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City feeling

Touring the Nativity Scenes of Salzburg

With its countless churches, Salzburg is undoubtedly one of the most historic cities in Austria. And wherever you find lots of sacred buildings, during Christmastime and Advent you are also able to marvel at numerous Nativity scenes. On my personal tour of Salzburg’s Nativity scenes, I set out in search of hidden and, until now, lesser-known religious treasures. I highly recommend you follow my lead! 

Exhibition of Nativity Scenes at Salzburger Heimatwerk: traditional meets modern

My tour of this city of Mozart begins at the Salzburger Heimatwerk. The exhibition has actually existed for the last 28 years and is an absolute must for everyone who also happens to be hunting for the right Nativity scene for their own home. A long staircase takes me from the sales rooms on the ground floor down to the historic vaulted cellars. When I get to the bottom, I first catch sight of a miniature Nativity scene in a coconut. In a coconut? Yes, that’s right! Hobby Nativity-scene-builder Thomas Walder from Obertrum created his artwork for us in miniature. On the table next to it, a group of ceramic figures is gathered around the Baby Jesus. The artist, in this case, is actually a professional baker and confectioner from Seeham. His gifted hands enabled him to model small figures out of clay and lovingly assemble them into a harmonious complete work of art. Every year, a total of 12 exhibitors from Salzburger Land, Upper Austria, Tyrol and neighboring Bavaria present their artistry in the atmospheric setting of the Heimatwerk.

The Nativity Scene of St. Michael’s: Worth a visit throughout the year

For my next stop, I stroll across Residenzplatz on my way to St. Michael’s Church. It is actually quite inconspicuous from the outside, though it was once the first parish church of Salzburg. In the austere vestibule to the right of the entrance, there is a window behind which a precious Nativity scene is hidden. Salzburg Nativity-scene-artist Josef Klampfer and Brother Pius Hochreiter from St. Peter’s took on the challenge of building a Nativity scene in the 1950s. As my eyes roam across the countless sheep and shepherds, in the background I notice Hohensalzburg Fortress and St. Peter’s Cemetery with its catacombs. The Salzburg reference is impossible to deny.

The Baroque Nativity scene at the Franziskanerkirche: a hidden treasure

From the oldest parish church, I continue to the Franziskanerkirche – and realize that there are even more mangers at the rear side of the Christmas Market. A total of nine showcases invite pedestrians to stop and take in the magic of handcraft. After stepping through the entrance of Franziskanerkirche, my curiosity draws me to the side chapels on the left. The closer I get to the Nativity scene, the more I feel as if I have found a hidden treasure. The Baroque figures from the year 1790 immediately captivate my heart. Shepherds, sheep and angels all look incredibly real. Most impressive of all is Mary, who, depicted in the form of an angel wearing a blue dress and pink veil, peacefully smiles at her infant child.

The AIKO Nativity scene: Jewel of the Steingasse

Meanwhile dusk has begun setting in, as I set course for the Salzburg Steingasse. Passing small bars, galleries and cafés, I follow the very narrow lane in the direction of the Äusserer Stein. Just as I am beginning to think I have walked too far, a bright light radiates from one of the shop windows. Yes, there it is – the AIKO Nativity scene by Brigitte Aichhorn Kosina. Filled with anticipation, I ascend the two steps up to the entrance. Already awaiting me there is Ferdinand Aichhorn, widower of the deceased artist. Even before I have a chance to look around, he tells me of the boundless passion his wife had for this Nativity scene. Beginning with a modest table arrangement in 1963, over the years she manufactured and collected some 309 figures. Since 2004, it has found a new permanent home on the Steingasse. Boundless time, work and effort went into this Nativity scene. Every lock of hair is in place, every face accurately painted. A truly special aspect is its reference to the life story of its owner, as Mr. Aichhorn tells me later. The Loferer Steinberge, mountains where the family sought refuge during the war, can be seen, as can their favorite pub in Venice. It is this personal touch that makes this particular Nativity scene something really unique in terms of its aesthetics – a true jewel of the Salzburg Steingasse indeed.

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