University Church

LINKS to pages in the Salzburg site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

1 : Mirabell Gardens and Old Town
2 : Mozart Birthplace
3 : University Church and Cathedral
4 : Funicular and Fortress
5 : Cemetery and St Peter Abbey (Basilica)
6 : Theatre,Residenz and Sachertorte

On the Universitätsplatz (University Square), a market takes place every Monday to Friday. The square leads up to another elaborate Baroque church of Salzburg, the Kollegien or Universitätskirche.


After founding the Benedictine University in Salzburg in 1623, Prince Archbishop Paris Lodron was the first to develop plans for the construction of a University Church. Its final construction, however, was a long time coming. Professors and students only had one hall, the Aula academica, in which to hold services. The hall was also used for theatre performances and other festivities.

In 1694, over 70 years later, Archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun decided to build a large church to serve the University. For its design he selected the most prominent Baroque architect of the time, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.

The construction of the University Church is considered Fischer von Erlach's most significant accomplishment. Its monumental size surpassed only by the Cathedral, the University Church with its grandiose façade is one of the most magnificent Baroque churches in Austria. Its unparalleled style later influenced late Baroque church architecture in southern Germany.

The consecration of the church began on November 20, 1707 and lasted for eight days. Unfortunately, the architect was unable to see the completion of his "crown of creation", having meanwhile lost his eyesight. The church is built on a modified Greek cross plan with a unique convex facade.


Inside, the high altar by Anton Pfaffinger (1740) incorporates classical columns representing the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Altar paintings are by Johann Michael Rottmayr.



The chapels inside the church are dedicated to the patron saints of the university's four faculties: St. Thomas Acquinas (Theology), St. Ivo (Jurisprudence), St. Luke (Medicine) and St. Catherine (Philosophy).

The University Church had a moving destiny through the years. When Napoleon's troups besieged the city in 1800 it was used as a hay store. In 1810, when Salzburg was transferred to Bavarian rule, the University was closed and the church lost its original purpose.

During the Austro-Hungarian monarchy it served as a classical secondary school and military church. In 1922 the Church provided the setting for the première of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's "Great World Theater". Since the reopening of the University of Salzburg in 1964 the Church has regained its original purpose.


The New Residenz Palace or Residenz Neugebäude (right) was built in 1588 by Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau for private purposes, but also to accommodate guests.

Prince Archbishop Max Gandolf von Kuenburg extended the Residenzplatzwing around the court library (today a post office) from 1670 to 1680. The tower extending from the western front was extended with an octagonal floor and a new roof when it was equipped with the famous "Glockenspiel" in 1701.

The 35 bells of the Glockenspiel were made in Antwerp by Melchior de Haze in 1696. Prince Archbishop Johann Ernst Graf von Thun had ordered them and they were delivered and set up in 1700. However, the typical Flemish Glockenspiel technology was a bit too much for the Salzburgians back in those days, and it took until 1702 until the court clockmaker Jeremias Sauter had managed to arrange the bells correctly.

The bells play classical tunes (usually by Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber, and his teacher in Salzburg, Michael Haydn) at 7 am, 11 am, and 6 pm, with charm and ingenuity often making up for the occasional musical inaccuracy.

From Easter to October, the bells are immediately followed by a resounding retort from perhaps the oldest mechanical musical instrument in the world, the 200-pipe 'Bull' organ housed in the Hohensalzburg Fortress.


The cathedral dome is to be seen in the picture on the left.


The gateway (above) leads into the Cathedral Square or Domplatz (left and below).



The cathedral site has hosted a Christian church since 774. The original was replaced with a late-Romanesque structure built in 1181-1200.

The Romanesque cathedral burned down in 1598 and Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich took advantage of (some would say caused) the destruction to demolish the rest and make plans for a grand new cathedral to reaffirm Salzburg's commitment to the Catholic cause in the face of the Reformation.

However, Dietrich's overthrow prevented the completion of this project. The present cathedral was commissioned by Archbishop Markus Sittikus Count Hohenems and designed by the Italian architect Santino Solari. It was consecrated in 1628 by Archbishop Paris Count Lodron.


The church's simple sepia-and-white interior, a peaceful contrast to the usual Baroque excesses, dates from a later renovation. It is decorated with elaborate Baroque murals, some of which were designed (along with the altarpieces) by Mascagni of Florence. The dome was damaged during World War II but was restored by 1959.


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