In the tracks of Sissi
In remembrance of Elisabeth (Sissi), Empress of Austria
The Elisabethkapelle on the Schmittenhöhe is in remembrance of Empress Elisabeth, popularly known as "Sissi", who was murdered 110 years ago, on the 10th September 1898, at Lake Geneva by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. A few days before the imperial couple were staying in Bad Ischl and the Empress, who in the interest of anonymity was travelling under the pseudonym of the Countess of Hohenems, was to travel from there in Switzerland to Geneva, and had stopped off at the Hotel Beau Rivage. It became known by way of an indiscretion that the Empress of Austria was in Geneva. News about the tragic death of the Empress triggered sorrow and panic in the entire monarchy.
The following account is in the official register of the Austrian Royal Imperial Commission at Zell am See: "Acting on the most authoritative orders at all stations from the border area to Vienna, where the imperial train carrying the most noble body of her former majesty the Empress and queen, is to pass through between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., the heads of the civil and military authorities are to be in attendance in uniform, with flowers in their arms. The church bells are to sound in these respective towns. The imperial train will arrive at the Zell am See station on 15th September at around 12.14 p.m. On Monday the 19th September at 8 a.m. in the morning a celebration Requiem Liberia will be held in the local parish church of Weiland for her majesty."
It is not just the Elisabethkapelle on the Schmittenhöhe which remembers the Empress Elisabeth, the hotel built in 1904/05 by the hotelier family Haschke (Berghotel), opposite Zell am See train station where she, as her husband did, "deigned to stay a while", remembers her too. In August 1885, exactly ten years after the opening of the railway, "Sissi" came to visit the charming market in Zell am See. Extensive walks and a trip around the lake by steam boat, the "Stefanie", were the order of the day. On 9th August Zell mountain guide Ulmann was given the honourable task of accompanying a noble personage to the Schmittenhöhe. It was a lady. Although even at that time guests were taken to the Schmittenhöhe in little carts pulled by mules, this lady did not set great store by this. The meeting point for the departure was the market place in Brunnen just before day break. At precisely that minute three noble people appeared – two ladies and a gentleman - Ulmann reported for duty and the respectable Pinzgau man said: "Your majesty?" The Empress gave a surprised smile and the gentleman asked the mountain guide: "Do you recognise this lady?" To which Ulmann replied:” Who wouldn’t know the Empress?"
At 6 a.m. they arrived at the hotel on the summit, to the chagrin of the companions, who almost did not come along. The "most authoritative visit" to Zell’s local mountain was a great surprise and an honour for hotelier Haschke, since the mountain tour of this "supreme person" had not been announced. The empress simply wanted to ‚get away from it all’ and experience the sunrise on Schmittenhöhe. At the entrance to the Elisabethkapelle, which is dedicated to the sacred Elisabeth of Thüringen, today reveals a tablet about the construction of the charming chapel. A little wooden image in the chapel with the Empress’s signature is in remembrance of "Sissi". Emperor Franz Josef 1 also visited Zell am See and the Schmittenhöhe. He stayed overnight from 11th to 12th July 1893 in the Berghotel. The monarch and his entourage, in contrast to the Empress, of course made use of the comfortable "Schmittenhöhe-Pferdewagerl" for their ascent. A display cabinet in Zell Museum is dedicated to the visit of the majesties. There is a beautifully created pamphlet about the story of the Elisabethkapelle by the parish priest Rupert Reindl, which is available in the parish office, in the museum and from Schmittenhöhe railways.
An article by Cavalier Horst Scholz from the Pinzgau district archive.