The "Taj Mahal of Salzburg," Schloss Mirabell was built in 1606 by the immensely wealthy and powerful Prince-Archbishop Wolf-Dietrich for his mistress, Salomé Alt, and their 15 children. It was originally called Altenau in her honor. Such was the palace's beauty that it was taken over by succeeding prince-archbishops, including Markus Sittikus (who renamed the estate), Paris Lodron, and finally, Franz Anton von Harrach, who brought in Lukas von Hildebrandt to give the place a baroque facelift in 1727. A disastrous fire hit in 1818, but happily, three of the most spectacular set-pieces of the palace—the Chapel, the Marble Hall, and the Angel Staircase—survived. The Marble Hall is now used for civil wedding ceremonies, and is regarded as the most beautiful registry office in the world. Its marble floor in strongly contrasting colors and its walls of stucco and marble ornamented with elegant gilt scrollwork are splendid. The young Mozart and his sister gave concerts here, and he also
composed Tafelmusik (Table Music) to accompany the prince's meals. Candlelight chamber music concerts in the Marble Hall provide an ideal combination of performance and atmosphere. The magnificent marble Angel Staircase was laid out by von Hildebrandt and has sculptures by Georg Rafael Donner. The staircase is romantically draped with white marble putti, whose faces and gestures reflect a multitude of emotions, from questioning innocence to jeering mockery. The very first putto genuflects in an old Turkish greeting (a reminder of the Siege of Vienna in 1683). Outdoor concerts are held at the palace and gardens May through August, Sunday mornings at 10:30 and Wednesday evenings at 8:30.