Salzburg Austria’s ‘Sound of Music’

Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg
Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria, was the location for exterior scenes in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1965 musical motion picture, The Sound of Music. Tours give visitors the chance to see various places used in the movie from the panoramic views to the buildings dating back several centuries. These locations not only provide a backdrop for the Hollywood version of the story of the Von Trapp family in pre-World War II Austria but offer a history of Salzburg, itself.

Anif Castle near Salzburg, Austria
Anif Castle

The opening sequence begins with aerial views of the Alps and nearby foothills including a castle surrounded on three sides by an artificial pond. This is Anif Castle, Schloss Anif in German, and dates back to the 16th century. The first mention of a castle at this location was around 1520. Starting in 1530, this “water palace” was given as a fief or fee by the Archbishop of Salzburg. It later became the summer residence of the bishops of Chiemsee from 1693 until the early 19th century. It has been private property since 1837 and was remodeled between 1838 and 1848 to reflect the current neo-Gothic design. No tours are allowed because Anif Castle is still under private ownership by the Johannes Moy family.

Maria von Trapp, played by Julie Andrews, is a preparing for life as a nun at a convent in Salzburg known as Nonnberg Nunnery or Abbey. This has the distinction of being the oldest continually-operating nunnery in the world since its founding between 713 and 715 A.D. The accompanying church tower dates back to the 12th century. Much of the original church was destroyed by fire in 1423 but was rebuilt in a Gothic style from 1464 to the early 1500s. The current roof was added during the 19th century. The nunnery has its own museum, the Stiftsmuseum, that is known for some of the best examples of Romanesque and Gothic artwork throughout Austria.

Maria leaves the abbey to accept a position as governess to the children of a widower, Captain Georg von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer. The family is portrayed as wealthy. The film illustrates their home with the front of one palace and the back of another. Frohnburg Palace, or Schloss Frohnburg, represents the front. It is first seen as Maria arrives at the von Trapp home to begin her duties as the governess.

Frohnburg palace in Salzburg
Frohnburg Palace

The palace was built between 1660 and 1680 as a summer home for the prince-archbishop but didn’t have the Frohnburg name until later through marriage. By 1700, the palace had 13 gardeners to take care of orange groves, apple orchards, parks and gardens. Since The Sound of Music was released, millions of people continue to identify the palace as the Trapp family home, even though there has never been any connection between it and the real von Trapp family. Today, it serves as a dormitory for students of the Salzburg music conservatory, Mozarteum. It has a small concert hall but is not open for public tours.

The back of the von Trapp home is represented by Leopoldskron Castle, or Schloss Leopoldskron. It is next to the lake where Maria and the children stood up in a boat and fell in the water. The castle is directly connected to the history of the Salzburg Music Festival, a summer music and drama festival that began in 1920. This is particularly significant since the family sings at the festival before leaving Austria.

Leopoldskron in Salzburg
Leopoldskron Castle

Leopoldskron Castle was commissioned by a prince-archbishop in 1736 as a residence for himself and his family. It is known as one of Austria’s most important examples of Rococo style buildings with paintings on the ceiling and walls and elaborate stuccos in the chapel and ceremonial hall. The castle experienced decay during the 19th century but after World War I, it was purchased by Max Reinhardt, the co-founder of the Salzburg Festival. He renovated it for receptions and balls related to the festival as well as staged performances. It was so much a part of the festival’s social life that Winston Churchill was a guest there for dinner. The presence of the Third Reich caused the festival to decline during the war years. Reinhardt, who was Jewish, had to leave Austria in 1938.

Mondsee cathedral outside Salzburg
Basilica of St. Michael’s, Mondsee

The wedding between Maria and the captain was filmed in the Basilica of St. Michael in the small town of Mondsee about 15 miles outside of Salzburg. The town sits on the north shore of Lake Mondsee in the popular resort area known as the Salzkammergut. This Gothic-style church, more commonly known as Cathedral Mondsee, was built in the 15th century and formerly used by Benedictine monks. Their monastery had existed for over 1,000 years, from 748 to 1792. The church averages 200,000 visitors a year and was upgraded in 2005 to a basilica by Pope John Paul II.

There are more locations than mentioned in this article that were used in movie. Even though Hollywood changed part of the real Maria von Trapp’s story, the history of the sites used in The Sound of Music represent the history and beauty of Salzburg, Austria.

By: Cynthia Collins


Cynthia Collins (lived in Salzburg one summer as a student)

Salzburg – official website

Visit Salzburg

Basilica of St. Michael, Mondsee

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