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e. The 'gloomy' Middle-Ages

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urban history

The gloomy Middle-Ages?
Salzburg in the Middle-Ages - was it really that gloomy?

Emperor Friedrich I. Barbarossa was soon in disputes with the papacy – over multiple concerns. Thus Salzburg’s Archbishop Konrad II. von Babenberg had to pick one party. On the one hand he was the uncle of Friedrich, but on the other hand he was also leader of the Paptists. At the end of the story Salzburg was put under the imperial ban, a kind of outlawry, in 1096. One year later the Counts of Plain took advantage of the situation. The imperial party-goers not only plundered the city of Salzburg but they also played with fire in the worst ways. The fire almost destroyed the entire city. Eventually Barbarossa took Salzburg under his own wings and appointed his nephew as the bishop.

Ten years later, briefly after the Peace of Venice, Konrad III. von Wittelsbach began to reconstruct the city. He was a cardinal and donated the legendary Roman Cathedral, which used to be 20 metres longer than it is today.  

In the 13th century Salzburg had already developed to become an important trading town. Its location near the crossing of important European trading routes was essential to its economic development. The merchants of Salzburg ranked second in trade with Venice – behind only the Nuremberg merchants. The trade with Vienna was an inherent part of the trade development.

The Archbishopric of Salzburg gradually dissociated from the Bavarian power structure. This process was supported through the acquisition of land and important sovereign rights. In 1322 Friedrich III. von Leibnitz, who was the Archbishop of Salzburg at that time, fought together with the Hapsburgs against the Bavarians. This dispute in which the people of Salzburg and the Hapsburgs suffered a defeat, went down in history as the “Battle of Mühldorf”.

In 1328 Friedrich enacted the first “Landesordnung”. In the course of time the people of Salzburg had slowly refrained from the Bavarians and the Duchy of Bavaria. Friedrich’s successor already spoke of “his” land Salzburg. From then on Salzburg was called the sovereign “Fürsterzbistum Salzburg”.

A proud bourgeoisie formed because of positive developments in trade. Salzburg’s first municipal laws were introduced in 1287.

On demands of the wealthy bourgeoisie the Stadtpfarrkirche (1452, today Franziskanerkirche) hired an impressive gothic hall choir. Michael Pacher from South Tyrol was given the task to carve the biggest winged altar of the late Gothic (17m height, 1484).

The “Ratsbrief” issued by Emperor Friedrich III. in 1481 granted the people of Salzburg the right to elect their own city council and mayor. The Archbishop Leonard von Keutschach was very powerful and cunning. In 1511 he deprived the people of Salzburg many of the rights that they had fought for. He set up a dinner on the fortress and invited the mayor and the city councillor who followed the invitation unsuspectingly. Before the dinner had started the councilmen were arrested and tortured until they renounced their rights.

In 1523/24 Mätthaus Lang became the successor of Keutschach. He issued new regulations for the police, which ensured absolute control to the lords. This regulation was implemented until the end of the ecclesiastical rule in 1803.

Simultaneously Protestantism was – like in all other parts of the empire – gaining importance. Still it was fought against, which was next to enormous tax burdens the reason why farmers and mine operators started a revolt in 1525. Cardinal Archbishop Matthäus Lang was forced to retreat into the fortress Hohensalzburg. Seditious besiegers of the fortress were threatened by an army, provided by the Swabian League, and ultimately had to flee. Many of them were persecuted and slaughtered cruelly.

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