St Peter's Abbey

Salzburg, Austria

St Peter's Abbey is a Benedictine monastery and former cathedral in Salzburg. It is considered one of the oldest monasteries in the German-speaking area, and in fact the oldest with a continuous history. St Peter's Abbey was founded in 696 by Saint Rupert at the site of a Late Antique church stemming from the first Christianization in the area. Likewise the establishment of the monastery was meant to forward the missionary work in the Eastern Alps.

In the Middle Ages, St Peter's was known for its exceptional writing school. In 1074, Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg sent several monks to the newly established filial monastery of Admont in the March of Styria. In the 15th century, the abbey adopted the Melk Reforms. In 1623, Archbishop Paris Graf von Lodron founded the Benedictine University of Salzburg, which until its dissolution in 1810 was closely connected to the abbey.

From 1641, the abbey was a member of the Salzburg Congregation, merged in 1930 into the present Austrian Congregation (of which it is the principal house) of the Benedictine Confederation.

In 1926, the endeavours for the establishment of a Catholic university led to the foundation of the Benedictine college, on which later the re-foundation of the University of Salzburg was based. In 1927, St Peter's was raised to the status of an Archabbey. Upon the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany in 1938, the premises were seized and the monks expelled. Nevertheless, the monastery was not dissolved and the monks returned after the war.

Abbey church

The present-day Romanesque abbey church at the northern foot of the Mönchsberg was erected from about 1130 onwards at the site of a previous Carolingian church building, it was dedicated to Saint Peter in 1147. One of the organs had been built on the rood screen in 1444 by Heinrich Traxdorf of Mainz. While the steeple received its onion dome in 1756, the interior, already re-modelled several times, was refurbished in the Rococo style between 1760 and 1782 under Abbot Beda Seeauer by Franz Xaver König, Lorenz Härmbler, Johann Högler, Benedikt Zöpf and others. The high altar is a work by Martin Johann Schmidt. The St Mary's Chapel contains the grave of Abbot Johann von Staupitz (d. 1524), a friend of Martin Luther.

Mozart's Great Mass in C minor was scheduled to premiere in the church, probably on 26 October 1783, with his wife Constanze singing first soprano. However, the work remained incomplete.

Next to the altar where St. Rupert is entombed lies the tombs of Mozart's sister Maria Anna Mozart (Nannerl), and Johann Michael Haydn. Also entombed at St. Peter's Abbey is St. Vitalis.

Library

St Peter's houses the oldest library in Austria. Among the 800 manuscripts the most precious is the Verbrüderungsbuch, which was deposited in 784 by Bishop Virgil. Through continual acquisition, the library has grown to 100,000 volumes, focusing particularly on Benedictine monasticism, medieval church history, history of art, and items relating to the local history of Salzburg, or Salisburgensia. Special collections include incunabulae and early editions, graphics including the devotional images collection of Father Gregor Reitlechner and the map collection.

Cemetery

The Petersfriedhof was probably laid out during the foundation of the monastery about 700. The burial ground was first mentioned under the rule of Archbishop Conrad I in 1139, with the oldest preserved graves from 1288 and 1300. It is centred around Lathe Gothic St Margaret's Chapel and the Chapel of the Cross, dedicated about 1170 and refurbished as a mausoleum according to plans by Santino Solari in 1614/15. Several tombs are located in arcades built at the foot of the Festungsberg hill.

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Details

Founded: 696 AD
Category: Religious sites in Austria

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Raymond Bou Assi (4 months ago)
A place of tranquillity in the heart of the city
Cathy Pott (6 months ago)
Dating from 803 when monks served visiting dignitaries, St Peter's Kellar exudes ambience, now a Christmasy owl decor, the beautiful plates of food , and that distinct fragrance that says St Peter's has been here for quite some while.
Prof. Fahd Nasr (8 months ago)
Peaceful place, calm and spiritual. The church is simple and quaint.
John Freund (9 months ago)
Beautiful old cathedral. Nice architecture and art. Lots of history inside.
Debi Slinger (9 months ago)
"Small, simple and peaceful" This is a lovely Abbey and one were we sang one piece for no audience. The architecture is stunning and some of the sculptures are truly amazing. There is no fee to enter and unlike the Dom you can expect it to be quiet. The cemetery attached is amazing - graves so small - people must have been tiny in those days.
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The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

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