Nestled in the center of Salzburg, the catacombs of St. Peter’s Abbey are an integral part of the oldest church and cemetery in the city.
Constructed during the 1100s, the catacombs were impressively carved into the Mönchsberg mountain. In antiquity, the caves were seen as a mystical site that served as a sacred burial location and a place reserved for Christian hermitage.
The monastic brotherhood established when St Peter’s Church was founded in the 7th century is still active, making it the oldest monastic order in the German-speaking world. The catacombs are also among the oldest in Austria and are well maintained, containing the preserved remains of altars, relics, tombs, inscriptions, and faded murals that all date back to antiquity.
Additionally, the catacombs are of great cultural significance. Both Michael Haydn and Mozart’s sister, Nannerl are buried near the entrance of the catacombs. The catacombs and cemetery were also featured in the 1965 film, The Sound of Music. At one point in the film, the Trapp family flees from National Socialists through St. Peter’s Cemetery, and ultimately take refuge in the catacombs before escaping to Switzerland.
Currently, there are two levels of catacombs open to the public. The first, “Gertrauden Chapel,” dates back to 1178 and the second, the “Maximus Chapel,” lies nearly 40 steps higher and is arguably much older. The windows and balcony from the catacombs provide a breathtaking view of the city and offer an experience that can’t be missed.
Know Before You Go
The entrance to the catacombs is located in the cemetery behind St Peter's Church at the graves of Mozart’s sister Nannerl and Michael Haydn. Entry is year-round, cash only, and only two euros for adults to enter. The stairs are very steep and do not have a handrail in most places, walking shoes with a grip a must.