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Salzburger Festspiele (Salzburg Festival)

Salzburg: Location and History

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Panorama view at Salzburg, Austria, from Hohensalzburg Castle
View at Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress by Darwin Ahoy! (Gryffindorderivative work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

There is much of great beauty in Salzburg: the citadel, the cathedral, the many churches, the palaces, the squares, gardens and fountains, but the location of the ancient city with its domes and towers on the left bank of the Salzach River against the back-ground of the Hohensalzburg citadel and the cliffs of Moenchsberg is quite unique. It is thanks to Salzburg's mountains, that rise like islands in the middle of a basin dominated by craggy limestone mountains, that the visitor to Salzburg today can see exactly the same townscape and landscape as Alexander von Humboldt, who visited this resplendent capital in 1789 and described the townscape and landscape of the city as among the finest on earth. The old city took shape during the baroque period, when the grand buildings and wide squares of the capital were created and the medieval churches and burgher houses of the residential quarter with its long, narrow streets were built. Thus, as we wander through Salzburg, we are forever finding the medieval substance of the city beneath its baroque facade, and are reminded that Salzburg's beauty is not merely a gift of nature, but also the product of centuries of history and culture.

Salzburg has in fact been settled since time immemorial, as finds dating from the Stone Age prove. During the Bronze Age the lllyrians inhabited the area and brought with them their advanced Hallstatt civilization. Evidence shows that they mined copper and salt. Around 500 B.C. the Celts established their own state of Noricum between the Alpine ridge and the Danube. The centre of the flourishing Celtic salt trade was the city of Juvavum, which was situated on the site of present-day Salzburg. In the year 14 B.C. the Romans pushed forwards over the Alps and turned Noricum into a Roman province. Under Emperor Claudius Juvavum was made a municipium and enjoyed great prosperity as a centre of administration and important junction on the road over the Alps. The Romans abandoned Noricum in the 5th century and retreated southwards before the advancing Germans. Prosperity and civilization went with the Romans, the land became deserted and the city decayed. Thus in the 5th century the Bavarians took possession of a country without a ruler and moved into the desolate settlements.

In the year 696 St. Ruprecht, who had come to the newly colonized land as a Franconian missionary, founded the Abbey of St. Peter at the foot of Monchberg and became its first abbot. He was subsequently made a bishop and converted the new Salzachburg to Christianity. He is thus one of the earliest figures that appear in the history of present-day Salzburg. The missionary work towards the east was continued by Rupert's successors, Virgil and Arno, and in 774 Salzburg became and archbishopric and was charged with missionary work in the countries of the Alps and in the Danube basin. By the clever acquisition of lands the archbishopric had already become the mightiest buttress of the Holy Roman Empire in the south-east of the Holy Roman Empire around the year 1000, and extended southwards as far as the River Drau, westwards as far as the River Inn and eastwards as far as Hungary. In 1077 the Hohensalzburg citadel and Werfen Castle were bui It, and in 1181 the great five-naved Romanesque cathedral of Salzburg. The princebishops, who drew considerable incomes from real estate, the salt mines near Hallein and the gold mines in the Tauern mountains, won great political influence as princes of the realm, but their position as ecclesiastical princes between the pope and the emperor was not always free of problems. There were also internal tensions between the princes of the realm, whose rule was absolute, and the aspiring citizens of Salzburg. However, Leonard von Keutschach (1495-1519), a stalwart military man, broke the citizens' defiance after taking their leader hostage and whisking him off by sled to Radstadt one winter's night. His successor, Matthaeus Lang, put down an uprising by the peasants.