photo ; Clare Bell
When visiting the Christkindl markets during Advent, you’re likely to see stalls with an ancient artform that actually started life following attempts to improve a light source for use in surgical procedures. Visit Vienna for the Christmas markets and you’ll also be able to go to the museum where it was first patented.
Set in the province of Styria on the border with Niederösterreich, Mariazell is a pretty township that has significance for around a million people who visit the Basilica each year. It is the most important pilgrimage destination in Austria and the most visited shrine in Europe.
The Basilica is home to a wooden image of the Virgin Mary, which is believed to have miraculous powers. The image is made out of lime wood and has been in place since 1157.
Better known in English speaking countries as a snow globe, the earliest ‘Schneekugel’ are thought to have been French. But the product wasn’t patented until the end of the 19th century by a Viennese surgical instrument manufacturer, Erwin Perzy. The first snow globe produced with a patent, had the Mariazell Basilica inside.
Erwin Perzy ΙΙΙ still maintains a business at the 250 year old building where his forefather worked. There is a museum dedicated to the history of production of the snow globe, which is open Monday to Thursday between 09:00 and 15:00 on Schummangasse 87.
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