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g. Salzburg in the 19th century

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urban history

Salzburg in the 19th century

Salzburg in the 19th century – a turbulent history!

With the beginning of the year 1800 Salzburg became involved in the Napoleonic wars, for the first time. Between 1800 and 1816 the city was a plaything for the Bavarians on the one side and the Hapsburgs on the other.  The Grand Duke Ferdinand III. of Tuscany governed the Electorate of Salzburg. Crown Prince Ludwig von Bayern was elected as the Governor General in the Inn- and Salzachkreis and thus moved in the Castle Mirabell for the next five years.

The French gave the people of Salzburg hard time. Their lootings and forced payments were the main factor for causing the enormous impoverishment of the population. While the poorer people of Salzburg were starving, the Bavarians and Austrians obtained more and more objects of value and records.

The economy completely collapsed when Salzburg became an unimportant county town in Upper Austria. Many people emigrated into the capital Linz, most of them were civil servants or businessmen. Thus the population shrunk down from 16.000 inhabitants to 12.000.  Wealthy people had left and poor people had stayed; the outbreak of a famine from 1814-1816 after multiple crop failures almost seemed predictable. The famine caused many deaths.

As if there would not have been enough damage, a fire destroyed big parts of the old town and the Castle Mirabell. Luckily Salzburg was at this point already an attraction for painters, writers and travellers who especially praised the nature.

Franz Schubert visited Salzburg and found a city full of misery. He described an extinct city with many pretty streets and squares, which were so rarely visited that grass began to grow between the cobblestones. 

In the second half of the 19th century the development took a positive turn. Salzburg became the capital of a new Crown Land. In 1860 the fortifications, aligned to north, were levelled to the ground. Additionally Salzburg was connected with the railway Elisabeth-Westbahn between Vienna and Munich. The railway is how Emperor Franz Josef I. and the Bavarian King Max II. had their first rendezvous.

The time of the construction boom began. The city was expanding towards the train station and the representative “Gründerzeitbauten” were built. Pretty villas, hotels and bank buildings have adorned the area particularly around the Salzach from then on. The traffic routes on the shore of the Salzach are the work from the railway operator Karl Freiherr von Schwarz. The basis for a tourism industry was created.

In the course of this development many political parties and numerous associations have formed. The city as well as the country became a centre for alpinism and sports. Until the First World War people were rather conservative; most mayors came from the liberal party, which was more and more turning towards German nationalism.

After the Mozart Monument, which is the centre of the Mozart-world, was revealed in 1842, the International Mozart Foundation was founded in 1880. It is until today the best address for young talented musicians in Salzburg.  Mozart was quickly used to promote the city’s popularity. All sorts of events around Mozart are created to try to lure a clientele with deep pockets into Salzburg.

The musical breakthrough followed in 1920.  Max Reinhardt, Hugo Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss initiated the first Salzburg festivals. The first performance was a play: “Jedermann” was performed on the cathedral place.  The festivals were extremely successful and soon many high society guests started visiting the Mozart-town. Already in 1925 the Head of Conservation Eduard Hütter converted the archiepiscopal military riding school into a festival hall. People such as Walter, Toscanini, Furtwängler, Böhm und Karajan guaranteed continuous growth. Karajan was also founder of the Easter and Whitsun festivals.


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