Georg Trakl’s baptism

This Protestant church (Evangelische Christuskirche) on the right bank of the Salzach River is where the future poet Georg Trakl was baptized on February 8, 1887. So even as a baby he was already an outsider, since Protestants were (and still are) a small minority in Salzburg.

Steeple of the Evangelische Christuskirche

This church’s website explains: “In early 16th century, when Martin Luther started the reformation of the church, many people in the province of Salzburg became Protestants. However, they were not allowed to practice their Protestant faith because the archbishop of Salzburg was also the ruler of this land and therefore all inhabitants had to be Roman Catholic.”

(I should add that this practice was widespread, and was formalized in the “Peace of Augsburg” that was negotiated in 1555 to put an end to religious strife within the loosely-knit “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”. This agreement specified that in most places the common people were required to accept the religion of their local ruler. See my post on the Catholic village of Tauberrettersheim and my post called Johannes Casimir welcoming visitors to Heidelberg.)

Many Protestants in Salzburg continued to read Luther’s translation of the Bible in secret, but in 1731 they were all expelled from Salzburg and vicinity on orders of the Prince-Archbishop Firmian.

In the Evangelische Christuskirche, Salzburg

Today the situation is different because, according to their website, “our relationship to the Roman Catholic Church in Salzburg has a good ecumenical basis. Pope John Paul II even worshipped in our church in 1988, when visiting Austria. But Protestants are still a small minority in Salzburg, as well as in the whole of Austria. Around 4.5 percent of the population belongs to Protestant churches.”

A Winter Evening by Georg Trakl

This poem by Georg Trakl is mounted on one of the outside walls of the church.

This is (by Trakl’s standards) an unusually positive poem, since the wanderer is not turned away on the snowy evening, but apparently is invited in (or at least allowed to come in) for bread and wine, even though “pain petrifies the threshold” as it says in the third-to-last line.
(Click here for an English translation.)

(Or here for a French translation by Raymond Prunier.)

Ein Winterabend

Wenn der Schnee ans Fenster fällt,
Lang die Abendglocke läutet,
Vielen ist der Tisch bereitet
Und das Haus ist wohlbestellt.

Mancher auf der Wanderschaft
Kommt ans Tor auf dunklen Pfaden.
Golden blüht der Baum der Gnaden
Aus der Erde kühlem Saft.

Wanderer tritt still herein;
Schmerz versteinert die Schwelle.
Da erglänzt in reiner Helle
Auf dem Tische Brot und Wein.

My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Salzburg, Austria.

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