Georg Trakl at St. Peter’s

This impressive Baroque church was extensively re-modeled from 1760 to 1782, but they say the building itself dates from the year 1147.

St. Peter’s Abbey is even older, as it has been in continuous operation (they say) since the year 696. Currently the abbey has 24 monks and about 80 employees.

St. Peter’s Cemetery

This is said to be the oldest cemetery in Salzburg, dating from around the year 700. A number of famous people were buried here, including the composer Michael Haydn (a younger brother of Joseph Haydn) and Maria Anna Mozart (known as Nannerl), the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who traveled and performed with him when they were both child prodigies.

Also buried here was Mozart’s first librettist, Ignatz Anton von Weiser (1701-1785), a dramatist, dialect poet, mayor of Salzburg and friend of the Mozart family. He wrote the libretto for Mozart’s first opera, Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots, which Mozart composed when he was eleven years old. (See my post on Mozart’s operas.)

Entrance and stairs at the catacombs

Saint Peter’s Cemetery includes the so-called catacombs, which are not catacombs in the normal sense of the word (meaning underground burial places) but tombs and chapels that were carved into the cliff centuries ago. To visit the catacombs you have to buy a ticket (two Euros as of 2016) and then walk up a narrow stone staircase, not down as would be the case in true catacombs.

View from the catacombs

Of course from real catacombs there is no view of any sort, by definition, but from these the view was only limited by the clouds on the day I was there. The white building in the upper right-hand corner of the photo is the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

East entrance to the cemetery

Poem by Georg Trakl (1887-1914)

At the east entrance to the cemetery there is a stone plaque engraved with a poem, St.-Peters-Friedhof (St. Peter’s Cemetery) by Georg Trakl, which was first published in a local newspaper, the Salzburger Volksblatt, in July 1909.

This is an ‘early’ poem which is not included in his Sämtliche Gedichte (Collected Poems), at least not in the edition I have. Trakl only lived to be 27, so in a sense everything he wrote is ‘early’, but this poem is even earlier than most, and perhaps not as deep or at least not as desperate. (There is an English translation by Timothy Adès.)

Here is the original poem in German:


Ringsum ist Felseneinsamkeit.
Des Todes bleiche Blumen schauern
Auf Gräbern, die im Dunkel trauern –
Doch diese Trauer hat kein Leid.

Der Himmel lächelt still herab
In diesen traumverschlossenen Garten,
Wo stille Pilger seiner warten.
Es wacht das Kreuz auf jedem Grab.

Die Kirche ragt wie ein Gebet
Vor einem Bilde ewiger Gnaden,
Manch Licht brennt unter den Arkaden,
Das stumm für arme Seelen fleht –

Indes die Baume blüh’n zur Nacht,
Daß sich des Todes Antlitz hülle
In ihrer Schönheit schimmernde Fülle,
Die Tote tiefer träumen macht.

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

See more posts on Salzburg, Austria.

6 thoughts on “Georg Trakl at St. Peter’s”

  1. Need to visit this cemetery. I think we walked by it once upon a time. Hopefully, Salzburg will be somewhere we can go later in the summer.

      1. Yes, don’t get there often enough. The train between the two cities is always packed. Love the Augustiner there. D would like the cemetery too.

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