Experiencing the great places of Europe inevitably involves strolling vast, open gardens. Today they may seem like quiet, pleasant places, but these gardens always have histories behind them. Often they are symbols of power, oppression, and war-time plunder. The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria were built as a symbol of the power for their owner, ArchbishopWolf Dietrich Raitenau and also as a gift for his mistress, Salome Alt, in the early 17th century.
Salzburg of today is a dense, tightly packed place. Imagine how cramped it would have been in 1606. The archbishop was certainly sending a message to the commoners of the time–“I have all the land and space I need and to spare.” At a time when the salt mines of Salzburg gave great power to the bishops of the city, the money to clear a large swath of land in the center of the city would certainly have been considerable:
A great patron of Italian architecture, the Archbishop built his mistress’s home in a strong Italianate style, and was influential in spreading Italian architecture throughout northern Europe. The gardens themselves are a distinctly French style, with large open lawns, tightly trimmed hedges, a strong central axis, and strategically placed sculpture.
With frequent communication and travel amongst the ruling aristocracies of Europe, the imprint of the French king’s gardens of Versailles can still be seen across the continent, and no less so than at Mirabell.