The History of Fortress Hohensalzburg

Symbolic for the power of the archbishops

Fortress Hohensalzburg - Medieval life
Salzburg – the city of Mozart – is overlooked by the walls of Fortress Hohensalzburg, one of the largest existing 11th century fortress complexes in Europe. This imposing monument is a remarkable sign of the desire for recognition expressed by the prince bishops - and a demonstration of the political authority and power they held. The fortifications were built to protect the prince bishops and the principality itself from attack. Actually, the fortress never faced a real siege. Most of the time the prince bishops lived in the palace at the heart of Salzburg town known as the ‘Residenz’.

The steep cone-shaped rock had already been seen as strategically beneficial vantage point on the northern edge of the Alps for centuries. In 1077 the archbishop of the time, Gebhard I of Helffenstein, ordered the erection of a castle above the city of his residence. Building work was triggered by an investiture dispute between the German emperor, Heinrich IV, and Pope Gregor VII, who was supported by the archbishopric of Salzburg.

Although Archbishop Gebhard was forced into exile in 1085, his successors completed the building. Fortress Hohensalzburg was constructed in three main phases, responding to the development of powerful weaponry with an ever greater range by further fortifying the castle. Intensive building work under the rule of Archbishop Leonard von Keutschach around 1500 completed the fortress as it can be seen today. In 1501 under his regency the ‘Upper Level’ was developed into a ‘pallas’, cisterns were installed and the existing towers raised.