|Location:||In the city of Salzburg, Friedhof von St. Peter (cemetry St Peter).|
|Open:||MAY to SEP Tue-Sun 10:30-17. OCT to APR Wed, Thu 10:30-15:30, Fri-Sun 10:30-16. |
|Fee:||Adults EUR 1, Children (6-18) EUR 0.60, Students EUR 0.60. Groups (10+): Adults EUR 0.60. |
|Address:||Catacombs Erzabtei St. Peter (St. Peter's Monastery), A-5010 Salzburg, Tel: +43-676-7847435, Tel. +43-662-844576-0, Fax +43-662-844576-80.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|3rd century||oldest parts of the Maximushöhle built.|
|847||more caves built.|
|1178||church Gertraudiskapelle consecrated.|
At the foot of the Mönchsberg, one of the two mountains Salzburg is built between, lies the monastery St. Peter. This area is the northwestern edge of the city center. The ensemle consists of a baroque church, the monastery buildings with a college, the historic cemetery and two cave churches at the lower end of the Mönchsberg. They were hewn out of the conglomerate rock during early Christian times.
At this place between Salzach river, Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg lies the city center of Salzburg. The Celts settlet first at this place, but we know little about them, their remains were destroyed by later buildings. The first city was founded by the Romans. Named Juvavum, it was an important city of the Roman province Norikum, which was the northernmost part of the empire between Alps and Danube. But the Roman empire collapsed, the city vanished. The Frankish missionary Rupert (Hroudbert) came to the area around 700 and founded St. Peter's Church and a monastery. This is generally considered the foundation of the city of Salzburg.
The Maximushöhle is an artificial cave, originally probably an overhang, a shelter at the flank of the mountain formed as a river cave by Salzach long ago. In the early times of the monastery this place was enlarged and buildings erected inside. It is not sure why this was done. Probably it was easier to dig out the rock than to build a complete building. The cliff could be used as background wall and was much more solid than any man made wall. Probably it was a kind of hermitage for members of the monastery. The cave was originally only acessible on a small ledge in the rock. But definitely it was later a place of worship, as it was the place of two cave churches.
The ensemble is entered from the cemetery St. Peter. A staircase, hewn into the solid rock leads up to the Gertraudiskapelle (Gertraudis chapel). There is an altar, six niches hew from the rock, and a pilar which is of Roman style, with some early Gothic elements. It tells us about the time this chapel was built, it was consecrated 1178.
Now the path leads up again, on a staircase hewn into the rock, along the cliff face. We are always inside, there is a wall towards city, but sometimes windows allow fews on Salzburg, the baroque church St. Peter's, and to the small bell tower of the Gertraudiskapelle. Finally we reach the Maximushöhle, more cave, less church, two niches cut out of the rock, a pilar in between with a narrow hole, probably used for ancient rituals. There are two altars, ceramic plates from 1860. A pit is considered the former grave of Maximus, hence the name of the cave.
This whole ensemble is extremely weird, and there are much more legends and fantasies than hard facts. First for the facts: we assume the first use of this cave was made in the 3rd century, still Roman times. It was used during the middle ages for worshipping and as an eremitage. Later the two chapels were installed.
And now for the fantasy. The place is often called Salzburg Catacombs. A catacomb is generally a place were many people are buried underground. Often it is also a hiding place. Both is not the case here, so it is rather unlikely that this may be called catacombs. There is one niche, where legend tells Maximus was buried, so you could classify it as grave. But nothing really tells about this grave, there are no remains of it despite the niche.