Prince Archbishop

Wolf Dietrich


A cultured but choleric ruler

He built Mirabell Castle for his mistress, Salome Alt

A member of a south German aristocratic family

Wolf was born in Hofen Castle (near Lochau on Lake Constance) on 26 March 1559. He was a member of the family of von Raitenau, who were minor nobility.

His mother Helene von Hohenems was the niece of Giovanni Angelo Medici, later Pope Pius IV. He died in the Fortress Hohensalzburg on 16 January 1617.

A sovereign prince

Wolf studied in Pavia and Rome. Although well-educated, as archbishop he could often be volatile and short-tempered. He corresponded with Tycho Brahe and was an adherent of Niccolò Machiavelli's concept of the ideal Renaissance prince.

He had Mirabell Castle constructed for his mistress, Salome Alt. With her, he had 15 children.

Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich in a painting of Kaspar Memberger, 1589 (Collection of Salzburg Museum; Picture: David Monniaux)

Residenzplatz Square with Residence Fountain is an especially magnificent forecourt between the archiepiscopal residences. (Tourismus Salzburg, Foto: Breitegger Günter)

Residence Palace was built since 1588 under Wolf Dietrich and became one of Salzburg’s most important buildings. (Picture: Helge Kirchberger Photography)

His influence on Salzburg

In May 1587, at the age of 28 years, he was elected archbishop as compromise candidate shortly after being ordained as a priest.

He very soon introduced reforms in the liturgy, the education system and the administration.

He had all Protestants expelled from the city in 1589. He invited Franciscan and Augustinian friars to his principality in order to continue the harsh measures of the Counter-Reformation. However, it was not long before he exhibited much more religious tolerance.

Foreign policy and the 'Salt War'

In 1606, Wolf issued the 'Eternal Statute'. This was intended to ensure that no member of the House of Habsburg (the rulers of Austria) or of the House of Wittelsbach (the rulers of Bavaria) could ever be appointed Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg.

His rule was brought down by a conflict with Bavaria ‒ the so-called 'Salt War' of 1611. Wolf fled but was captured and was imprisoned in strict solitary confinement for life in the Fortress Hohenwerfen and subsequently in the Fortress Hohensalzburg by his cousin and successor, Marcus Sitticus Graf von Hohenems. It is claimed that Wolf admitted that he alone took the blame for his own overthrow but that he would have liked to "have his own dear children around him". This wish was not to be granted.

Construction projects

  • Palace Altenau – today's Mirabell Palace
  • Old Residenz Palace
  • New Residenz Palace
  • Hofmarstall – today's Festspielhaus
  • Residenzplatz Square
  • Mozartplatz Square
  • Bad Dürrnberg: Pilgrimage church “Zu Unserer Lieben Frau Maria Himmelfahrt”

Zunächst wurde um 1588 mit der Neuen Residenz im Osten des Domes begonnen, die um 1600 ihre teilweise bis jetzt erhaltene Innenausstattung mit Stuckdecken und Kassettendecken erhielt. Als nächstes wurde die eigentliche erzbischöfliche Residenz im Westen des Domes in Angriff genommen. Nach dem Brand des Salzburger Doms 1598 wurde die Ruine gemeinsam mit 55 Bürgerhäusern niedergerissen, um Platz für einen neuen Dombau zu machen, der allerdings erst unter seinem Nachfolger (mit veränderter Planung) in Angriff genommen wurde. Die Planungen wurden von Vincenzo Scamozzi durchgeführt, der zugleich einen neuen Raster für die Innenstadt entwarf: Residenz- und Mozartplatz gehen auf diese Planungen zurück. (Bild: Altstadt Verband / Sajovic)

The coat of arms of Wolf Dietrich

The coat of arms of the von Raitenau family takes the form of a black ball on a silver field. His father had been content with this simple device. But Wolf decided to 'improve' his coat of arms by adding those of two extinct families. From the family of ministerials Meier zu Reitenau of Zofingen in Aargau he took the divided red-silver shield with cap decorated with two ostrich feathers counterchanged. The Lords of Eschenz in Thuringia provided him with the second device, a bi-coloured shield. It is gold and blue with a red lion to the left and a diagonal in yellow to the right.

His original device, the black ball, was moved to a silver shield in the centre.

Get the relating products:

to top button