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! Mary and Jesus Grave Painting
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 Salzburg Headstone painting St Peter's Cemetery Salzburg Catholic cemetery
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.
Stumpfogger Petersfriedhof Bronze girl monument Petersfriedhof Petersfriedhof und Katakomben Stone memorial Petersfriedhof 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.
Tree branch headstone Austria Iron grave marker Flaming torch headstone Roman soldier and helmet headstone Headstone portrait
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! 
St Peter's Cemetery in Salzburg Familie Dom Headstone Salzburg Jesus grave marker Sound of Music Cemetery
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!
Wrought iron headstone Petersfriedhof Catacombs Catacomb paintings skeleton 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! St Peter's Catacombs Salzburg Thomas a Becket Petersfriedhof Catacombs Mural
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.
St Peter's Graveyard Salzburg Austria Salzburg bell tower
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. 
Petersfriedof Katakomben Salzburg Natual Catacombs
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.
Religious symbolism in cemeteries Petersfriedhof Sound of Music Cemetery Location Mayrhofer Salzburg Austrian Cemetery
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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  1. Oh wow, your pictures are incredible. This is so ornate, I've never seen a cemetery like this (and as you know, I'm like you when it comes to being fascinated). Love this post.

    Sarah x

  2. I'm not sure if I should ever describe a cemetery as beautiful, but there really is no other word. Definitely added this to one of my places to visit!

    Beka. xo | littleworldofbeka

  3. This looks like such a beautiful place of rest, not something that would immediately strike me as somewhere to go in Salzburg but if I ever go again then maybe I will

  4. These photos are so lovely, normally cemeteries seem like such dark, depressing places but this one kind of brings death to life. I think the departed would much rather have a beautiful head stone than a grim slab of concrete any day!


  5. SOOOOOO exciting to see that staircase to the catacombs!! When I was a child, I saw that word in 'The Ship of Adventure' by Enid Blyton and I've always wanted to see some!! The photos are beautiful. What care and craftsmanship in taking care of the dead!

  6. Great photos - this looks like a fascinating place to visit. I love that it's the inspiration for The Sound of Music too! x x


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