In around the year 700, the Franconian missionary Rupert came to Salzburg and founded St. Peter’s Church and an abbey in Roman Juvavum. The brotherhood that called this abbey home have existed on German land through the centuries until today without interruption.
Under Abbot Bishop Arno, a friend of Karl the Great, Salzburg was promoted to an archdiocese. In May 1127, the church and the building burned to the ground, and Abbot Balderich commissioned a three-storey romantic basillica that was constructed between 1130 and 1143. The church and abbey area was changed several times over the following years. One of Salzburg’s oldest Gothic buildings, St. Veit’s Chapel, was built in 1319. The majestic romantic portal was built in around 1240. The transition to Rococo style was made in the 18th century under the enterprising Abbot Beda Seeauer, who was fond of art. In the first half of the 20th century, Arch Abbot Petrus Klotz founded the Collegium Benedictinum with facade frescoes by Anton Faistauer.
The romantic construction is more visible from inside St. Peter’s Church. The several alterpieces express the church’s Rococo style. Some of the alterpieces were created by Martin Johann Schmidt, also known as Kremser-Schmidt, one of the best known painters of alterpieces in the 18th century. The two huge bronze Renaissance lights from 1609 were a gift from Archbishop Wolf Dietrich.
Ownership of the new building was split up: the cellar and the main floor, which became a gallery for paintings, belonged to the Archbishop, and the other rooms were owned by the Abbot. This “long gallery” was based on a construction method developed in 16th century Italy: a long corridor with windows on one side and paintings on the other. All of the windows face north to allow for even but indirect light on the paintings. The long gallery is one of the earliest examples of these buildings north of the Alps. The Archbishop’s collection of paintings included works by Peter Paul Rubens, Johann Heinrich Schönfeld and other renowned artists. After the end of the Archbishop’s rule in 1803, the collection was dissolved and a large number of the paintings ended up in Vienna. The room itself was given to St. Peter’s Abbey in 1819.
From 2001 to 2009, St. Peter’s had the long gallery thoroughly renovated. The gallery is now open to the public via the Cathedral Museum.
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