History of St. Gilgen
... hand in marriage to the only man who would promise to build her a palace in the most beautiful place in the world. Three brothers set forth to find this place. They wandered far and wide, searched high and low, but they could find nowhere beautiful enough for the princess. Then, one morning, just as the sun was rising, they spotted a valley: green meadows, high mountains, dark woods, charming villages, and a wonder, forgetting the beautiful princess, forgetting their home and land. These three brothers are still standing there today above the lake – turned to stone, and they guard the delightful countryside which lies at their feet. If you, dear guest, should climb the first of the three – the Plombergstein – you too can enjoy the same wonderful view.
Please allow me to introduce our village briefly to you:
St. Gilgen lies on the shore of Lake Wolfgang at 550 m above sea level. It has a long history – it was mentioned for the first time in 790 – directly on the “Abriani locus” – hence the second name “Abersee”. For a long time it was under the control of the Prince`s Archbishops from Salzburg. Only in 1816 did Salzburg belong to Austria. Through good and bad times the people in the area lived from cattle breeding, fishing and handicrafts. You can view some of these locally produced specialities in the local museum – definitely worth a visit – the skillfully handcarved dishes formerly from the glasshut in Winkl, and a special commodity, the production of handmade lace bobbins.
History unfolds in front of you as you walk through the village:
Mozart`s mother was born in the district court building. The artistic fountain by Toni Schneider Manzell is a reminder of the small girl. Her daughter, Nannerl Mozart, was married here to governor Sonnenburg.
The “Franzosenschanze” and the rocky outcrops are reminders of the Napoleonic wars, where the locals hid their possessions during the bad times.
A walk over the Falkenstein will take you even further back into the past – the old pilgrim’s way to St. Wolfgang – you will find a punishment stone and a tiny well next to the chapel – both indications of a very early shrine. Feel the mysterious spell of this place!
If you take the prettiest walk along the lakeside to the Fürberg bay, think about the brave ox, with its master holding tighty to its tail, which courageously swam across the lake, bringing them to the safety of the island – the “Ox`s cross” was built as a “thank you” for saving his life.
The “Wedding Cross” on the rocky shore is in memory of the cheerful wedding party, who went dancing on the thin ice – full of high spirits.
Our church, which is named after St. Aegidius, has a long history. St. Aegidius belonged to the group of 14 emergy helpers. He was a bishop in the French town of Saint Gilles – he is still the patron saint of St. Gilgen. Today the interior of the church shines in its baroque-style splendour. The magnificent organ can be heard during church services and concerts – it was erected in 1991 – the bicentennary of Mozart`s death.
During the last century the first visitors came to our area. They were the Romanticists, the artists and poets who discovered the real “romantic” countryside of the Salzkammergut: The artists Jakob Alt, Gauermann, Waldmüller and Ludwig Richter, the American author Longfellow and Viktor von Scheffel, who portrayed the countryside around lake Wolfgang in his epic “Bergpsalmen”.
When Emperor Franz Josef made Bad Ischl the centre of his summers in 1848, everyone who had rank and sttus within the imerial court followed him to the Salzkammergut. Even today, both of the ships, the steamer “Kaiser Franz Josef” and the “Kaiserin Elisabeth”, bring visitors and people seeking relaxation across the lake.
The construction of the local railway line in the Salzkammergut brought a tremendous boost to the area. Unfortunately, this “dear little” steam railway can only now be viewed in old films – it used to run between Salzburg and Bad Ischl.
Several famous people have lived in St. Gilgen, the author Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, the influential surgeon Theodor Billroth, and the family of the Nobel Prize-winner, Karl von Frisch, who carried out his research on bees here in Brunnwinkl.
Even today St. Gilgen is a favourite place for relaxation – particularly for famous people – including the ex-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
But it is not only the culture and history that make this area interesting. Nature can be seen here at its most beautyful. St. Gilgen has constantly remained unharmed by enviromental influences, the local inhabitants making a tremendous effort to maintain a clean and healthy environment. Several rare plants prosper in the chalk base of the Zwölferhorn – snowroses, maybells, ladyslipper, Hungarian gentian, coal roses and the alpine roses. Chamois venture as far as the slopes above the village. The crystal clear water of the lake has the same quality as drinking water!
Whether you are seeking relaxation in the charming village of “Abersee”, or have chosen your accommodation at the foot of the Schafberg, near the Krottensee in the peaceful area of “Winkl”, whether you are spending your holiday in sunny “Ried” or directly in the Mozart village of St. Gilgen, you will find a splendid choice of beautiful hotels, pensions, farmhouses, private rooms and holiday apartments that await you.
Your friendly host is waiting to welcome you. You will certainly understand what Emperor Franz Josef wroe to his mistress, Katharina Schratt, who for many years spent her holidays in the “Frauenstein” Villa on the Lake Wolfgang: “Only in the far distance can I see a light. If only this beautiful moment could last forever.”