The Salzburg Cathedral, besides the Hohensalzburg Fortress, is the landmark of the city of Salzburg. Together with the fortress and Mirabell, the Salzburg Cathedral is one of the top 3 sights in Salzburg.

the salzburg cathedral

A long time ago I published an article on the Free Walking Tour Salzburg’s Blog titled “why the Salzburg Cathedral is a must-see” with 7 reasons why you must visit the cathedral during your stay in Salzburg. In this article, I will tell you everything there is to know about the Salzburg Cathedral but also why the cathedral is not a must-see any more.

The History of the Salzburg Cathedral

Above the entrance to the cathedral, three numbers can be seen. These three numbers tell the history of the Cathedral, the oldest baroque church in Austria and the heart of Salzburg.

The first number, which is above the entrance on the left is 774. That’s the year when the first cathedral was built by Bishop Virgil, who came to Salzburg from Ireland in 767. Looking at the four statues in front of the cathedral next to the entrances, you find Saint Virgil on the very right.

How do I know that? Well, firstly because I am a licensed guide, and secondly, you can recognize Virgil by the symbol of the cathedral, held by the two angels on the pedestal. On the left, you find Saint Rupert, the city’s founder, whose symbol is a salt barrel instead of a church.

Throughout history, the original cathedral has burned multiple times. In 1167, the original cathedral burned down and was rebuilt in the Romanesque style, but the Romanesque cathedral suffered severe damage in 1598 as well. Learn about the history of Salzburg and you will undoubtedly come across Wolf Dietrich, the notorious ruler of the time.

Wolf Dietrich studied in Italy before becoming the archbishop of Salzburg. In Italy, Wolf Dietrich got used to baroque art but Salzburg was still like in the middle ages when he arrived. As a result, he began demolishing old buildings, bringing Italian architects, and introducing baroque buildings to Salzburg. Rumor has it that he wasn’t unhappy about the fire in 1598.

He used the fire as an excuse to demolish the Gothic church, which was anyway out of date and erect his baroque masterpiece. Wolf Dietrich, however, attempted to rebuild the entire old town at the same time, which didn’t work out too well. When Wolf Dietrich died, the city was basically a construction site. It took two more archbishops, a reworking of the plan, and another architect to consecrate the new Salzburg Cathedral in 1628.

Therefore, the second number, which is above the entrance in the center is 1628.

And what about the third number above the entrance on the right? The third number above the entrance on the right is 1959. In 1959 the cathedral was reconstructed and again consecrated after the dome was destroyed by one of the 15 airstrikes in 1944 during world war two.

The Features of the Salzburg Cathedral

Now that you know the history of the Cathedral, it’s time to explore the interior. Now that is if you decide to pay for entering the Salzburg Cathedral since an entrance fee was introduced to the church in 2021. More in the section about visiting the Salzburg Cathedral below. We won’t go into too much detail here, since together with the entrance fee an audio guide was also introduced to the Cathedral which you can listen to here, no matter if you pay the entrance fee or not.

What are the Salzburg Cathedral Altars about?

The Salzburg Cathedral is an early storybook. it was built during the 30-year war at the height of the counter-reformation. Nevertheless, most people couldn’t read, so stories had to be told through images. When you enter the cathedral and look at the ceiling you see lots of images. Starting in the back with Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem and the last supper, and ending in the front with his crucifixion.

What do the images on the ceiling have to do with the altars? The main altar and the two to the right and to the left of the main altar finish telling the story with his burial, with him in limbo, and finally with the resurrection, a central theme in the catholic church.

The Bronze Baptismal Font

The Baptismal font of the Salzburg Cathedral is the only thing left from the Romanesque cathedral from the 12th century. At least the lower part with the lions is. An interesting fact that’s true to many romanesque lions is that while artists liked to depict them at the time they have actually never seen a lion before. The lions, therefore, especially the nose, look a lot like humans, don’t they?

The Baptismal font of the Salzburg Cathedral is where Mozart was baptized in 1756 and also Josef Mohr, the creator of the world-famous Christmas song “Silent Night” just to mention two famous examples. If you would like to know more about the christening of Mozart and why he had 5 names, here is an article about Mozart’s Birthplace on the Free Walking Tour Blog.

How many Organs are there in the Salzburg Cathedral

Some would say there are 7 organs at the Salzburg Cathedral but two of them are mobile organs which in my humble opinion don’t count. Therefore, the Salzburg Cathedral has 5 organs excluding the mobile ones. That still is impressive. Allegedly there is no other church with 5 independent organs north of the Alps. Mozart mainly played the Southeastern pillar organ, the court organ.

The Bells of the Salzburg Cathedral

The Salzburg Cathedral has seven bells. Two of them date back to the year 1628 when the cathedral was consecrated. The others were melted down during the first and second world wars and were not produced again until 1961.

The largest bell in the Salzburg cathedral, the Salvator bell, is also the second-largest bell in Austria after the Pummerin at St. Stephen’s cathedral. The Salvator bell is only rung on special occasions. It weighs 14,256 kilograms. The mallet alone weighs 500 kilograms. Two motors are needed to set the bell in motion.

What’s in the Black Box underneath the Altar?

What’s in the box? Every church in Salzburg has a statue of St. Rupert, the statue of a bishop with a salt barrel. Saint Rupert was the city’s founder. When the cathedral was completed in 774, his remains were transferred to the cathedral. His remains were placed in the black box under the altar. When you examine the box, you will see a statue of a bishop holding a salt barrel and one of a church. The one with the church is Saint Rupert, the one who built the first cathedral. His remains are allegedly also in the box.

Vanitas: The Modern Artwork in the Basement

Located in the cathedral’s crypt, where many archbishops are buried, this installation is on the left after you descend the stairs. Twelve devil figures cut out of sheet metal and lit by flickering candles make up the artwork.

They cast shadows on the wall and appear larger. Meanwhile, a voice in the background constantly announces the time as another devil moves from one corner to the other.

The Latin word vanitas means transience. In baroque times and in the tombs of archbishops, this was a common theme.

How to visit the Salzburg Cathedral

How to get to the Salzburg Cathedral?

Where is the Salzburg Cathedral located? The Salzburg Cathedral is in the heart of the old town of Salzburg. It’s impossible not to pass by the cathedral and admire its exterior at least once. The Cathedral is 3 minutes walking from Mozart’s Birthplace, 2 minutes from the Hohensalzburg Fortress, and another 2 minutes from the Mozart Statue for example. The best way to get to the Salzburg Cathedral is on foot since all of these places are in the pedestrian area of Salzburg.

Is there an entrance fee to the Salzburg Cathedral?

In 2021 the Salzburg Cathedral transitioned from the second most important religious institution after the St Stephans Cathedral to a tourism business by deciding to charge an entrance fee. Salzburg Locals who pay church dues are exempt from the tourism levy. That’s right, the catholic church in Austria also takes a yearly fee from each church member (about 5 million, more than 50% of the population).

Here are the entrance fees to the Salzburg Cathedral:

Ticket for the Cathedral€5,-Mon-Sa: 9 – 11:40 & 12:30-18:00
Sunday: 13:00 – 18:00
Youth up to 18 yearsfreesame
Music at Noon€6,-Mon-Sa: 12:00
Guided Tour of the Cathedral€5,-Daily: 14:00
Audio Guide€3,-anytime
Private Tour€8,-/person min. €70,-upon request

Now if you decide to pay for the cathedral, you can make more of your visit by going for the guided tour at 2 pm or the music at noon at 12 pm. The music at noon is €1,- more than the entrance ticket for the cathedral and the guided tour of the cathedral is the same price as the entrance ticket.

It should also be possible to attend mass for free but during mass, you of course can’t walk around and/or snap pictures. Now let’s find out when you can find Mass at the Salzburg Cathedral.

What is the Mass Times at the Salzburg Cathedral?

There is mass at the Salzburg Cathedral from Monday to Saturday at 6:30 am but the most interesting mass to attend is of course Sunday mass. During Sunday mass between 8:30 am and noon you can expect music and many people. I’ve also attended morning mass a few times.

The morning mass at the Salzburg Cathedral is attended by only a small group of people who never change. Although the experience is less spectacular than the Sunday mass, it is nonetheless a more memorable one.

The Salzburg Cathedral mass times on holidays are the same as on Sundays but may change depending on the specific holiday. Here is a schedule for upcoming mass times (as of 2022 only in English since the mass is in English).

What are other recommended things to do near the Salzburg Cathedral?

The Salzburg Cathedral is right in the center. None of the major attractions in Salzburg are more than 5-10 minutes’ walking away. It takes you, for example, 2 minutes to walk over to the funicular and visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress or 5-10 minutes to cross the river and head over to the Mirabell gardens.

If you decided to go all-in on sightseeing by purchasing a Salzburg Card, are interested in more of the Cathedral, or are keen on learning about the history of Salzburg, the Domquartier museum is a must. Domquartier provides access to parts of the cathedral you would otherwise not be able to access, such as the west gallery and the oratories, as well as parts of the monastery of St. Peter and the old episcopal residence. Here you can learn more about the best museums in Salzburg.

Due to the fact that the Salzburg Card includes a visit to Domquartier, which allows you to gain an insight into the cathedral from its gallery and oratories, and since the Cathedral is the only paid attraction in Salzburg not offered with the Salzburg Card, you can avoid paying the cathedral entrance fee by purchasing the Salzburg Card. Here is a detailed breakdown of why the Salzburg Card is worth it.

Hotels near the Salzburg Cathedral

  • Boutiquehotel am Dom
  • Kasererbräu
  • Townhouse Weisses Kreuz
  • Altstadthotel Wolf
  • Altstadthotel Weisse Taube
  • Hotel Goldener Hirsch
  • Hotel Goldgasse
  • Blaue Gans

More Questions & Answers

Was the Salzburg Cathedral in the Sound of Music?

The interior of the Salzburg Cathedral was not in the Sound of Music but there were scenes where Maria and the kids were running on the square in front of the cathedral in the Do-Re-Mi song. 

Who bombed the Salzburg Cathedral?

The Salzburg Cathedral was bombed by the Americans in 1944 and 1945 but luckily no ground offensive happened. In 1945 the city surrendered which probably prevented much worse destruction. 46% of the buildings in the old town, including the Cathedral, were damaged or destroyed. For more information about Salzburg during the second world war, read this article.

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