copyright images: Christian Schickmayr & Tourismus Salzburg GmbH