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Portrait of Klemens von Metternich. Unknown author, 1835.
Savudrija coat of arms
Savudrija lighthouse
Klemens von Metternich. Josef Kriehuber, 1852.
Savudrija lighthouse

 

The lighthouse at Savudrija is the oldest operational light of the Adriatic and a home of a tragic love legend. The construction of the 36-meter high lighthouse began in March 1817 with the intent of making navigation to Trieste safer for incoming ships. On the night of April 17, 1818 – just over a year from the beginning of construction – it was activated in the presence of Austrian emperor Francis I who was then visiting Trieste. Of course, it is said that there was another, completely different reason for building of the lighthouse. One of the most important Austrian politicians of the time, Klemens von Metternich presided over the “Age of Metternich”, a period when international diplomacy helped prevent major wars in Europe. Metternich was also known for his numerous affairs.
His first marriage with Eleonore von Kaunitz served him as an entry ticket into Viennese high society and it was at one of the grand balls that he met and fell in love with a beautiful Croatian noblewoman. As his work often took him to different parts of the Austrian Empire, he saw the soon to be built lighthouse as the perfect opportunity to acquire a hideout for his mistress and himself. Metternich found himself supervising the construction, immaculately planning the accompanying resident building in which he intended to spend time with his paramour. It was not meant to be. As the construction was nearing completion, Metternich’s lover fell ill and succumbed to the sickness only few days before the lighthouse was finished. Despondent, Count Metternich decided to leave the lighthouse and never to return again.