Salzburg Catacombs - History and Facts | History Hit

Salzburg Catacombs

Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

The Salzburg Catacombs overlook the 17th century St. Peter’s Church and Cemetery in Austria.

Peta Stamper

31 May 2021

About Salzburg Catacombs

The Salzburg Catacombs in Austria are a series of mausoleums carved into the face of the Mönchsberg rock by St. Peter’s Cemetery. St. Peter’s Cemetery (Petersfriedhof) was built in 1627, making it Salzburg’s oldest graveyard.

St Peter’s Cemetery is the resting place of several eminent people including the composer, Michael Haydn, the architect of Salzburg Cathedral, Sanction Solaria and Mozart’s sister, Mannerly. The historic Salzburg Catacombs overlook this beautiful cemetery and are accessible via a stone staircase.

Inside the Salzburg Catacombs, visitors can wander through the altars, deciphering their fascinating inscriptions and taking in the murals.

Salzburg Catacombs history

The original construction of the Salzburg Catacombs is unknown, but they are believed to have been built by early Christians between 400 and 800 AD during the Migration Period. In antiquity, the caves had been seen as a mystical site that was a sacred burial place for Christian hermitage. It is likely that the caves were used for secretive worship during the turbulent later Roman period.

The monks based at St Peter’s Church – founded in the 7th century – were part of the oldest monastic order in Germany and the mountain, Mönchsberg, was named for the Benedictine monks there. At some later point, the catacombs gained two chapels, one of which was dedicated to the murdered Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.

In 1965, the catacombs and cemetery featured in the film, ‘The Sound of Music’, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. As the Trapp family flee the Nazis, they run through St Peter’s Cemetery to take refuge in the catacombs before escaping to Switzerland.

Salzburg Catacombs today

Today, the catacombs remain of great cultural significance. There are 2 levels open for public exploration: the ‘Gertruaden Chapel’ dating back to 1178 and the ‘Maximus Chapel’ which is 40 steps higher and believed much older. From the balcony within the catacombs, visitors will get a stunning view of Salzberg – not to be missed!

Entry is available all year round at only 2€ for adults. Be aware the stairs are very old and steep, mostly without a handrail, so wear comfortable and grippy shoes.

Getting to Salzburg Catacombs

Situated just a short walk from the river side, the Salzberg Catacombs are easily found on foot when exploring Salzberg. From Salzberg Festunsbahn Bergstation, the intercity bus station, the catacombs are 6 minutes walk away. Or you can get the 27 bus, O-buses 6, 7, 9, 10 or 12, to Salzberger Kunstverein/Karolinenbrücke and walk 8 minutes to the catacombs.

For those driving, there are two large 24 hour car parks along Siegmundstor road, 5 minutes away.

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