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Hallstatt

The small town of Hallstatt is one of the loveliest tourist destinations in the Salzkammergut. The steep drop of the Dachstein massif provides a scenic backdrop for the town and adjacent Hallstatter See. The houses are clustered together so tightly that many are accessible only from the lakeside, while the old street runs above the rooftops. Even the local Corpus Christi procession is held on the lake, in festive, decorated boats. Rising above the town on a rocky headland is the pagoda-like roof of the Pfarrkirche. Its stepped dome dates from a later period, but the church was built in the 15th century and to this day contains many original features, including the carved wooden altarpiece of the Virgin Mary, sometimes compared to Pacher’s altar in St. Wolfgang (205). The figure of the Madonna at its centre is flanked by the Saints Barbara, patron of miners, and Catherine, revered by woodcutters. Depicted on the inner wings are scenes from the lives of Mary and Jesus. The altar is guarded by the statues of two knightly saints, George and Florian. In the cemetery surrounding the church stands the Beinhaus, a chapel that serves as a storehouse for some very bizarre objects. This former mortuary now holds some 1,200 human skulls, painted with floral designs and in many cases inscribed with the name, date and cause of death of the deceased. Shortage of space in the graveyard had meant that some ten years after a funeral, when a body had decomposed, the remains were moved to the chapel to make room for the next coffin to be buried, resulting in this unusual depository. A short distance below the Catholic Pfarrkirche stands a Neo-Gothic Protestant church, with a slender steeple. Vertically above the town, about 500 m (1,640 ft) higher, is Salzwelten, probably the oldest salt mine in the world, which can be reached by cable car. Salt was mined here as early as 3,000 BC and then transported to the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. In 1846, a large cemetery yielding some 2,000 graves was uncovered in Hallstatt. Rich burial objects dated mainly from the Iron Age but some dated even further back in time, to the Bronze Age. The Hallstatt finds proved so important archaeologically that the Celtic culture of that period (800—400 BC) was named the Hallstatt civilization. Its influence reached far into France, the Slav countries and Hungary. Today, Hallstatt treasures can be seen in many Austrian museums, with the bulk of them held at Schloss Eggenberg, near Graz (162). The few finds that stayed in Hallstatt are kept in the World Heritage Museum. The entire Hallstatt region has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Hallstatt Photo Gallery

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