Benedictine Nonnberg Convent lies a little above the city at the foot of the Festungsberg, famous, in addition to its Gothic architectural elements, for its murals and smaller works of art. It is also here that the story told in the Hollywood production of “The Sound of Music” begins. Widely unkown is the fact that the nuns sing Gregorian Chorals every morning.
Every morning at 6:45 am, the sound of singing nuns fills the church of Nonnberg Priory. While usually they sing on the Nun’s Choir, they perform directly in the church on holidays.
Origins of the Convent
The early days of the convent are now shrouded in darkness. It is a fact that Emperor Henry II established a Romanesque basilica on the grounds of today’s convent at around the turn of the first millennium. In 1009, a Christian institution was consecrated to the Virgin Mother, making it the second oldest church in veneration of the Virgin Mary here in Salzburg. Erentrudis of Salzburg was the first abbess of the Benedictine convent, taking her own special place in history as the city’s patron saint. Her rock tomb is located in the crypt of St. Mary’s Church.
The convent’s architecture is inspired by the Gothic spirit, clearly evident in an abundance and wealth of ornamentation. The Late Gothic winged altar with its statue of the Virgin Mary is the centerpiece of the convent church. The crypt, with its free-standing pillars and magnificent ribbed vaults, is unique in Salzburg. The rock tomb of St. Erentrudis is located in the apse. The convent also captivates with its numerous small art treasures, such as a crucifix from the cathedral dating to 1300. The famous murals from the mid-12th century are the church’s greatest treasure.
Nonnberg Convent as Hollywood Inspiration
The convent became famous internationally thanks to novice Maria von Kutschera. She was sent by her abbess as governess to widower Baron Georg Ritter von Trapp, for whom she was to take care of his children. Shortly thereafter, Maria married the baron, subsequently founding a family choir in the early 1930s. Her story served as inspiration for the world-famous Hollywood movie "The Sound of Music", continuing to captivate visitors from around the world to this very day.
The convent can be reached either from the Kaigasse by climbing the steps of the so-called Nonnbergstiege, or via a narrow lane from Nonntal. The church is open daily from 6:45 am in the morning until dusk (until 7 pm in summer). Visits are not permitted during worship services. In order to see the frescoes in the so-called “Paradise” located below the Nuns’ Gallery as well as the altar in St. John’s Chapel, visitors need to ask at the convent entrance for the key.