Walking into Petersfriedhof Historic Graveyard is an unexpected, tranquil experience. Surrounded by beautiful sculptures, intricate wrought iron, vibrant flowers and extraordinary catacombs, it’s incredibly easy to succumb to a sense of whimsy and wonder. The visit is further enriched through the history of the site, from the famous names on tombstones to the beautiful architecture of neighbouring St. Peter’s Abbey.
Dating back to 1627, the cemetery is the Salzburg’s oldest Christian graveyard. Some of the city’s most notable figures are buried here, including Mozart’s sister Nannerl and Harry Collins, commander of the US Infantry Division who liberated Dachau concentration camp in World War II. All plots are beautifully maintained and it is commonplace to find lit candles surrounding every headstone and stunning bouquets of fir branches and pansy flowers. While the famous inhabitants and peaceful beauty of the site are key drawcards for most visitors, The Sound of Music aficionados come to the cemetery to visit the inspiration for the famous scene where the Von Trapp family hid from the Nazis.
Carved into the rock face above the cemetery are the catacombs, believed to date back to 215 AD. While they’re the only part of the site with an entry fee, the chapels, murals and inscriptions within are worth the price of admission. The amount of work and care taken to carve out the rooms and passageways is truly awe-inspiring and it’s hard not to gain a sense of reverence from the visit.
Located next to the graveyard is St. Peter’s Abbey, one of the oldest monasteries in the German-speaking world. With its soft palette, golden ornaments and numerous alters, this is an architectural masterpiece with a rich history. Besides containing the oldest library in Austria, the Abbey is also famous for its links to Mozart, with the famous composer conducting his Mass in C Minor here in 1783.