The castle that gave its name to the city of Salzburg
The Hohensalzburg fortress, which is enthroned in prominent positions above the city of Salzburg, is the most dominant point in the city’s skyline. The Hohensalzburg Fortress is the biggest medieval castle in Europe and also one of the best-preserved castles. On a guided tour through the castle, which was built in 1077, you will hear plenty of interesting information about the castle itself and you can gain some authentic insights into medieval life in Salzburg. It is definitely worth climbing up to the castle to enjoy fantastic views over Salzburg and the surrounding mountains and valleys.
To get you in the mood for visiting the city’s landmark, here you can watch a short 8-minute film which provides you with an introduction to the castle and shows Salzburg’s landmark from a completely different angle.
History of the Hohensalzburg Fortress
In 1077 Prince Archbishop Gebhard decided to build the first castle on the top of the Mönchsberg Mountain above the city of Salzburg. His successors rebuilt the castle several times, finally completing the formidable fortress. Today the Hohensalzburg fortress contains a huge tower with living accommodation, two big halls, a church, several auxiliary buildings and a weir system.
Prince Archbishop Burkhard von Weisspriach (1461-1466) built the four round towers along the outer wall for a better defence.
Prince Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach (1495-1519) expanded the castle and switched its main focus from a strategic to a representative one. He added several floors to the “Hoher Stock” tower and extended the existing towers. In the “Krautturm” tower he installed the “Salzburger Stier”, a mechanical organ instrument to warn the people in case of attack. The money he used came from the mines in the Alps where at that time one third of the world’s gold production was extracted. The dissatisfaction and the resistance against the Prince Archbishops resulted in a siege of the castle in Salzburg and its lords for 14 days in 1525.
Legend of the “Salzburger Stierwascher”
In 1525, rebellious farmers and miners rose up against the unpopular Prince Archbishop and his attendance and besieged the castle. After a few days food stocks in the castle began to run low, and so they decided to outsmart the insurgents. Every day they painted their “last bull” in different colours and guided him demonstratively along the outer walls. The demoralised insurgents finally gave up what seemed to them to be a hopeless siege after 14 days, believing that the besieged had a stock of food that would last several months.
Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich (1587–1612)
Although Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich dedicated himself to development of the city of Salzburg, the Hohensalzburg fortress became his destiny. His successor Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus (1612-1619) held him captive in one of the towers up to his death in 1617.
Prince Archbishop Paris Lodron (1619-1653) mounted the city of Salzburg with defensive constructions during the baroque period and integrated the Hohensalzburg fortress into the defensive strategy. Under his rule the medieval castle was rebuilt into a modern castle. During the Napoleonic era the fortress became less important because of the modern weapons. The French occupied the Hohensalzburg fortress without a struggle.
In 1803 the Arch Princedom ended, and in 1816 Salzburg became part of the Habsburg monarchy and Austria. The military purpose of the Hohensalzburg fortress finally ended under the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1861.
Since 1900 the Hohensalzburg fortress is the second most visited tourist attraction in Austria and today it is often used for concerts und events in Salzburg.