Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau

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Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau History

Wolf Dietrich came from a small nobility family in the Lake Constance area. He was the son of Hans Werner von Raitenau and his wife, Helene von Hohenems who was related to the Italian Medici family, was in fact grandson of Giovanni Angelo de 'Medici who later became pope with the name of Pius IV. Consequently he was also related to San Carlo Borromeo.

Undertook a still very young ecclesiastical career, on March 2, 1587 he was chosen as a compromise candidate at the archiepiscopal chair of Salzburg after having briefly headed the liturgical reforms of the area and was consecrated on October 18 of that same year after who three days earlier had officially taken the priestly vows. From the beginning, he proposed a very strict counter-reformist conduct and drove all the Protestants from Salzburg in 1589 and to intensify the influence of the Counter-Reformation in the Salzburger Land, he welcomed the Capuchins and the Augustinians into the city. Wolf Dietrich, however, later sought a more tolerant course of action and was gradually alienated from the curia. He maintained close contacts with Tycho Brahe and took care of drafting a treatise in which he welcomed Machiavelli's ideal of enlightened absolutism, preceding this trend by more than a century. His temperament is described at the time as reflective and balanced, alternating with unpredictability and violence.

He was an important art collector for his time. After the fire of the Salzburg cathedral in 1598, he had the ruins of the cathedral demolished as well as 55 houses surrounding the church area to make way for a new larger building which was however started only under his successor and with a modified design.

He also restructured the Residenz or the archbishop's palace in Salzburg which was demolished in 1592 and rebuilt larger and according to the new stylistic canons, being completed only in 1609.

It is known of him that he also had a lover, Salome Alt, from whom he had 15 children and for whom he had the current Mirabell castle built.

In conflict with Bavaria over the occupation policy pursued in Salzburg, he was a careful manager of the city salt flats. In 1611, when Bavarian troops finally invaded the city and forced him to resign the following year in favor of his nephew Marcus Sitticus von Hohenems, he was locked up in the dungeons of the city fortress of Hohensalzburg. In the cell where he was imprisoned (destroyed by a fire in 1931), he had left a graffiti with the inscription: "It is the deception vil in the world ...". Not even when his nephew was able to rise to the throne was he able to be freed, but despite the abrupt end of his reign, the city of Salzburg owes its baroque aspect primarily to him.

Upon his death, which took place in a cell in 1617, Archbishop Raitenau was buried in the mausoleum which he himself had erected with the name of the Chapel of the Archangel Gabriel in the cemetery of San Sebastiano in Salzburg.

Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau

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