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Art & Culture

The Long Night of Churches: a spiritual come-together

Prayer meets beats. Lots of people, partying to hot music, and eloquent slammers – what else could this possibly be but a festival, right? Or, how about the “Long Night of Churches”: For this event, Christian institutions open their doors and fill their buildings with colorfully worldly sounds.

The church bells peal loud and strong above the squares of the historic district. Of course, that’s nothing new in Salzburg; though the length of the musical performance will probably get your attention, since it carries on for a whole ten minutes. The puzzle is quickly solved – the bells are actually ringing out an invitation to the “Long Night of Churches”. Since 2008, several different denominations have been taking part in the program. They have a lot in store for us all and – least we forget – admission is free!

Ecumenical crash course with major fun factor

So, what’s your take on religion? Maybe the best place to get to the bottom of that crucial question is the ecumenical service that kicks off the event. That’s why you should make a beeline for the Protestant Church of Christ. There, a sense of acceptance and true openness for discussion is in the air, the colorful public celebrating together. That definitely sets the tone. And after this short warm-up, we are curious for even more insights and perspectives. We don’t hesitate for a second, getting in line for the free tickets that will allow us to climb the tower. You really do have to be quick about it here at the Church of Christ, since there are only a few spaces available. Once at the top, we and the other lucky few are ricking our necks, marveling at the amazing panorama of the Old City. There’s barely enough time to pull out a cell phone for a few selfies, before we have to make our way back down. Our next stop is for a guided tour of St. Johannes am Imberg. Up to now, we had only known the inconspicuous doorway on the Kapuzinerberg from the outside, but we soon learn: The interior is as small as a chapel, though it definitely makes up for that with color and an evocative atmosphere.

Feel the rhythm – and the words

After the second tour, our energy begins to lag. Only one thing will help: Throw ourselves body and soul into the cultural program! The “Long Night of Churches” has jumped on the poetry slam bandwagon, inviting modern linguistic acrobats to step up to the mic in the Collegiate Church. While we kick back, amusingly ingenious texts invite us to set out on a fantastic journey into our true inner selves. Later on, we will see how this energizing medium flows seamlessly into hip-hop. We are amazed by the power of the spoken word, then remain firmly planted in our seats as young bands take center stage at the Collegiate Church, modern sounds echoing out of the speakers, adding to the goose bump feeling you already had in this sacred location. The special vibe is infectious. Soon we can’t keep our feet still. Hardly surprising in this cool setting, with a colorful light installation providing the perfect backdrop.

Church 2.0

Contemplation – Meditation… a little peace, quiet and time for reflection would be a welcome change of pace at this point. That’s why we take the bus to Kolleg St. Josef. Awaiting us there is a torchlight procession: On the broad grounds of the former home of the von Trapp family, famous from “The Sound of Music”, we make a pilgrimage with our fellow visitors across the lawns. The air is refreshingly cool and the flames dance animatedly in the darkness – every bit as alive as our “church experience” on this very special night.

And as the evening finally winds down, we realize that the “Long Night of Churches” was actually far too short to discover everything…