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Exploring Salzburg Cathedral

It stands right in the middle of the city; a witness to history, power and faith. From all points of the compass, it is impossible to overlook. And whether a stage in summer or a romantic backdrop during Advent – together with the fortress, Salzburg Cathedral is undoubtedly one of the most impressive buildings in the city. We decided to gen up a little and now present to you seven facts you simply have to know!

From the top of the steeple to deep below ground, Salzburg Cathedral harbors many surprises. All you have to do is keep your eyes peeled! Here are a few tips to get you started on your discovery tour:

A soldier’s scribbles

It’s easy to imagine that the prince-archbishops always had a large troop of guards stationed close by. After all, they were powerful rulers. However, a soldier’s life could become quite tedious at times. About 370 years ago, one of those soldiers came up with the idea during his watch in front of the cathedral to scratch something on the marble at the entrance. And in fact, even to this day – though admittedly a little hard to find – his scribblings can still be seen.

The entrance doors and the handles

Faith, love, hope. Virtues we all know, of course. Here in Salzburg, those same Christian virtues have been immortalized in the form of bronze doors. The middle door, representing love, is a little larger – after all, love is a big deal, right? But it is definitely worth taking a second look – since the handles are actually the bishops Rupert and Virgil!

Bells of name and rank

The cathedral boasts a total of seven bells. Six of those, the smaller ones, hang in the south tower. In the north tower is the biggest and loudest. This one’s name is “Salvator” and is the second largest bell in all of Austria, smaller only than the “Pummerin” of Saint Stephen’s in Vienna. Actually, the six other bells all have names as well: Rupertus, Maria, Josef, Virgil, Leonhard, and Barbara, the smallest of them all.

Jesus on the gable of the cathedral

The four powerful figures at the entrance to the cathedral immediately catch your eye. These are the bishops and patron saints Rupert and Virgil as well as the apostles Peter and Paul. One level higher and you come to the four evangelists, hovering over the middle window are two angels, while on the gable we discover the statues of Moses and Elijah. In the center at the very top is Jesus, in his left hand a globe, his right hand raised in blessing. He is known as Salvator Mundi – savior of the world.

The Baptismal Font

Many know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized in the cathedral. But he wasn’t the only one! Joseph Mohr – the man who penned the words to “Silent Night” – was also accorded the same honor. The only sad aspect to that is the fact that his godfather, a man by the name of Franz Wohlmuth, was also Salzburg’s last public executioner. Sadder still: Mr. Wohlmuth didn’t even bother to come to the christening, preferring to send a representative instead.

Vanitas in the crypt

Think of crypts and catacombs as you may, here in Salzburg a brief foray into the underworld is doubly rewarding. Not only will you get to see the old graves of the archbishops, the light installation entitled “Vanitas” by Christian Boltanski is part of the Walk of Modern Art, impressively highlighting the eerie-yet-peaceful stillness of this cool crypt.

A lopsided dome

If you look closely – and you can see it best from Mirabell Gardens – you will notice that the dome is not quite symmetrical. After being damaged by bombing in 1944, the dome had to be rebuilt. They could have built the fire escape on the outside of the structure – however, they decided to “hide” it under the dome itself. And that’s why, if you have your eyes peeled, you will notice that the cathedral dome has a bit of a belly on the right-hand side. 

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