Bürgerwehr: Medieval City Walls

Salzburg was a wealthy place over extended periods of time throughout its history. As such, it needed to be protected - and city wall were built accordingly. Of those walls and fortifications that are left, there are three major periods that can be discerned. The first one, "Stadtbefestigung 1” was built around 1280. This is more than a century after the construction of the Festung Hohensalzburg started, by the way. A few towers on the Mönchsberg and foundations of buildings in the city date back to the first fortification, but you will see little of it.

The second main period gave rise to the late-Medieval "Stadtbefestigung 2”, which was developed mainly during 1470 and 1490. By far the most important and extensive fortification of Salzburg took place under the rule of Prince Archbishop Paris Lodron during the 30-Years′-War, mostly around 1630. It is collectively referred to as "Stadtbefestigung 3” and very visible in many parts of the Altstadt.

History & Location of the Bürgerwehr

This article is on the Bürgerwehr, which is the most striking feature that remains of the late-Medieval Stadtbefestigung 2. It can be found on the most narrow part of the Mönchsberg hill, just where the Sigmundstor tunnels runs (for the same reason - to keep construction costs low, obviously). The Bürgerwehr was built in 1487 under the rule of the fairly little-known Prince Archbishop Berhard von Rohr. It was incorporated into a master-plan for defence and operated in conjunction with the Gstättentor on the "ground level” of Salzburg.

After 1500, eight towers were built for the Bürgerwehr. They are preserved today and were recently renovated. As soon as 1488, a guard has been recorded. This unit was funded by the burghers of Salzburg and gave rise to the "Bürgergarde”, a militia that existed until 1816. Today, the Salzburger Bürgergarde is an association and more or less a social club with some references to the traditions of the militia. Back in the Middle Ages and Baroque times, the Bürgergarde and its Bürgerwehr was of key strategic importance. This changed only with the development of gun powder powered artillery.

The Bürgerwehr today

When the Stadtbefestigung 3 was built, the Bürgergarde turned out to be too weak: The stone blocks used for it are not large enough to withstand the power of cannon balls. A gate was built in front of it, but the really serious fortifications were developed from scratch in the northern part of the Mönchsberg: The Monikapforte and the Augustinerpforte form the so-called Müllner Schanze (Mülln Bastion). Both of them are well-preserved and we recommend to watch out for the differences in the architecture and used materials of Bürgerwehr and Müllner Schanze.

The Bürgerwehr was extensively renovated in 1950. Since then, it is let to a private association with environmental objectives, the Naturfreunde. They operate an inn and a hostel right next to the Bürgerwehr, which is a great pit-stop-opportunity with a stunning view over the city of Salzburg in case you want to go hiking on the Mönchsberg.

Hidden Treasures of Salzburg


Bürgerwehr on the Salzburg Wiki (German)

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