History of Salzburg

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The city of Salzburg, which is the capital of the province of the same name, defines Austria's culture, fine arts and history like no other. Findings in the surroundings of the Hallein district have led archaeologists to believe that there were settlements here in the Palaeolithic age. The territory that today calls itself Salzburg was settled after the Neolithic period and after the beginning of the Roman Empire in 15 BC, the cave settlements that were established here, were eventually substituted by a city on the left bank of the River known as Salzach. These buildings were named 'Ivavo', which is the Celtic version of 'Ivavum'. A Christian community and a monastery have been recorded as becoming part of the region after Roman administration begun to falter, but members of the Celtic-roman population remained on the fortified Nonnenberg Terrace until the early Middle-Ages.

A Bishopric

Duke Theodor of Bavaria granted Bishop Rupert of Worms, who came to Salzburg in 700, the remains of the old Roman settlement. The monastery of Saint Rupert and the women's convent on the Nonnberg (the oldest north of the Alps) were both founded in this period.

The German name 'Salzburg' was first mentioned in 755. Sixteen years earlier (739) Salzburg became a diocese and in 798 Pope Leo raised its status by making it an archdiocese of the Bavaria. Bishop Virgil, who originally came to Austria from Ireland and lived here at the end of the 8th century, was an important figure as far as Salzburg's cultural development is concerned. Emperor Otto III granted the city the right to hold a market in 966, an important year. From the 12th century onwards, Salzburg has been the oldest town in the territory we know as Austria, although it must be said that Vienna and Enns have older town charters.

In 1077 ArchBishop Gebhard built the Hohensalzburg fortress. It was soon destroyed but a subsequent clergyman, Arch-Bishop Konrad I. (1105-47) was responsible for rebuilding what is one of Salzburg's most famous landmarks. In April 1167 Salzburg again witnessed turbulent times, for it was completely destroyed by fire whilst at war with Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa). The town wall that is still visible today was built in 1121 and eventually, another one was added on the right banks of the river between 1465 and 1480. The oldest town privileges are dated 1287. In the 15th century, many members of the affluent bourgeoisie commissioned artists and architects and the town's landscape again evolved.

The German Rome or Salzburgian baroque

Terming Salzburg as 'German Rome' can be seen as originating from Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, a late 16th century thinker, who in initiated a new epoch in Salzburg that lasted 200 years. He tried to realise his concept of an 'ideal city', which was to be marked by five big squares around the Cathedral. The Italian Scamazzoi drew up the plans and many buildings in the city centre were pulled down. In retrospect, it can be seen that the original plans did not materialise as they were supposed to but on the other hand, the new Residenz and the Sebastian churchyard were two of the fruits of this project. The 17th century again saw new ideas being generated. An Italian named Solari helped to create the Salzburg of the early baroque period and his work is reflected in the Salzburg Dome, Hellbrunn and increased fortification. After the Italian period, masterpieces such as the Felsenreitschule and the Klessheim castle, both of which spring from the hand of J.B. Fischer defined the Austrian baroque. Fischer's rival, von Hildebrandt is whom we have to thank for the beautiful Mirabell palace and in 1622, the main gymnasium, or high school became a university.

Salzburg and Austria

The Habsburg dynasty annexed Salzburg to 'Österreich ob der Enns' (later known as 'Austria') in 1805 but during 1810-1815, it once again belonged to Bavaria. After this brief interlude, it became part of Austria once and for all and in 1848, it even became the capital of the crown lands and the province of the same name. Along with a series of economic developments, the opening of the 'Westbahnstrecke' (1860), which is the main railroad through Austria ensured that Salzburg saw its fortune improve and it was given its own statue in 1869. In the 19th century, tourism also became a focus of attention, and the famous 'Salzburger Festpiele' (Salzburg Festival) were founded. The Mozarteum Academy of Music and the University (which had been rebuilt) made for a city with a cultural tradition for which it is still known in the contemporary world. Emperor Franz Josef I also ruled that henceforth, the ban that prohibited the building of fortresses in the area be lifted and in keeping with this, he sponsored the Hohensalzburg. Indeed, in these years, Salzburg acquired a new image, as the 'Elisabeth-Vorstadt' (a district today known as Itzling) and the district of Lehen enlarged the city's territory. Aigen, Maxglan, Leopoldskron, Morzg und Gnigl also became fully integrated parts of Salzburg between incorporated between 1935 and 1939. During World War Two, more than 40% of Salzburg's buildings suffered entire or irreversible damage.

Salzburg after WW II

From 1945-1955 Salzburg became the headquarters for US-troops stationed in Austria after the downfall of the Third Reich. Since then, Salzburg has often been termed the 'secret capital' of Austria. American Troops did not leave until 1955, when the Treaty of Austria was signed. By 1959, the Cathedral had been rebuilt and blessed, with the University of Salzburg re-opening three years later.

1997 saw the city being included in the UNESCO's world heritage list. What was then classed as a cultural monument worth preserving, is a city that today has a population of 150.000. Over 6.5 million tourists visit every year; many of them wishing to take advantage of the 4000 cultural events that take place here every year. This means that apart from Vienna, no other Austrian city is as important for Austria's tourism sector as Salzburg. We hope you enjoy your stay.

Hotels in Salzburg