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Religious Sites Walking Tour (Self Guided), Salzburg

Salzburg is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to countless cultural, architectural, and religious landmarks. The city features numerous historic places of worship, from small churches and abbeys to the impressive Salzburg Cathedral. Take the following walking tour to discover Salzburg's holy places and their history.
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Religious Sites Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Religious Sites Walking Tour
Guide Location: Austria » Salzburg (See other walking tours in Salzburg)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: julian
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Salzburg Cathedral (Dom)
  • St. Peter's Church and Cemetery
  • Franciscan Church
  • Collegiate Church
  • St. Michael's Church
  • Nonnberg Convent
1
Salzburg Cathedral (Dom)

1) Salzburg Cathedral (Dom) (must see)

The Salzburg Cathedral is the most significant church in Salzburg. It is a magnificent Baroque structure built in the 17th century. The Cathedral still contains the baptismal font in which composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized - just to the left upon entering the church.

The site of the Salzburg cathedral once had a Celtic settlement and a portion of the ruins of the Roman City of Juvavum. The first cathedral was built by St. Virgil and improvements were made by St. Rupert between 767 and 774. It served as a place of worship for over 60 years before it was burned in a lighting storm in 842. Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenhau decided to build a new cathedral in 1612 but the project was delayed by the conflicts with Bavaria. His successor, Prince- Archbishop Markus Sittikus commissioned the architect, Santino Solari to design and build the present Baroque church in 1614. The cathedral was consecrated in 1628. In 1944, a World War II bomb damaged the building and it was restored to its former glory in 1959.

Excavations under the present cathedral have unearthed mosaics and artifacts from the Roman city of Juvavum. Notable features in the present structure are a 14th-century gothic baptismal font from the earlier cathedral where Mozart was baptized, a majestic main organ with sculptures of angels playing instruments and statues of St. Rupert and St. Virgil. The cathedral also has magnificent portals created by the sculptors, Schneider-Manzel, Matare and Manzu.

Why You Should Visit:
Absolutely massive, incredibly ornate, free (although they ask for a donation), and very welcoming towards all kinds of people including tourists.

Tip:
Take a downward trip to the crypt – there is as much underground as above.
Worth attending a Sunday mass at 10am, as you get a full orchestra and chorus.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-7pm; Sun: 1-7pm (May-Sep); Mon-Sat: 8am-6pm; Sun: 1-6pm (Mar, Apr, Oct, Dec); Mon-Sat: 8am-5pm; Sun: 1-5pm (Jan, Feb, Nov)
2
St. Peter's Church and Cemetery

2) St. Peter's Church and Cemetery (must see)

St. Peter's Church forms part of the oldest functioning monastery in Austria. It also houses the oldest library and the oldest restaurant in the country. The cemetery has the last remains of several well-known citizens and a maze of catacombs built into a rock face.

St. Peter's Church was founded in 700 AD by the Franconian monk, St. Rupert and has continually functioned as the place of worship of a monastery since it was established. The monks were expelled during WWII but returned after the end of the war. The present church was built between 1125 and 1143 and has undergone several additions and restorations since. The main organ dates back to 1444 and there is an ornate gothic cross-ribbed vault in the atrium. The onion-domed tower was built in 1756 and the interior of the church has several magnificent rococo altars.

St. Peter's Cemetery is the last resting place of well-known citizens of Salzburg including the architect Santino Solari who designed the cathedral, Mozart’s sister Nannerl, an accomplished musician in her own right and Joseph Haydn’s brother Michael. The cemetery is surrounded by wrought iron fences and there are early Christian catacombs built into the surrounding rock face. A steep stone stairway leads to the catacombs. They are filled with early altars, faded murals and inscriptions.

***Mozart Walk***
During Mozart’s early years in Salzburg, Abbot Dominikus Hagenauer administrated St. Peter’s church and monastery. Hagenauer celebrated his first mass at St. Peter’s on 15 October 1769, and Mozart composed the Dominikus Mass, KV 66 for this festive occasion. Hagenauer wrote in his diary, “Music for the Mass composed by Wolfgang Mozart, 14 years of age, which in every one’s opinion was most elegant. The Mass lasted over two hours, which was necessitated by the great number of worshippers. Wolfgang Mozart played on the great organ for half an hour to the astonishment of all.”
The first performance of Mozart’s C Minor Mass was performed in this beautiful Baroque church on October 26, 1783, and every summer the Salzburg Festival performs it here as well.
***PH***

***The Sound of Music Movie***
Toward the end of The Sound of Music film, the Von Trapps hide from the Nazis that wield flashlights behind the tombs in the cemetery of the Nonnburg Convent in Salzburg. The real Nonnburg cemetery, however, is extremely small and modest, so the filmmakers instead decided to use the picturesque cemetery of Saint Peter’s Church (Petersfriedhof) for the inspiration to build a Hollywood set where the actual filming took place. Ringing the edges of the flower-filled cemetery are the large crypts for the local wealthy families enclosed within the elegant wrought iron gates which are expertly reproduced in the movie.

While the real-life Von Trapps never hid in a cemetery, the scene and the confrontation with Rolf adds a great deal of drama to the plot, which is somewhat different from the original Broadway play produced in 1959.

Why You Should Visit:
Everything is free to visit except for the catacombs which cost not very much at all.

Opening Hours:
[Catacombs] Catacombs: Daily: 10am-12:30pm / 1-6pm (May-Sep); 10am-12:30pm / 1-5pm (Oct-Apr)
Last admission 15 min. before closing. Closed: Jan 1, Dec 24-26, Dec 31
[St. Peter Cemetery] Daily: 6:30am-7pm (Summer); 6:30am-5:30pm (Winter)
[Bakery of St. Peter] Mon-Fri: 7am-5:30pm; Sat: 7am-1pm
3
Franciscan Church

3) Franciscan Church (must see)

The Franciscan church is one of the oldest churches in Salzburg and served as a parish church as early as 774. It remains the most popular place of worship for the people of Salzburg until today.

The Franciscan Church was first established as a small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was renovated by Bishop Virgil and in 1139 it became the main Parish Church of Salzburg. In 1167, the original building was burned along with five others in the city and only the nave survived. It was rebuilt in the 13th century and taken over by the Franciscan order.

The main gate was built in 1700 and has a carved hand in the position of taking an oath. The interiors have a gothic style with the main altar designed by architect, Fischer von Erbach in 1700. The choirs have many side chapels with distinct gothic styles. The paintings by artist Johann Michael Rottmayer depict the life of St. Francis and the statues of the angels are by sculptor, Ottavio Mosto. The church is connected to the Franciscan Abbey by an arched bridge over the road. The Romanesque side gate depicts Christ between St. Peter and St. Rupert. Visitors flock to listen to the sound of the church bells including the Marien bell that tolls at 3pm, the time of the death of Christ and the Armeseelen bell.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the oldest churches in Salzburg, and of course it is free to go inside.
A nice place to see the architecture of the region in its elegant simplicity.
If you are lucky you can attend an organ concert or listen to the organist practice.

Tip:
Make sure you head up towards the altar as the ceilings rise to double the height of the area where the pews are.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6:30am-7:30pm
4
Collegiate Church

4) Collegiate Church

The Collegiate Church was built as the place of worship for the adjacent Benedictine University. It is the finest example of Baroque architecture in Salzburg and became the model for other churches in Austria and Southern Germany.

Prince Archbishop Paris Londron established the Benedictine University in 1623 and made plans to build a church for the university. Renowned architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was commissioned to design the building and the result was one of his finest works. The church was constructed between 1694 and 1707. It was used as a hay store when Napoleon’s army invaded Salzburg and was disbanded in 1810 when the city came under Bavarian rule. During the Austro Hungarian rule, it was a secondary school and military church. It was the venue of the Great World Theater in 1922 and in 1964 it regained its original purpose after the University of Salzburg was reestablished.

The interior has a modified Greek cross plan with a convex façade. In 1740 a high altar created by Alton Pfaffinger was added with classical columns representing the seven pillars of wisdom. The altar paintings were by celebrated religious artist, Johann Michael Rottmayr. The chapels inside are dedicated to the patron saints of the four university disciplines, St. Thomas Aquinas of theology, St. Ivo of jurisprudence, St. Luke of medicine and St. Catherine of philosophy.
5
St. Michael's Church

5) St. Michael's Church

The St. Michael’s Church is a small pink church located between Residenzplatz and Waggplatz in Salzburg. It is the oldest parish church of the city.

Records show that the St. Michaels Church existed back in the year 800. At the time, it was the principal place of worship for all sections of society. The St. Peters monastery maintained the church and it suffered damage and was rebuilt after the fires that ravaged the city in 823 and 1167. It remained the main parish church and palace chapel until 1223 when it was replaced by the Franciscan Church. Although it lost its position as parish church and its former significance, St. Michaels church remains a functioning house of worship till today.

The St. Michael’s Church has a rococo architectural design. It has two floors. The upper floor was reserved for the emperor and other high officials with easy access from the palace while the lower floor was accessible from the market square for the lower classes. The structure was remodeled between 1767 and 1776 with the addition of a baroque onion dome and an ornamental screen by Philpp Hinterseer. The main altar has a beautiful painting of St. Michael killing Lucifer and the side altars have paintings of the two archangels, Gabriel and Raphael.
6
Nonnberg Convent

6) Nonnberg Convent (must see)

The Nonnberg Convent is the oldest continuously existing nunnery in the German-speaking world. The monastery complex is today a protected monument and part of the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The church of the convent, the Maria Himmelfahrt is the second oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Salzburg.

The convent was established between 713 and 715 by St. Rupert. He placed it under the control of his sister St. Erentrudis who became the first Abbess. The complex that makes up the Nonnberg Convent includes the Maria Himmelfahrt church, the cloisters, a hall with pillars, the convent, the kitchen court, the dining hall, the St. John’s Chapel, the Pieta Chapel, and other small buildings.

The Maria Himmelfahrt church was built in 1463. It is a simple gothic structure with a baroque principal altar and side altars dating back to 1515. The principal altar depicts the Virgin Mary between St. Rupert and St. Virgil. At the back of the church are Roman frescoes painted around 1140. The Romanesque West Tower was constructed in the 12th century and was remodeled in Baroque style during the 19th century. It contains a crypt containing the tomb of the first abbess St. Erentrudis. The St. John’s Chapel has a magnificent winged gothic altar donated by the Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich. The convent also houses a museum that is open occasionally to scholars and researchers. Maria von Trapp, the author of the book, 'The Story of the Trapp Family Singers' that later became the well known Hollywood movie, 'The Sound of Music' was a novice at the nunnery.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
Nonberg Abbey (Stift Nonnberg) is probably the most famous of all The Sound of Music sites in Salzburg. Founded by Saint Erentrudis, the niece of Saint Rupert (Bishop of Worms) in 712-715, this historic Benedictine Convent is the oldest abbey in the German speaking world. Perched high over the east side of Salzburg, it made an excellent location for many powerful scenes in the movie.

It was also here that the real-life Maria (Maria Augusta Kutschera), aged 19, came to live in 1924, stayed for two years as a nun apprentice, became a tutor for one of the widowed Captain Von Trapp’s sick children, and then married him on November 26th, 1927, 11 years before the Nazis took over the city. At the time of her marriage, Maria was 22 and Georg – 47.

The scene of their wedding was filmed at Collegiate Church in Mondsee Austria. The majority of the indoor scenes were shot in a California studio, as well as that with the nuns singing ‘Maria’ in the convent courtyard. Filming inside the courtyard was not allowed, so they had to do it at a re-created set in Hollywood and a small studio in Salzburg. Still, there were four iconic scenes shot on the actual grounds, near the gate, including those in which Maria leaves the abbey wondering “What will this day be like?”, the nuns talk about Maria, the children come to visit, and the Nazis on the hunt for the Von Trapps after their escape, upon which the nuns disable their car.

At the time of the filming, there were 50 nuns residing in the convent; now there are only 14 left (as at 2017). Each morning at 6:45am the resident nuns gather to sing Gregorian chants in Latin which is a real treat.

Why You Should Visit:
If you want to get off the beaten path and see a church that seems unaffected by the passing of time, this is a great stop!

Tip:
For some of the finest Romanesque & Gothic artwork in Austria and Europe, go to the Convent's museum ("Stiftsmuseum").
Make sure you also have some 50-cent coins to light up the area at the back of the church and see frescoes or the altar.

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