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Inside Salzburg Cathedral | © DomQuartier

Salzburg – City of Churches

For centuries, Salzburg was an immensely important center of ecclesiastical power. The prince-archbishop was the leader of both church and state, a man who possessed money, power, and influence in Rome. This status was one of the reasons for the UNESCO to award Salzburg the prestigious title “World Heritage Site”. As we trace the exciting history and stories associated with Salzburg, we get to know it from its most imposing and magnificent perspective.


For more than 1100 years, Salzburg was a church state where secular and church power were unified in the role of the prince-archbishop. Baroque squares, magnificent collections and an impressive wealth of churches and abbeys attest to the legacy of these prince-archbishops in terms of architecture, art and culture. A visit to the historic district alone, with its many buildings and towers, is a journey into the past. In addition, pilgrimage paths, theme tours and accommodations provided by religious institutions invite you to immerse yourself even more deeply in this church city.

Thanks to natural resources that included gold and salt, church state Salzburg grew immensely prosperous. The Salzburg of today is heir to this wealth and splendor. The large number of churches and magnificent buildings in such a relatively confined space truly makes Salzburg a “city of churches”. The famous silhouette, with its church towers and ubiquitous presence of the cathedral dome, invokes images of Rome itself.

Parallels to Rome are not by chance. Many important prince-archbishops were educated in Italy. Wolf Dietrich, who was responsible more than any other for the appearance of the city we are familiar with today, was a lover of the Italian lifestyle. He came to medieval Salzburg and, with the help of architects and artists from the south, transformed it into a baroque jewel.

Until 1806, Salzburg was the second-largest church state in the world behind Rome, and the prince-archbishop was frequently referred to as a “half-pope”. The fact that Salzburg did indeed merit its nickname as the “Rome of the North” is evident today in the city’s buildings, towers, broad plazas and the iconic silhouette of the historic district. And with extraordinary titles, the Archbishop of Salzburg even today is one of the most important dignitaries in the Catholic Church.

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