As soon as we arrived in Salzburg's old town, I headed straight to the cemetery. It was a little hard to find since this part of town is made up of a series of courtyards and maps don't show which ones are enclosed and which ones are thoroughfares but, after a little trial and error, I found my way.
Petersfriedhof and Catacombs
When researching things to do in Salzburg, it crossed my mind to look up cemeteries (because that's the kind of thing I do on holiday) and discovered Petersfriedhof- St Peter's Cemetery. This small graveyard, the oldest in Salzburg, is in the grounds of St Peter's Abbey and dates back to 1139. It was also the inspiration for the cemetery scene in The Sound of Music so it was at the top of my list!
I've never been in a cemetery like this before! Unlike our heavy stone monuments, these were mostly made up of intricate wrought iron and, as it's a Catholic burial ground, most are decorated with the most beautiful religious imagery. As they're all hand painted, there's something very charming and almost chilling about them. This was the only cemetery I visited while in Austria so I'm not sure if this style is commonplace or if it's unique to this graveyard/ Salzburg.
Very few of the grave markers were the stone or bronze figures that I'm used to seeing in the UK, so those that were really stood out. I'm not entirely sure but I think the woman above may be holding edelweiss in her hand. The copper girl is hauntingly beautiful too. Her face is just so serene and lifelike. Interestingly, I found a tree-inspired headstone that is remarkably like the ones I've only ever seen in Manchester's Southern Cemetery before.
Among the ornate designs and traditional figures were also some more unusual monuments, such as the Roman soldier and helmet or this flaming torch. I spotted a fair few headstones with images too- this was the oldest I could find but the carvings were so worn that I couldn't make out the date, although it looks like he was born in March 1788 (although this doesn't seem to match up with how old he looks and when this photo was likely to have been taken so I'm confused!) I posted a full photo on Twitter here so let me know if you can work it out!
The cemetery is lined by these gated plots which are recognisable from the recreations in the film, although the monuments here are flat against the wall so you certainly couldn't hide a family of 9 behind them. You'll also notice that the headstones in the musical are more similar to the ones we see in the UK and USA. Rolf couldn't exactly conceal himself behind the curved iron markers, that's for sure!
After exploring the small cemetery, we headed to the catacombs onsite. It cost 2 euros each for entry. The lady taking payment has my dream job- she was sitting in the little booth inside the catacombs, reading her book as there was only one customer every 15 minutes or so. Sounds perfect to me!
Rather than being dug into the ground, the catacombs were carved out of the mountain from already existing, natural caves, so when you walk into the first room (where Mozart's sister is buried), you are faced with a steep stone staircase. At the top of these steps is the Gertraudenkapelle which was first used in 1178 and is still used for mass today. The walls are decorated with murals of the saints such as Thomas a Becket. I'm not sure if the painting above is portraying someone being knighted or if it's someone- possibly Becket himself- taking a sword to the head.
A further set of steps lead up to a viewing platform which give a wonderful view over the city (some of these photos were taken from there) and access to a small bell tower, with a sign saying "Please do not ring the bell", which made me laugh.
After a final staircase, we reached the Maximuskapelle. What's interesting about this is that the windows are made of the same glass roundels used in Manchester's John Rylands Library. I remember the library guide telling us that the very best materials were sourced from all over Europe, so I suspect the glass was shipped over from the German/ Austrian border.
There are so many cemeteries in Salzburg (13, according to Wikipedia) and I'll definitely be exploring some more on my return, but I fully recommend Petersfriedhof to anyone visiting the city. Rather than being morbid or eerie, it's a peaceful, colourful pocket of Salzburg which sees a lot of visitors. Just don't expect to be able to recreate scenes from the film!
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