The Benedictine Convent on Nonnberg
The convent can be reached on foot over the Hoher Weg, from the Kaigasse over the steps of the Nonnbergstiege and from Nonntal through a narrow lane. The early history of the convent´s construction is obscure. The oldest convent church, probably located near the crypt of St. Ernetrudis, is believed to have been destroyed by fire. Emperor Heinrich II and his wife Kunigunde built a Romanesque basilica, consecrated to the Holy Virgin in 1009, making it the second oldest Church of Our Lady in Salzburg. The magnificent frescoes preserved from this period are among the most significant Romanesque wall paintings on Austrian soil.
In 1241 Archbishop Eberhard gave the abbess the rank of a bishop and the right to bear the crosier, the crucifix and a mitre instead of the crown. Thus, the convent´s mother superiors were put on an equal footing with the abbots from St. Peter. In 1423 the Romanesque church was devoured by flames and in 1464 the Abbess Agatha von Haunsberg began to reconstruct the building on the Romanesque foundation in the Gothic style. Extensive renovations of the church were carried out from 1895 to 1951. The requirement making admission to the convent dependent on being aristocratic was abolished in 1848.
The church itself is built in the spirit of the Gothic era which, in contrast to the Franciscan Church, reflects wealth and elaborate ornamentation. One of the showpieces of the nuns´choir is the late Gothic winged altar whose central shrine is adorned by a Madonna between the two patrons, St. Rupert and St. Virgil. The crypt with its detached columns and the magnificent reticulate rib-vaulting are unique in Salzburg. The tomb of St. Erentrudis is located in the apse. Famous frescoes from the middle of the 12th century are of exceedingly high artistic quality. Sepulchre art had reached its peak between the 14th and 17th centures and many examples are displayed in the Nonnberg Convent. Maria Salome Alt, the five-year-old daughter of Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich and Salome Alt found her last resting place here, marked by a portrait tombstone.
A magnificent late Gothic winged altar from 1498, donated by Wolf Dietrich, is located in St. John´s Chapel near the convent´s entrance which served as the burial chapel up to its Gothic reconstruction. This architectural masterpiece probably originated from the students of Veit Stoss. The convent also includes a wide range of artifacts including the folding chair of the abbess with intricate ivory carving and bronze legs, a crucifix from the Cathedral dated 1300, crowns of the abbesses, sculptures and many intimate works of art. The convent, a conglomeration of different buildings from the 13th to the 19th century, has no distinctive architecture. The convent and museum have only been open to experts and scholars on rare, exceptional occasions. The key to the frescoes in "Paradise" and the altar in St. John´s Chapel can be obtained upon request at the entrance to the convent.