Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Location: Salzburg, Festungsberg mountain   Map

Tel (0662) 842430-11

Open: Jan-Apr & Oct-Dec: 9:30am- 5pm

Easter & Advent weekend: 9am-6pm

May- Sep: 9am- 7pm


Description of Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress is the landmark of the city of Salzburg. It lies on a mountain above the city, the Festungsberg, which continues north-west into the Mönchsberg. The foothills to the east of the fortress hill is called Nonnberg, on which the Benedictine women's monastery Nonnberg is located directly below the eastern outer facilities of the fortress - the Nonnberg bastions. With a built-up area of over 7,000 m² (including the bastions over 14,000 m²), Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest castle complexes in Europe, dating back to the 11th century. As one of the largest completely preserved castles in Central Europe, it has over a million visitors a year, making it the most frequently visited sight in Austria outside of Vienna, although in the federal capital it is only surpassed by Schönbrunn Palace and Zoo and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (visitor statistics 2017).



In 1077 Gebhard (1010-1088) started building a residential tower - which today still represents the core of the Hoher Stock - a small church and a small residential building together with the associated wall ring. However, since Gebhard had to go into exile in the course of the Investiture Controversy, this construction was only completed under the counter-archbishop Berthold von Moosburg, appointed by the emperor, and under Archbishop Konrad von Abenberg (1106-1147).

From the 12th century to the 14th century, the construction of the outer ring of fortifications largely determined the extent of the castle as it is today.

In 1462, under Burkhard II von Weißpriach (1461–1466), the ring wall was reinforced by four towers (bell tower, trumpeter tower, herb tower, and blacksmith or prisoner tower), the eastern entrance over the Nonnberg was protected by a meter-thick wall and the south side of the castle by a wall attached a bastion.

Under Weißpriach's successor, Bernhard von Rohr (1466–1481), the old ring wall was raised from 1479 and the so-called snake passage was built, which served as a defense to the east towards the Nonntal and Nonnberg Abbey.

John III Beckenschlager (1481-1489) had the "Hohen Stock" converted into a four-storey residential building. In addition, there was the first arsenal and the granary. The coat of arms of Beckenschlager can still be found on this today - the oldest coat of arms still existing on Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Leonhard von Keutschach (1495–1519) continued to expand the fortress between 1495 and 1519 and thus gave a visible sign of his power in times of increasing war danger. He had the upper floor expanded on the second and third floors and extended it with the storey house that was built on the site of the earlier chapel. In the course of his reign, the fortress became an elegant late-Gothic seat of government, as the magnificent princely chambers still show today.

To improve the water supply in the event of a siege, the archbishop had a large new cistern built and some existing towers raised. The Reißzug, today the world's oldest surviving funicular, the Kuchlturm and the bakery as well as several gates (Rosspforte, Schleuderpforte) and the building at the Höllenpforte were created under Leonhard von Keutschach (or his predecessor). The most striking work is the organ in the Krautturm, the Salzburg Bull, which is operated with a cylinder – similar to an oversized music box. Today it is the oldest operating organ horn factory in the world.

The funds for the brisk building activity came mainly from the salt mines on Dürrnberg near Hallein, but also from mining in the Tauern. In 1555, when gold mining was at its peak, annual production was just under 831 kg. The experienced miners, often fetched from northern Germany, formed a strong nucleus of resistance against the archbishop's power in the following peasant wars.

Under Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg (1519-1540) these peasant uprisings reached their peak. From July 5 to August 31, 1525, farmers and miners besieged the prince-archbishop in his fortress. This dispute is the greatest challenge for Hohensalzburg Fortress in its 900-year history. The fortress, however, remained impregnable.

For Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1587–1612), the expansion of the fortifications was of little importance; as a builder, he devoted himself primarily to his diverse building projects in the city. Nevertheless, the castle became his destiny. He was held captive here by his successor Markus Sittikus von Hohenems (1612–1619) until the end of his life.

During the Thirty Years' War, Paris von Lodron (1619–1653) had the city of Salzburg fortified on both sides of the Salzach with spacious new fortifications; Hohensalzburg Castle in the south of the city was then expanded into a modern fortress. This is how the mighty Hasengraben bastions, including the armory and the expanded Nonnberg bastions, came into being during his reign. He also had the first barrier arch (Lodron arch) and other powerful outbuildings such as the "Katze" outwork, including the two gates and the barrier wall on the gap, built or significantly expanded to protect against the artillery, which had become stronger. He also strengthened all the defensive walls that connected the fortress to the city of Salzburg and the Mönchsberg.

Under Max Gandolf von Kuenburg (1668–1687), the 30 m high and several meters thick fire bastion (also called the Kuenburg bastion) was built on the north side in 1681 as the youngest large defensive structure of the fortress.

According to an inventory from 1790, the armory contained more than 100 pieces of complete armor for riders, more than 1100 breastplates, spears and helmet beards. There were also 415 mortars, 460 iron and 130 bronze cannons. However, many of them were probably already militarily obsolete at the time.


During the Napoleonic Wars, the city offered no resistance to the invading French, and the fortress was handed over to the French without a fight. Therefore, this castle did not have to be razed by order of the French and, in contrast to the castle on the Schloßberg in Graz, was preserved.

Due to the subsequent neglect and a fire in 1849, an extensive restoration had to be carried out in 1851, which primarily related to the interior. In the years that followed, the fortress was eventually used as a depot and barracks. In 1861 Hohensalzburg was abandoned as a fortress by Franz Joseph I, but continued to be used as barracks.

In 1892, for tourism reasons, the fortress railway to the Hasengrabenbastei was built, which was initially operated with water power. The former home of Michael Haydn was destroyed. In the years 1951 to 1981 a complex static protection of the entire system was carried out. The castle, formerly owned by the Prince Archbishop, has belonged to the State of Salzburg since 2016.

As a symbol of the city of Salzburg, it is primarily used for tourism.


Building history

prehistory and antiquity
The city of Salzburg is located at an incision in the northern lowlands into the Alps, directly on the Salzach River, which forms an easily controllable narrow valley and thus offers the best topographical conditions for settlement. In fact, there are a number of Celtic hilltop settlements on the mountains around Salzburg, small and large bases even on the city mountains, such as on the Rainberg, the Hellbrunnerberg, the Kapuzinerberg and the Festungsberg. These places may have been abandoned when the Roman city was founded and its inhabitants forced to relocate. Oppida were probably no longer necessary and no longer desirable.

Roman Salzburg came into being around the middle of the 1st century AD. Pliny the Elder describes Juvavum as one of three Noric foundations raised to the status of a city under Emperor Claudius. The city was probably already largely developed under Nero. Findings from this period have also been made at the Hohensalzburg Fortress, one can imagine an unfortified sanctuary here for the time being.

With increased Germanic invasions in the Salzburg area, larger fortifications may soon have developed here. Numerous fire horizons can be found in the city at the same time, but not above, but neither the finds nor the sparse remains of the wall are sufficient for precise reconstructions. In late antiquity, a large part of the remaining population moved to safe retreats, especially to the fortress hill, the old Roman infrastructure in the valley was abandoned. Under Valentinian, a small burgus of the Legio II Italica is suspected on the fortress hill, which lay on several terraces in the middle of a larger settlement.

Traces of Bavarian settlement
Under Saint Severin around 470, Salzburg was a late Roman Christian city with three churches. After the Romans left, burial grounds and a mausoleum at the foot of the mountain document continuous settlement on the Nonnberg and the Festungsberg. Historical sources from the early Middle Ages suggest that the Dukes of Bavaria also resided in Salzburg in the 7th and 8th centuries. Theudebert III. (Theodo III., *around 685, † after 716) even had his seat in Salzburg or on the Festungsberg after the country was briefly divided into four by his father Theodebergt II. An "upper castle" - the castrum superior - located on the Nonnberg - is documented for the first time in 696. However, it is not a forerunner of the Hohensalzburg Fortress, but included the fortress hill in the outdoor facilities. The Martinskirche, which belongs to the fortress, also stood on the Nonnberg. Their patron saint points to the national saint of the Frankish kingdom, whose Merovingian kings had installed the Bavarian Agilolfinger family. The Agilolfingers, who were related to the Lombard royal family, strived for an independent regional policy in Bavaria. They closed themselves to the growing Carolingian influence, established their own national church with strong ties to their own ducal residences and conducted their own negotiations with enemies of the empire, which is why Tassilo III. Subjugated by Charlemagne in 788. His duchy was abolished and partitioned.

With the fall of the Agilolfingen dukes, the settlement of the fortress hill probably also ended. Only the lower Nonnberg terrace with the women's convent remained inhabited. In any case, there are no tangible traces on the summit plateau until the 11th century.

The city of Salzburg developed under Arn, who was made archbishop by Charlemagne, to become the metropolitan of the Eastern Alps and later the metropolitan of the German-speaking area. From a world point of view, Salzburg initially remained of little importance as part of Bavaria. This changed in the Investiture Controversy (12th century), in which the emperor and pope fought for supremacy. Both tried to win over the local leaders through donations and privileges, which enabled them to increase their political and economic power.


The Romanesque castle
The greatest beneficiary of this policy was Archbishop Gebhard, who rose rapidly from imperial confessor to chancellor and in 1060 to archbishop of Salzburg. However, instead of subordinating himself to his imperial benefactor or the pope, he pursued the creation of his own suffragan bishopric, which he finally set up in Gurk with mutual concessions (1072). This unique legal position, which removed the influence of the pope and emperor in the election of bishops (three more such bishoprics were to follow under Eberhard II), greatly strengthened the position of the Salzburg archbishops. Gebhard was courted by both sides. He sided with the pope, since the emperor was to be denied the right to appoint ecclesiastical offices. For Salzburg, the conflict meant political uncertainty. Church property was plundered, and the divided nobility received many concessions. In 1076 the most important base in Salzburg south of the Alps in Friesach was attacked by the Styrian Margrave. In response, according to his biographer, around 1077 Gebhard had several fortifications built. This is how the Lueg pass barrier came into being, which controlled the most important crossing point from the Eastern Alps to Italy, as well as the three state castles of Friesach, Hohenwerfen and Hohensalzburg. It is said that the emperor could not travel through Salzburg on his way back from Italy and had to cede the margraviates of Friuli, Carniola and Istria to Aquileia in order to be able to at least cross the steep passes of Carinthia. Nevertheless, Gebhard had to flee after returning. The emperor appointed an anti-bishop, who, however, was unable to assert himself against the loyal gentry. In 1086 Gebhard was able to move back into Salzburg. He died in Hohenwerfen Castle in 1088. These events demonstrate the rise of Salzburg to political power, the importance of the local nobility and secure fortifications. The real power was manifested in the castles. At the end of the 11th century, when imperial authority was called into question, many castles were built nationwide, which elevated them to the actual bearers of territorial power.

In 1105 Heinrich V, the son and anti-king of Emperor Heinrich IV, elected his confessor Konrad anti-archbishop of Salzburg. This favorite, who was known to be ostentatious, expelled the imperial bishop, conquered his Hohensalzburg fortress and had numerous buildings erected in the city (new episcopal residence, cathedral conversion with two towers, two cathedral cloisters, Mönchsberg water tunnel (Alm canal), poor hospital, several monastery and suffragan bishop's courts and oldest city fortification). The archbishop's castles were intended to secure the residence city and neuralgic points of rule. Salzburg, Werfen and Friesach were expanded into fortresses. In contrast to the city residence, which was used for religious events, the fortress was primarily used for profane demonstrations of power, which can be explained by the archbishop's noble origins and his political ambitions.

The Romanesque main fortress of Hohensalzburg was given a mighty crenellated outer ring wall with wall parts that ran as straight as possible, which had tower-like heights due to the constant height at the steeply sloping corners. This resulted in a 150 m long front to the city. At that time, the dolomite from the fortress hill was almost exclusively used as building material for the castle. An inner ring wall and a large residential tower in the south of today's Hoher Stock completed the fortifications. Long areas of this 450 m high Romanesque outer ring from the early 12th century have been preserved, but the gate area and indications of the inner structure are missing. At that time more than 30 ministeriales lived in the castle, who probably had their own representative buildings. There were stables, barns and handicraft businesses, but the remains of these have disappeared due to later building and the large-scale elevation of the mountain.


In the middle of the castle complex, clearly visible from the town, next to a small inner courtyard and above the older castle chapel, a building was erected with a large ballroom - magnificently decorated with large window arcades and richly painted - the structure of which has partially survived to this day. The old chapel was right next to the large ring wall, its gallery could be reached directly from the hall building via a small arched portal or a high passage. The old chapel was also lavishly furnished with a new gallery, stucco applications and extensive painting. This castle chapel had only recently been discovered during excavations and – as far as it was preserved – uncovered. Associated architectural parts such as wedge stones and stucco arches were found, so the architecture of the chapel can be reconstructed well. The picturesque furnishings, on the other hand, have hardly been preserved. The second main layer dates from around 1140, verified dendrochronologically. Parts that have been reassembled allow connections to the preserved base zone, to room corners and window frames. Based on these indications, there are three main areas, a pseudo-marbled base, a figure frieze and a crowning window zone with a meander band. Groups of figures and medallions suggest a counter-scene to the main characters.

The outstanding importance of the high medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress lies not only in the largely preserved building structure and the chapel furnishings, which are remarkable in terms of art history - gypsum stucco is used here for the first time north of the Alps - in the direct adoption of sacred building elements in the secular building. The large arcade windows are borrowed from the contemporary cloister architecture, and the frescoes in the ballroom by church painters are also unique for this period.

During the 46-year reign of Eberhard II (1200-1246), Salzburg experienced a peak in castle building. At the Hohensalzburg nuclear facility, several large construction phases can be proven during this time, which were apparently intended to take into account an increasing need for representative rooms. First, a transverse rectangular building was added to the old core of the Hoher Stock, which was divided into parts of equal size by narrow inner walls. The banquet hall received a new fresco, which could probably be carried out on the basis of the emperor's privilege for spiritual principalities, which was enforced at the time.

The Gothic Castle
A part of the new building was soon demolished, the small inner courtyard was built over, a multi-storey lavatory was built, creating a homogeneous structure measuring 22 × 33 m with a front staircase. A central hall can be interpreted as a forerunner of the Gothic palace building with its central corridor system.

In the 15th century the main castle of Hohensalzburg was expanded almost exclusively, and gun turrets capable of firing were built, and thus the first real towers in the castle, which were only built in response to the new firearms. Under Leonhard von Keutschach, a contemporary of Emperor Maximilian, the upgrade to a towering symbol of sovereign power took place around 1500. At that time, this archbishop had the castle expanded into a well-fortified modern residential palace. The artistic highlight was the construction of several princely chambers, which represent a major European work of Gothic art thanks to their well-preserved stonemasonry, carvings and stove works.

The fortress in the Renaissance and Baroque periods
In the early 17th century, Europe was torn apart by the Thirty Years' War between the Protestant Union and the Catholic League. In 1632, 1646 and 1648 even the Bavarian Elector fled to Hohensalzburg Fortress with his treasury. Archbishop Paris von Lodron (1619-1654) managed to protect Salzburg from attacks by massively upgrading his bulwarks. From 1620, the entire old town was surrounded by strong new fortifications and bulwarks, which included the entire Mönchsberg and Festungsberg. The costly entrenchment work was directed by the master builder Santino Solari. From 1633 to 1645 the fortress also received the long overdue reinforcement of the medieval ring walls. All the wooden battlements still in existence and almost all of the high tower roofs and the high roof of the Hoher Stock were removed. Instead, strong new bastions were built in the south-west, west and east, with large walls reaching far into the surrounding fortress hill. Underground stairs connected to several sally ports. The gateway was strengthened by the conversion of the mayor's gate, the first barrier arch, the two embrasure gates and the far advanced cat above the Petersfriedhof. To accommodate the significantly reinforced artillery park, the large armory was expanded between the Ross and Schleuder gates, in the Hoher Stock two-storey cellars (today the Marionette Museum) were broken into the rock and in 1644 the initially very high hall of the firing passage was divided by a mezzanine. To accommodate the soldiers, new crew quarters were created near the Reißzug, and prison cells were built in the horizontal tower.

Under Max Gandolf von Kuenburg (1668-1687) the large Kuenburgbastei was built in 1681 because of a possible collapse of the northern Zwinger, but above all because of the danger of the advancing Turkish armies (Siege of Vienna in 1683). On the side, its more than 30 m high bastion is accompanied by a small weir with further casemates. Franz Anton von Harrach (1709-1727) had the dining house built and renovated the Schlangengang along with the mayor's tower. As a result, only minor measures such as repairs and small, stronger retaining walls were carried out; after 1789 the inventory of the arsenal was liquidated.

From Austrian barracks to tourism magnet
In the 18th century, the Archbishopric of Salzburg, which had been independent until then, was increasingly drawn into European alliance politics and its coalition wars. The supply of weapons stored in armories was impressive, and only a few remained in Salzburg. One of the oldest of all, a medieval slingshot located under the Roßpforte, was only sold to the owners of Kreuzenstein Castle in the 19th century. After the unfavorable course of the Battle of Hohenlinden, Prince-Archbishop Colloredo had to flee from the advancing troops who later fought at Wals. Salzburg was secularized in 1803 (the archdiocese was separated from the secular principality) and in 1805 it was incorporated into the Austrian monarchy. As early as 1851, the great artistic importance of the Gothic princely chambers was recognized and they were extensively restored. In 1861, Emperor Franz Josef I abolished the fortress character, and several old arsenals and depots were then demolished. The Hohe Stock remained a barracks ("Hohe-Stock-Barracks") until 1883. Outbuildings were used as a clothing store and detention center until 1918, and the Rainer regiment was stationed here from 1912 to 1914. With the increase in tourism, the fortress railway and Johann's home were built in 1891 Michael Haydn's was converted into a valley station. The restoration of the horn work of the "Salzburg bull" followed, which had already been renewed in 1753 by Johann Rochus Egedacher.

After the world wars and ten years of occupation, the fortress was able to position itself again as a symbol of the city in the growing stream of tourists. Numerous cultural events, such as the summer painters' academy introduced by Oskar Kokoschka, the medieval festival and the Advent market, the various museums and collections as well as the famous concerts in the Golden Hall ensure that the old walls are revived and the ongoing restoration work is financed, so that the Hohensalzburg Fortress can look forward to a positive future after 1100 years of existence.


From 2015 to 2016, extensive renovation measures were carried out, in which a company from neighboring Bavaria with experience in monument preservation was also involved.

All in all, it can be shown quite well, historically and structurally, that the Hohensalzburg Fortress in the High Middle Ages did not correspond to a “normal” noble castle in terms of its size and importance, but rather had a supra-regional character as a “princely” fortification and residence-like magnificent building from the very beginning. Of national relevance is the early evidence of artists trained in sacred buildings, who created a high point of medieval power development in their disciplines of architecture, stonemasonry, stucco and painting on a secular building that could compete with the great imperial castles.

On September 2017, smaller blasts were started for a planned six-week period in order to set up two fire-fighting water tanks or ponds in the rock of the fortress. The last fire in the fortress was in 1840, but because of the difficult supply of extinguishing water, one wants to make provisions for a possible major fire without having to use the drinking water supply.

After a storm in October 2018 severely damaged the roofs of the armory and the granary, these were renewed between July and November 2019. The roof truss was reinforced with historical waste wood and a total of approx. 80,000 Eternit shingles and five tons of copper sheeting were laid.


Todays use

Hohensalzburg is a crowd puller thanks to its good condition and location. The outer fortifications can be visited without a guide; a guided tour with audio guides is available for an interior part of the tour (salt magazine, torture chamber, stretching tower, battlements, Salzburg bull); the interiors on the upper floor (princely chambers, museums) are visited on their own. Since July 2009 there has been a "Special Guided Tour" in German and English during the summer months, which has to be paid for separately and during which disguised castle staff take visitors on a walk through the 16th century. Rooms that are otherwise closed, such as the Pfisterei (old bakery), the wine cellar, the Kuenburgbastei or the quadrangular weir can only be visited on such special tours.

Admission to the outdoor area is free for residents of the federal state of Salzburg.

In addition to the tours, there are regular concerts, and the church is also used, for example for church weddings or on a few selected holidays. The fortress also houses the Salzburg Marionette Museum with historical inventory from the Salzburg Marionette Theater and the Museum of the Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment Archduke Rainer Regiment No. 59. Courses at the Salzburg International Summer Academy for Fine Arts also take place.