Sankt-Peter-Bezirk 1, 5020 Salzburg.
In the city center of Salzburg.
APR to SEP daily 10-12:30, 13-18.
OCT to MAR daily 10-12:30, 13-17.
Closed 01-JAN, 24-DEC, 25-DEC, 26-DEC, 31-DEC.
Adults EUR 2, Children (6-18) EUR 1.50, Students EUR 1.50, Seniors EUR 1.50.
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|Erzabtei Stift St. Peter Salzburg, St. Peter-Bezirk 1, 5020 Salzburg, Tel: +43-662-844576, Fax: +43-662-844576-80. E-mail:
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|Saint Peter founded by the Bishop of Worms, Rupert.
|first written mention of the Maximuskapelle.
|Gertraudenkapelle (St. Gertrude's Chapel) consecrated.
|Maximus legend on a Latin inscription tablet placed in the Maximuskapelle by Abbot Kilian.
|Maximuskapelle renovated under Abbot Amand Pachler.
|Gertraudenkapelle modernized by Salzburg monument conservator Georg Pezolt.
The name Petersfriedhof Katakomben (St. Peter Cemetary Catacombs, St. Peter’s Catacombs) is a misnomer, there are actually no catacombs. We used it nevertheless, as it is the common name of this site. And actually there are numerous names, also variations of the same topic and all slightly off. The city Salzburg was built at a quite exceptional location at the river Salzach. The river flows through a wide plain, at the northern rim of the Alps. On both sides are the foothills of the Alps. But here are two massive limestone hills in the plain, one on each side of the river. On the right side a castle was built on the hill, which was later transformed into a Capuchin monastery, so it is called Kapuzinerberg (Capuchin Hill). The hill on the left side was used to build the Festung Hohensalzburg castle and at its foot the city developed, on a rather small patch of flat land between the river and the Festungsberg (castle mountain). This limestone hill has an exceptional form, it is a plateau with an escarpment on all sides, which protects the city on three sides like a natural castle, and the river protects the fourth side. The advantages are obvious.
The dome St. Peter is located in the middle of the city, founded by St. Rupert around 696 for the mission in the south-eastern Alps. At the foot of the escarpment is the Petersfriedhof. The cliff consists of conglomerate, deposited as a river delta into the large lake of the Salzburg basin. The cliff face has nooks and crannies, the result of different sediments which vary in hardness and are thus differently eroded. The caverns were used to built chapels, cave churches, in the cliff face.
The Gertraudenkapelle (St. Gertrude's Chapel) was built into a natural cave and consecrated in 1178. It was dedicated to St. Thomas Becket, who had been murdered eight years earlier, at the request of Cardinal Conrad III. Fresco remains show the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. Under Konrad III of Wittelsbach, it was also dedicated to Saint Gertraud of Nivelles. In the rock wall there are six round-arched niches in the historicist style, which were created in 1865 according to designs by the Salzburg monument conservator Georg Pezolt. In 1862, he added a Romanesque-Gothic altar made of clay slabs, modelled on the early Christian Roman catacombs. The rear wall and ceiling show the original cave, into which the chapel was built.
Following the trail further there is an outlook, from where 36 steps, which were hewn out of the rock in 1659, lead up to the Maximuskapelle (Maximus Chapel). It is also called Maximushöhle (Maximus Cave) and is the highest chapel on site. It was first mentioned in a document in 1178, the year in which it was consecrated by Archbishop Konrad III of Wittelsbach. It is dedicated to St Maximus, who was mistakenly associated with St Maximianus of Ioviacum. The outer wall was erected after a rockfall and has three round-arched windows. The cave has a niche and a round apse. The clay altars were created in 1860 after designs by Georg Pezolt.
This chapel is responsible for the catacomb legend. The Abbot of St. Peter from 1525 to 1535, Kilian Püttricher, brought it to life as he misinterpreted the legend of priest Maximus.
In 477, when the Romans withdrew and abandoned the province, Maximus used the catacombs as a hiding place from the barbarians. Despite a warning from Severin of Noricum, he stayed in the catacombs with 55 companions. After being besieged by the Germanic tribes, they all threw themselves from the catacombs into the depths.
The report concerning the martyrdom of St. Maximus is in the 24th chapter of the biography of St. Severin. It places the legend at Ioviacum, a Roman fort at that time in Schlögen on the Danube. Abbot Püttricher made the mistake of equating the city name Ioviacum with Iuvavum (Salzburg) and also confused the person Maximus with the priest Maximianus from Ioviacum. He even had a Latin inscription chiseled into the wall of the chapel, which added a spectacular and obviously invented story to the history of the city.
The catacombs were dug into the conglomerate either in late Roman or early Romanesque times. Nevertheless, it was not used as a cemetery, it was actually the hermitage of the monastery of St. Peter and was called Einsiedelei or Eremitorien. In the 12th century the hermitages were transformed into cave churches. The term catacombs is used since the early 19th century. The cemetery is in front of the cliff, and in the slightly elevated Kommunegruft (communal crypt) where Mozart's sister Nannerl, his friend, the composer Michael Haydn and the architect of Salzburg Cathedral, Santino Solari are buried. But it was built in front of the cliff and is definitely not a catacomb.