Destinations Magazine

Don’t Miss The Donnerstiege Stairway In Luvavum!

By Linda
Don’t Miss The Donnerstiege Stairway In Luvavum!

photo: Clifford's photography, VA

No trip to Austria should be without a visit to the Donnerstiege stairway in Luvavum, where you can see the most beautiful wedding hall in the world and best of all – it’s a fantastic free attraction!

Luvavum and the Donnerstiege Stairway

Once a Roman city called Luvavum, Salzburg is one of the most  ‘must go to’ cities in Europe. Its ancient Alstadt (old town) is a beautiful UNESCO world heritage site, with narrow medieval streets and the most magnificent architecture imaginable. And guess what – it’s also the birthplace of the music maestro Mozart!

But it’s in the new town of Salzburg –  just across the river – that you will find a fantastic free attraction and the Donnerstiege stairway (pronounced as ‘donnersteeger stairway’). This is a marvelous marble stairway adorned with cherubs and made famous to millions in the 20th century film, “The Sound of Music”.

Starring Julie Andrews, the film tells the story of the von Trapp family whose flight from the oppression of the Third Reich is now legendary.

Mirabell Palace

The Donnerstiege stairway is part of the Mirabell Palace, which was originally built in the 1700′s by the Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau for his concubine, Salome Alt, with whom he fathered 15 children (now, that must have been very interesting in its time!).

A concubine is a woman who voluntarily enters into a long standing relationship without the legal bindings of marriage. For whatever reason – usually something like the status of the woman being lower than that of the man – the union cannot be recognised in law. Children of the ‘arrangement’ are however, legally recognised by the father. In times gone-by, it wasn’t particularly unusual for a high ranking man to take a concubine, especially if the marital relationship failed to bear a son and heir. Or just because they fancied ‘a bit on the side’!

In the case of the Prince Archbishop and Salome Alt, one must wonder where the relationship stood in terms of being recognised in the eyes of God. Whilst men who are married may be ordained, ordained men cannot marry. The Prince Archbishop was after all, a bastion of the Roman Catholic Church (so openly devoted to God) and representative of the Emperor of Austria.

Eroticism and Sexual Seductiveness

Let’s just muse a moment longer on this concubinal relationship – specifically let’s think about Salome. In the New Testament and in true Christian tradition, Salome was considered the very icon of female seductiveness. She was an erotic dancer, who performed the “Dance of the Seven Veils” for Herod and demanded the head of John the Baptist. So, a sort of murderess to boot!

Then there’s Oscar Wilde’s play “Salome”, in which the lead character is quite explicitly a ‘femme fatale’ – the French term for a deadly woman – who uses sexual allure to achieve her hidden outcomes. We have to wonder if it was mere chance that the Prince Archbishop’s lust for love drove him to the arms of Salome Alt?

And what if Wolf and Salome met during Lent – the period of fasting from festivities and food, when Satan did all he could to tempt Jesus from his righteous path to public ministry. Now that would be something worth wondering about!

But I digress – back to Mirabell Palace and the Donnerstiege stairway.

Modern Day and the Donnersteige Stairway

The Palace was redesigned and extended by the Prince Archbishop’s successor (after he had ousted Salome and her brood following Wolf’s death) and then was completely rebuilt following the fire of Salzburg in 1818. Fortunately many of the features of the former Palace of the Prince Archbishop survived the fire and have been incorporated into the ‘new build’ we see today. Not least of which is the Donnerstiege stairway!

The most beautiful baroque ballroom in Europe is also in the Mirabell Palace (though now more commonly the scene of marital union than the dancing of Salome’s seven veils!) and the Salzburg government has its offices there too. Sadly this means that much of this Baroque beauty is not accessible to the public, but what you can see is a fantastic free attraction.

Should you be staying at this traditional style rustic chalet, ‘Luvavum’ isn’t far away and well worth a day trip out!


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