Salzburg is situated on the border with Germany in the north central part of the country. It is the capital of the federal state of Salzburg and lies on the River Salzach. Extensively developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the Italian model and boasting fine examples of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, it is now Austria’s second most important tourist city.
Celts and Romans were in occupation before Salzburg was created a bishopric by St Rupert in the early eighth century. In 798 it was made an archbishopric, becoming one of the most significant in the Holy Roman Empire. It also gained wealth from the saltmines of the surrounding area. The Archbishops held power and wealth with Wolf Dietrich, who reigned from 1587–1612, among the most prominent. He employed architects and artists from Renaissance Italy to reconstruct the city and during his time Salzburg gained a new cathedral, the Residenzplatz (home to the archbishops) and a number of other grand public buildings.
Extensive rebuilding and extension continued under Dietrich’s successors Markus Sittikus and Paris Lodron, who between them ruled until the middle of the seventeenth century. By this time Salzburg had its own university. For a long period Salzburg was in effect an independent city state but it fell under Habsburg rule in 1816 and 2 years later it was badly damaged by fire. The city escaped with little damage in the wars of the twentieth century and served as the base for US army personnel from 1945 until 1956.
Salzburg has efficient road, rail and air links. Apart from tourism, other major industries include textiles, leather, brewing and metal work. It is also a major conference centre. Despite its reputation for austerity—Thomas Bernhard, a native writer, called the city “a fatal illness” because of its conservatism—Salzburg remains a major draw for visitors, tempted by its rich architecture and its alpine setting.
Places of Interest
Salzburg is overlooked by the Hohensalzburg Fortress, a grand construction built at the top of Mönchsberg (Monk’s Hill) in 1077 and rebuilt and refined until the late seventeenth century. Existing as almost an independent town within Salzburg, it provided accommodation to the archbishops throughout the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is the city’s most visited tourist attraction. Other major attractions include the Natural History Museum and the nearby Hellbrunn Palace, built by Sitticus.
The Mozart industry thrives in the city. Mozart was born in Salzburg in Jan. 1756 and spent much of his life here. His image adorns tourist merchandise while his birthplace and a later residence are now open to visitors. It is his work that also forms the basis of the Salzburg Festival, a summer event that ranks among the world’s finest musical festivals. Begun in 1920, it includes operas, plays and recitals with the emphasis firmly, though not exclusively, on Mozart. In 1999 it played to audiences of around 240,000, a figure some 100,000 greater than the city’s population. Salzburg’s reliance on its musical heritage continues with the burgeoning industry that has grown up around the film musical The Sound of Music, which was filmed at various local sites including St Peter’s Abbey and the Mirabelle Gardens.