The Cathedral Museum is a refuge and a treasure chamber for the church of Salzburg. It is not only an art repository for the cathedral and archdiocese, but also plays a role in conservation, research and making art available to the public. It strives to educate the community, proclaim the church’s faith and identity while both inwardly and outwardly communicating with and representing the archdiocese.
The museum is located in the gallery of the cathedral as well as in the cathedral’s southern archway. The marble floors and the original stucco (dating back to about 1620 and 1660), the view into the cathedral and out to the surrounding squares clearly demonstrate how closely these halls are intertwined with the cathedral as well as the city.
The inventory of the Cathedral Museum includes mainly art from the archdiocese and bordering regions dating from the 8th to the 18th centuries. As is typical for a churchly museum, all art genres are represented, with an emphasis placed on applied arts. The cathedral treasure and the Cabinet of Curiosities are unique “themed exhibit blocks”. Just as the city of Salzburg and its surroundings are strongly characterized by baroque, only few pieces are from medieval times.
Only a small number of the displays are museum possessions, many are on loan from the monasteries and churches of the diocese. A considerable number are from the Arch Abbey of St. Peter; further objects belong to the state or are part of the Neuhardt collection.
The Salzburg Cathedral Museum is comparatively young. It was founded in 1974 long after the diocese museums in St. Pölten (1888), Linz (1906) and Vienna (1933). At that time a considerable amount of Salzburg’s religious art had already been seized or sold. Therefore, maintaining existing collections and augmenting them are the museum’s two major goals.
The Cathedral Museum holds three special exhibits each year that are set up in three separate series. Both in terms of content and size the main emphasis is placed on the summer exhibit series, which deals with religious and/or Salzburg art and history. Each exhibit lasts for six months from May to October. Each Christmas exhibit deals with a topic appropriate for the festive season and lasts for six weeks from the first day of Advent until Epiphany. The cabinet exhibits are installations by contemporary non-Austrian artists displayed in one of the showcases of the Cabinet of Curiosities. They are held during the summer festival and open a window to experience modern, non-Christian art.
For children and youths the Cathedral Museum offers programs to special exhibits, the cathedral and the treasure as well as to the Cabinet of Curiosities. For parish groups and senior citizen groups special guided tours and additional programs are available. For the numerous foreign visitors an audio-guide is available in six languages.
For visitors with a scientific or professional interest, the Cathedral Museum arranges conventions. It participates in lecture series, research projects and works in close cooperation with historical societies and associated state institutions. With its scientific projects and library the Cathedral Museum represents a centre of expertise for Salzburg religious art.