It was founded ca. 714 by Saint Rupert of Salzburg and is the oldest women's religious house in the German-speaking world. Its first abbess was Saint Erentrudis of Salzburg, who was either a niece or a sister of Saint Rupert.
The abbey was independent of the founding house from 987 and was re-built in about 1000. This building was largely destroyed in a fire of 1423. Reconstruction took place between 1464 and 1509. In 1624 the church was enlarged by the addition of three side chapels. A refurbishment in the Baroque style took place in the 1880s.
Through Maria Augusta Kutschera, later Maria Augusta von Trapp, who was a teacher in the abbey school after World War I and whose life was the basis for the film The Sound of Music, the abbey has acquired international fame.
The Abbey was recently selected as main motif for the Austrian Nonnberg Abbey commemorative coin minted in April 5, 2006. This was the first coin of the series "Great Abbeys of Austria". It shows the Benedictine convent of Nonnberg Abbey. In the hilltop on the background, the castle of Hohensalzburg and the Kajetaner church can be seen.
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