Salzburg – 9 Churches and Monasteries Worth Visiting

Take a look at some of the iconic images of the city of Salzburg, and you will be surprised by how many church towers are in the picture. No wonder – Salzburg is often called “Rome of the North”.

The churches are not only numerous but also demonstrate the importance and wealth of the former ecclesiastical state, being the second largest after the Vatican in the early 19th century. Salzburg experienced its greatest architectural prosperity during the time of Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich of Raitenau, a great admirer of Italian art and architecture. Thanks to him, the city was transformed into a Baroque gem, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997. Let’s take a look at a few of those sacral buildings – I won’t tire you with dates, but I’ll focus on what’s worth seeing or what I found the most interesting.

(1) We begin our tour in the Benedictine monastery, which still fascinates with its Gothic walls. It is located at the foot of the hill on which the fortress of Hohensalzburg stands. The monastery was founded by St. Rupert around 712 and today, Nonnberg Convent is considered to be the oldest nunnery, continuing its tradition to this day. You can recognize it by its red turret.

We came here early in the morning. When the city is just waking up before seven o’clock, the nuns in the church sing Gregorian chants (every morning at 6.45 am). They can’t be seen, only shadows flicker behind the Gothic windows, sometimes there is a soft rustle – all this only enhances the mystical atmosphere of the early morning.

Address: Benediktinerinnenabtei Nonnberg, Nonnberggasse 2

More information in German: here

(2) From the narrow sidewalk, which we descended back to the city, we could see not only the neat loggias of the local wealthier inhabitants but also the Cajetan Church from the 12th century, known for its Holy Stairs. The church belonged to the male order of the Theatines (Cajetans). The fresco in the church was painted by famous Austrian Baroque painter Paul Troger, depicting the entry of St. Cajetan to heaven.

The staircase, which was built in 1712, was inspired by the Roman Scala Santa and, like in Rome, these 28 steps should be ascended by believers up to the altar only on their knees. They told us that during the pre-Easter period, it is almost crowded.

Address: Kajetankirche, Kajetanerplatz 1a

(3) Already in the 5th century, the existence of a monastery was documented on the territory of today’s Salzburg. In 696, Bishop Rupert received the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Iuvavum from the Prince of Bavaria to carry out his Christian mission. Rupert founded the Abbey of St. Peter which is considered to be the oldest monastery in the German-speaking area. It includes a magnificent church with a beautiful portal which – like the heaven’s gate – invites visitors to enter and try to find inner peace.

The Benedictine Archabbey, where 22 monks live nowadays, is a complex that includes not only a church but also a beautiful garden with a beautiful view of the fortress.

In the past, monasteries were mainly educational institutions, it is said that a monastery without books would be like a castle without weapons, so naturally, there is also a library. It is the oldest one in Austria and contains 100,000 volumes stored in interconnecting rooms. We walked through them like in a luxurious castle and didn’t even know if we should look at the books or the rich Rococo decoration on the walls.

Archabbot Korbinian, who accompanied us, wanting to demonstrate the ingenuity of the old interior designers, suddenly stopped and turned the small cabinet with drawers into a table with two writing boards and two leather chairs with only a few movements. You could sit down, soak the pen in ink and start copying yellowed books…

The library’s archive contains chronicles, diaries, books of account, as well as autographs of Mozart and his father Leopold, Johann Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn, and other composers.

In the monastery complex, there is also an old, still functional bakery with a mill wheel and the restaurant Stiftskeller St. Peter according to a written mention from 803, the oldest restaurant in Europe! Not only Mozart but also Christopher Columbus enjoyed the food here.

The restaurant has a large historic hall where gala concerts are held as well. They will bring you delicacies prepared according to original recipes and the atmosphere will be enriched by opera singers in historic costumes.

The abbey also includes an old cemetery, one of the oldest but also the most beautiful ones in Europe. The already mentioned Johann Michael Haydn and also Mozart’s sister Nannerl are buried here.

Here, too, 48 steps lead you to the catacombs carved directly into the rock of the Mönchsberg hill. They have its origins in antiquity. Hermits once resorted to them in their mystical solitude. From the small platform, there is one of the most beautiful views of the towers of Salzburg’s churches.

Both the cemetery and the catacombs served as a backdrop for the filming of the Hollywood musical The Sound of Music.

Address: Erzabtei Stift St. Peter Salzburg, St. Peter Peter-Bezirk 1

More information in German: here

(4) When you visit Salzburg and walk around the Franciscan Church, be sure to note the so-called swearing hand on the right bottom of the portal. There are many legends around it, but it is actually a medieval symbol for church asylum which confirms that everyone has the right to find protection and refuge in a church.

The church has a Baroque facade but also a beautiful Romanesque portal. I was fascinated by the fact that it does not serve its inner beauty immediately after entering the interior, as is the case with other churches. At first, only the altar is visible, surrounded by magical gloom. Only when you move forward, a rich decoration gradually begins to reveal itself in front of you. I’m not even surprised that the builder allegedly had to swear that he would never build such a church again.

Address: Franziskanerkirche, Franziskanergasse 5

More information in German: here

(5) High above the city (640 m above sea level), on the Kapuzinerberg hill, the Capuchins have lived for more than 400 years (according to them the name of the hill). Like the Franciscans, they wear a brown hooded habit tied at the waist with a white woollen cord (cingulum) with three knots that symbolize poverty, obedience and purity.

In the Capuchin Monastery, we were accompanied by its guardian, Brother Karl Löster (who immediately informed us that their community consists of brothers) and young Brother Julian.

The monastery does not close itself to the outside world, it provides accommodation for 10 guests who are invited to pray and eat with the brothers, but also to hike or work in the garden where bees live and honey is obtained by pressing according to the oldest way of obtaining this sweet product. The most important guest in the past was Pope John Paul II, his room offered a beautiful view of Salzburg (so did the garden).

The Capuchins let us see the kitchen where one of them was preparing food for his brothers. And the fact that they are open to modern conveniences is proved by the fact that you can also find them on YouTube – In this video, Brother Julian will show you how he learned to tie Franciscan knots :).

The path to the monastery – from the Franciscan Gate with the archbishop’s coat of arms and the image of St. Francis of Assisi – is lined with 13 chapels of the Way of the Cross and Golgotha ​​with three crosses.

Address: Kapuzinerkloster Salzburg, Kapuzinerberg 6

More information in German: here

Extra Tip:

Above the monastery, there is the Mozart Memorial. We continued along the forest path, from time to time, a wonderful view of the Salzburg fortress was revealed among the trees. The sidewalk led us to the Franziskischlössl restaurant.

In addition to other wonderful views, the restaurant offers excellent food, tasty and beautifully arranged. They are open from Wednesday to Sunday, just for lunch from 11:00 to 15:00. (kitchen only until 2 pm). I recommend having at least a coffee and pancakes!

(6) The most famous native of Salzburg is undoubtedly Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Church of the Holy Trinity is connected to his person as well. The church was built by the famous Austrian Baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and the fresco inside the dome is the work of the outstanding home painter Johann Michael Rottmayer.

There is a special book in the church where you can complain about your problems or write down your wishes. Concerts are held here on Saturday nights – just close your eyes and imagine that Mozart is playing in the church. When the Mozart family improved their standing, they moved into a more spacious house at Makartplatz square which extends directly to the Church of the Holy Trinity. So the church became the place where young Mozart used to go to practice his playing.

Address: Dreifaltigkeitskirche, Dreifaltigkeitsgasse 13

Concerts: here

(7) During my visit to Salzburg, I was also fascinated by the Collegiate Church – the university church and the largest Baroque building in the city, designed by Fischer von Erlach as well. If you visit several churches in Salzburg on one day, you may get lost in that tangle of their lavishly decorated interiors. However, the Collegiate Church is sure to be remembered. It is completely different. The walls are white, decorated only with colored altars.

It is not truly known why it remained so, it may have been due to lack of funding. In any case, the builders let the architectural elements speak for themselves this way. The church is full of light which was certainly Fischer’s intention, because, as he said, light must fall from all sides as a symbol of God. Because we do not see what is divine, we only feel it… The church is the scene of concerts, art installations and other projects as well as graduations. The four side chapels are dedicated to four university faculties – theology, medicine, philosophy and law.

Address: Kollegienkirche, Universitätsplatz 20

More information: here

(8) The Loreto Monastery stands outside the crowded streets of Salzburg. Nevertheless, it is frequently visited. By local people. It is an important place of pilgrimage for them. The main role in this is played by an 11-centimeter ivory statuette of a baby boy – Loretokindel, which after decades in a complicated way made its way to Salzburg in 1650.

At certain hours, it is possible to come here and enter a small room. A window on a latticed wall opens and one of the Capuchin nuns appears behind him. We met Sister Maria Bernadetta, a 77-year-old native of Salzburg. She held the statuette dressed in a luxurious pearl dress in her hand, but she also showed us copies of the baby boy in a simple purple, lace red or yellow dress, which are stored in neat boxes. The wardrobe is made by the nuns. People come here to honor Baby Jesus and share their worries and pleas with him. Some do it in silence, others want to talk.

Sister Bernadette listens intently – various diagnoses, problems, but also fears, for example, when grandma or grandpa come to pray for grandchildren for whom their parents do not have time. Everyone then receives a strip of fabric with a figurine depicted which should be stored under a pillow or in a mobile phone case.

Many return here when their pleas are answered. The nun’s face is a mixture of the kindness of an old woman and the innocence of a child. Every moment, she disappears somewhere and emerges again with a holy picture, medallion, postcard or other trifles in the memory of our visit. But then she apologizes and goes on to listen and pray. A young woman in advanced pregnancy came to say thanks for finally getting pregnant after eight years of marriage and to pray that everything would turn out well. Isn’t it a beautiful profession when you are in charge of lovingly giving hope?

Address: St. Maria Loreto, Paris-Lodron-Street 6

Prayers and prayers for Baby Jesus: working days: 8.30 – 10.00 and 15.00 – 16.00, on Saturdays: 8.30 – 10.00 and 15.00 – 15.30, on Sundays and public holidays: 9.45 – 10.30 and 15.00 – 15.30

More information in German: here

Extra Tip:

When I wrote the article on the blog about the famous Salzburg chocolate pralines – Mozart’s balls, I had no idea that there are also Habakuk Mozartkugeln. Since several of the locals of Salzburg praised them to me as the best Mozart’s balls, I also had to taste them. I found them on my way back from the Loreto Monastery in the Habakuk Café, named after the popular Austrian children’s clown Habakuk (Arminio Rothstein, 1927 – 1994). In the silver foil with the blue portrait of Mozart, they look like the original ones from Fürst, but I was a little disappointed – these pralines differ from the others – they have a liquid filling. And I didn’t like it very much. Well, but you need to try as well! 🙂

More information: here

(9) We could continue to write about the sacred institutions and monuments of Salzburg for a long time. However, the biggest pride of the city is the Cathedral of St. Vergilius and St. Rupert, that’s why I wrote a separate article about it on the blog, even in two parts:

Salzburg Cathedral I.

Salzburg Cathedral II.

The cathedral is located right in the heart of the old town and is very easy to find.

Opening hours: here

There is no entrance fee to the cathedral, voluntary contributions are welcome.

Special tip:

If the number of churches in Salzburg is not enough for you, you can also visit nearby pilgrimage sites. Even in our modern world, the search for oneself or for the meaning of life is still important, although it may not be conditioned by faith in God.

The Baroque Basilica of Maria Plain can be easily reached by bike. The church was built in 1674, the most important painting for pilgrims is the image of the Virgin Mary as she prepares to swaddle her divine child. Both figures are decorated with pearl crowns. A miraculous power is ascribed to the painting and it is said that Mozart composed his Coronation Mass on the anniversary of the coronation of this painting. The Mozart family often spent Sunday mornings here, sometimes because of piety, sometimes because of the beautiful view. From the holy hill, you can see the entire panorama of Salzburg and the surrounding majestic hills. And in fact, even today, everyone will find the right reward for themselves – the hope of prayers answered, a good feeling from a sports performance, new energy from beautiful nature, the amazing view or at least an excellent homemade cake in the local restaurant.

More information about Salzburg and its churches can be found at salzburg.info

And now look at the following photo – if you have read the article carefully, you should be able to easily determine which tower belongs to which church. 🙂

Salzburg – Where to Stay:

On the topic of Salzburg churches, I would recommend two accommodation options:

Gästehaus Priesterseminar – the priest’s seminary at the Church of the Holy Trinity: excellent location, quiet courtyard, easy access to most tourist attractions. The rooms do not have a TV, but wi-fi yes. In addition, guests have unlimited access to the church.

More information: here

Radisson Blu Hotel Altstadt – an amazing accommodation which combines history-inspired interior with modern comfort – excellent service, a card with a personal welcome from the hotel manager, easily accessible tourist attractions. My room was on the top floor, it was spacious, with a large bathroom, but I enjoyed the terrace the most, from where I could perfectly enjoy the view of the Salzburg church towers – I saw the Cathedral, the Church of St. Peter, but also the Franciscan and Collegiate churches and on the other end of the terrace, the Kapuzinerberg hill with the monastery – together with the river Salzach, it can be admired also at breakfast from the glass hotel restaurant.

More information: here

Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri

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You can also read:

Salzburg – A Walk between Nature and Architecture

The Perfect View of Salzburg

Salzburg – A Walk Between Nature and Architecture

Salzburg – A Walk Between Nature and Architecture

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