The Pilgrimage Church of St. Leonhard
The History of the Pilgrimage Church
The pilgrimage church of St. Leonhard certainly counts among the most interesting artistic and culturally historic buildings in the Salzburg region.
The church was first documented in 1407, although its origins date back to the beginning of the 13th Century. Originally named for St. George, a subsequent dedication to St. Leonhard was added later. During the 18th Century, the adoration of St. Leonhard became increasingly popular, and this pilgrimage church received a considerable number of bequests. The many votive offerings throughout the church attest to its importance as a pilgrimage site.
Prior to 1816, the small village and the church of St. Leonhard belonged to the territory of Berchtesgaden. However, in 1816 both were ceded to Salzburg and thereby to Austria. The church has belonged to the Arch Abby of St. Peter in Salzburg ever since.
Architecture and Furnishings
The location of the church atop a rock formation between the Untersberg mountain and the Königseeache river is itself very impressive. The nave is topped with a high red tower, capped with a baroque, onion-shaped dome.
The interior of the church features a large, high altar and two side altars made of Untersberg and Adnet marble. Particularly noteworthy are the especially high-quality paintings that adorn the altars.
The blue-gold pulpit was created in 1695 in the Berchtesgadener style and is considered to be one of the church’s most valuable furnishings. The pulpit, with its statuary created by Josef Stangassinger is considered to be cultural asset of the highest order.
- Art Treasures: Two famous creche sets are displayed during the Christmas season. The so-called “Mount of Olives Creche” with its wax figures from 1890, and the creche by the artist Xandl Schläffer are among the most beautiful creches in the Salzburg region. The baroque “The Christ Child of St. Leonhard Creche” may also be viewed in the church during the Christmas season.
- Advent Market: The Advent Market in St. Leonhard is not only the oldest Advent market in Salzburg, it is also the one most steeped in tradition. During the weekends in Advent one can find many products and works of art from the region for sale here. The St. Leonhard Advent Market is non-commercial, that is, all proceeds are donated to charities serving those in need.
- Leonhardiritt Festival: The annual Leonhardiritt Festival takes place on the Sunday closest to November 6. The highlight of the festival is the spectacular pilgrimage parade in which countless horse-drawn coaches and riders make their way from the village of Marktschellenberg to St. Leonhard in Grödig. After a mass at the church, the famous “Kranzlstechen”, or wreath snatching tournament, takes place.