Located on the banks of the Salzach river, at the northern boundary of the Alps, the mountains to Salzburg's south contrast with the rolling plains to the north. The closest alpine peak – the 1972 m Untersberg – is only a few kilometers from the city center. The Altstadt, or "old town", is dominated by its baroque towers and many churches. This area is surrounded by two smaller mountains, the Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg. The city is approximately 150 km east of Munich, and 300 km west of Vienna.
Ancient times and Middle Ages
Traces of human settlements are documented in the area of modern Salzburg since the Neolithic Age; probably it was later a Celt camp. Starting from 15 BCE, the small communities were grouped into a single town, which was acquired by the Romans with the name of Juvavum. A municipium, from 45 CE, it became one of the most important cities in the province of Noricum.
Definitive independence from Bavaria was obtained in the late 14th century.
Expulsion of the Protestants
On October 31, 1731, the 214th Anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg School door, Roman Catholic Archbishop Count Leopold Anton von Firmian signed his Edict of Expulsion (not to be confused with many similar edicts of expulsion issued against the Jews in various cities in Europe), the Emigrationspatent, declaring that all Protestants recant their non-Catholic beliefs or be banished.
Archbishop von Firmian declared that it was to be read publicly November 11, 1731, the 248th anniversary of Luther's baptism. Believing that his edict would drive away a few hundred troublesome infidels in the hills around the town, Firmian was surprised when 21,475 citizens professed on a public list their Protestant beliefs.
Landowners were given three months to sell their lands and leave. Cattle, sheep, furniture and land all had to be dumped on the market, and the Salzburgers received little money from the well-to-do Catholic allies of Von Firmian. Von Firmian himself confiscated much of their land for his own family, and ordered all Protestant books and Bibles burned. Many children aged 12 and under were seized to be raised as Roman Catholics. Yet those who owned land gained one key advantage: the three month deadline delayed their departure until after the worst of winter.
Non-owner farmers, tradesmen, laborers and miners were given only 8 days to sell what they could and leave. The first refugees marched north through the Alps in desperately cold temperatures and snow storms, seeking shelter in the few cities of Germany controlled by Protestant Princes, while their children walked or rode on wooden wagons loaded with baggage.
As they went, the exiles' savings were quickly drained away as they were set upon by highwaymen, who seized taxes, tolls and payment for protection by soldiers from robbers.
The story of their plight spread quickly as their columns marched north. Goethe wrote the poem Hermann and Dorothea about the Salzburg exiles' march. Protestants and even some Catholics were horrified at the cruelty of their expulsion in winter, and the courage they had shown by not renouncing their faith. Slowly at first, they came upon towns that welcomed them and offered them aid. But there was no place where such a large number of refugees could settle.
Finally, in 1732, Lutheran King Frederick William I of Prussia accepted 12,000 Salzburger Protestant emigrants, who settled in areas of East Prussia that had been devastated by the plague twenty years before. Their new homelands were located in what today is northeastern Poland, the Kaliningrad Oblast, and Lithuania. Other, smaller groups made their way to the Banat region of modern Romania, to what is now Slovakia, to areas near Berlin and Hannover in Germany, and to the Netherlands. Another small group made its way to Debrecen (Hungary).
On March 12, 1734, a small group of about sixty exiles from Salzburg who had traveled to London arrived in the British American colony of Georgia seeking religious freedom. Later in that year, they were joined by a second group, and, by 1741, a total of approximately 150 of the Salzburg exiles had founded the town of Ebenezer on the Savannah River, about twenty five miles north of the city of Savannah. Other German speaking families – mostly Swiss Germans, Palatines and Swabians – also joined the Salzburgers at Ebenezer. In time, all of these Germanic people became known as "Salzburgers".
In 1772-1803, under archbishop Hieronymus von Colloredo, Salburg was a centre of late Illuminism. In 1803, the archbishopric was secularized and handed over to Ferdinand III of Tuscany, former Grand Duke of Tuscany, and, two years later, it was annexed to Austria togther with Berchtesgaden. In 1810, it was returned to Bavaria but, after the Congress of Vienna (1816), again restored to Austria. In 1850, it became an independent territory of the Austrian crown.