Upon founding the Benedictine University in Salzburg in 1623, Prince Archbishop Paris Lodron was the first to develop plans for the construction of a University Church. Its final construction, however, was a long time coming.
Professors and students only had one hall, the Aula academica, in which to hold services. The hall was also used for theater performances and other festivities. In 1694, over 70 years later, Archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun decided to build a large church to serve the University.
For its design he selected the most prominent Baroque architect of the time, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. The construction of the Collegiate Church is considered Fischer von Erlach's most significant accomplishment. Its monumental size surpassed only by the Cathedral, the Collegiate Church with its grandiose façade is one of the most magnificent Baroque churches in Austria. Its unparalleled style later influenced late Baroque church architecture in southern Germany.
The consecration of the church began on November 20, 1707 and lasted for eight days. Unfortunately, the architect was unable to see the completion of his "crown of creation", having meanwhile lost his eyesight.
The chapels inside the church are dedicated to the patron saints of the university's four faculties: St. Thomas Acquinas (Theology), St. Ivo (Jurisprudence), St. Luke (Medicine) and St. Catherine (Philosophy). The Collegiate Church had a moving destiny through the years. When Napoleon's troups besieged the city in 1800 it was used as a hay store. In 1810, when Salzburg was transferred to Bavarian rule, the University was closed and the church lost its original purpose.
During the Austro-Hungarian monarchy it served as a classical secondary school and military church. In 1922 the Church provided the setting for the première of Hugo von Hofmannsthal's "Great World Theater". Since the reopening of the University of Salzburg in 1964 the Church has regained its original purpose.
Copyright images: Tourismus Salzburg & Christian Schickmayr