Suleiman (known in German as Soliman) was an Asian Elephant that was presented to the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian II, by King John III of Portugal and his wife, Catherine of Austria, Habsburg princess. The elephant came as a small baby to Lisbon with the entourage of the Kotte Ambassador Sri Ramaraska Pandita, sent to Portugal on a special diplomatic mission in 1542.
The baby elephant Suleiman was seen as both a diplomatic and auspicious gift for the Portuguese monarchs, John III and Catherine.
Suleiman was transported from the Portuguese colonies Kotte in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Goa in India to Lisbon, and then to Valladolid, then the capital of Spain. Accompanied by Maximilian, his wife and their two children, and their attendants, Suleiman was shipped from Barcelona to Genoa, where he arrived on 12 November 1551, and then traveled overland via Milan, Cremona and Mantua. In Trento bishops and cardinals applauded it and in Bolzano it was given a triumphal reception.
On the way to Vienna the elephant arrived in Brixen before Christmas. The innkeeper of an hotel, Andrä Posch, gave the elephant a home for 14 days, until the 2nd of January 1552 when it continued its journey to the north. He crossed over the Brenner pass to enter Austria, where he was transported along the River Inn and Danube to Vienna. The procession entered Vienna on 6 March 1552. A wave of "elephant enthusiasms" followed, and Suleiman was a popular subject for artists and poets. Suleiman was installed in the menagerie at Schloß Kaiser-Ebersdorf, but died only 18 months later, in December 1553.
His journey continued after death...
Parts of Suleiman's carcass were distributed around the Holy Roman Empire. At the Bavarian National Museum in 1928, the historic stuffed pachyderm survived World War II bombing raids on Munich in 1943, only to be sold after the war for shoe leather. Because of dampness in storage, his skin had mildewed.
The elephant Soliman and Brixen are close connected. Andrä Posch, the inkeeper, renamed his hotel "am Hellephanten" and it still marks the northern point of the old city. Posch, also was the principal of the big fresco on the west front of his hotel. On the fresco you can see the elephant walking through Brixen.