Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Specialities of individual pharmacies

Applicant: Kurapotheke Bad Ischl, Mag. Manfred Heimo Hrovat
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Specialities of individual pharmacies have been part of local traditions for a long time and include knowledge on nature, cures and healing that had formerly been passed down orally, and have since been documented in recipe books. The making of these products requires certain special instruments, pharmaceutical resources and skills. Austrian pharmacists consider this transferred knowledge as part of their cultural heritage.

Mining culture in Bleiberg

Applicant: Bergmännischer Kulturverein und Marktgemeinde Bad Bleiberg
Province: Carinthia

For centuries, coal mining constituted the economic basis of life for the inhabitants of Bad Bleiberg. Even though the mine in Bad Bleiberg (Carinthia) has been closed since 1992, numerous initiatives try hard to safeguard and transfer the traditions passed down by the “Knappenkultur”: the miners’ language, sloping tunnels, “Knappenspiel” (a form of theatre play performed in mines), “Ledersprung” and the Saint Barbara mass (both in honour of the miners’ patron). Traces of this culture can be found in house and field names, the performing arts and throughout society.

Experiential Knowledge Concerning Avalanche Risk Management

Applicant: Alpinarium und Gemeinde Galtür, Lawinenkommission Gargellen, Montafoner Museen, Österreichischer Alpenverein, Österreichischer Berg- und Schiführerverband
Province: Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg

The natural environment of the Alps forces its inhabitants to pay a great deal of attention to the highly complex phenomenon of the avalanche. Since the very beginning of human beings’ presence in the Alpine region, it has been necessary to acquire knowledge about avalanches in order to survive there. To this day, avalanches cannot be perfectly predicted or fully assessed by scientific means. Therefore, having experiential knowledge of how to deal with the associated risks is all the more important. Some of this experiential knowledge is site-specific and gets passed on by alpine organisations, within families, and/or by schools. In earlier times, such knowledge was acquired through close observation of nature and the painful learning process that avalanche disasters entailed. And for many hundreds of years, this experiential knowledge was conveyed and handed down orally from generation to generation. Since the beginning of the 20th century, and especially since the 1950s, such knowledge has been supplemented by scientific research. This has made it possible to successively improve the protection of inhabited areas and transport routes over the course of time, and today, knowledge about dealing with avalanche risks is taught and/or applied in the contexts of general safety, education, technology, and rescue services by local and super-regional communities.


Applicant: HR Dr. Harald Barsch, Österreichischer Falknerbund und Zentralstelle Österreichischer Falknervereine (ZÖF)
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Falconry is the art of hunting with birds. In a strict sense, the term “falconry” is understood as hunting with specially trained falcons. However, hawks, sparrow hawks and eagles have also been introduced to the discipline. Falconry also allows for the breeding of birds of prey.

The gunsmith´s craft in Ferlach

Applicant: Kulturring Ferlach, Dipl. Ing. Rainer Adamik
Province: Carinthia

The gunsmith´s crafts in Ferlach (Carinthia) are based on specialist work. The shaper works on the wood of the gun shaft and the engraver on the surface of the metal parts, while the gunsmith himself assembles the different parts, depending on the use of the object. When orders from the general public decreased during the 19th century, the gunsmiths started to mainly focus on the production of hunting weapons.

Christmas caroling in Heiligenblut

Applicant: Obmann Hans Schacher i.V. Rotte Hof Heiligenbluter Sternsinger
Province: Carinthia

The 16th century tradition of Christmas caroling in Heiligenblut (Carinthia) has been kept alive until today mostly in its original form. The star song (“Sternlied”) or the blessing of houses using the “CMB” saying (“Christus Mansionem Benedicat” – May Christ bless this house) which is written in chalk over the front door, are still fundamental elements of this tradition.

Production of Traditionally Hand-Crafted Terrazzo

Applicant: Ing. Gabriele Pia Stuhlberger
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Terrazzo is a long-lived, heavy-duty, and low-maintenance type of flooring that can be decorated in a broad diversity of patterns. To create a terrazzo floor, shovels are used for the portion-by-portion application of a cementitious binding material, onto which—depending on the variety of terrazzo to be produced—stones of ca. 10–22 mm diameter are spread densely by hand. Next, the terrazzo chips are geprackt [beaten], rolled with an iron terrazzo roller, and smoothed out by hand several times in order to ensure their even distribution. Once the material has cured, several rounds of wet grinding alternate with the application of a grout formulated by the terrazzo makers themselves. This process renders every terrazzo floor a unique, handmade creation, and the craftspeople who make it favour regionally extracted raw materials and do without chemical additives.

Charcoal burning

Applicant: Peter Wieser, Vorstandsmitglied im Europäischen Köhlerverein und Sprecher der österreichischen Köhler
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Charcoal burning ("Köhlerei") is a traditional craftsmanship derived from rural life, which primarily serves the manufacturing of wood charcoal. Hermetically sealed wood is heated up by way of dry distillation and carbonised across a period of several weeks, turning it thereby into preferably pure carbon.

Wreath Riding in Weitensfeld

Applicant: Max Strohmaier
Province: Carinthia

The tradition of Kranzelreiten [Wreath Riding] in Weitensfeld, practiced annually at Pentecost, is divided into two parts. On Whit Sunday, the wreath riders (Kranzelreiter) ride from house to house accompanied by singers who sing G’stanzl (humorous four-line dialect songs) about the events of the past year, and they utter a personalized cheer for the residents of each house, who provide them with food and drink in return. This ritual is also the invitation to the actual Kranzelreiten event, which follows on Whit Monday. It is a competition that begins with the riders racing their decorated horses, galloping three times between the upper market square and the market fountain to symbolise the vanquishment of the plague outbreak associated with the tradition’s origin. Afterwards, the focus turns to three runners, who race each other. The winning runner then rides the winning horse to the market square fountain and kisses the statue of the steinerne Jungfrau [Stone Virgin] that stands at its centre. As a prize, he receives the Virgin’s wreath (the Kranzel) and a silk scarf. The second-placed competitor receives a myrtle bouquet and a woollen scarf, and the competitor in last place receives a bunch of hog bristles and a calico scarf. Each winning runner then passes on his prizes to his girl of choice. Finally, they all dance a waltz known as the Jungfrauenkuss or Gurktalerwalzer, which concludes the Kranzelreiten event itself and kicks off the celebration that follows.

Laßnitz Folk Plays

Applicant: Raphael Bacher, Mag. Alfred Baltzer
Province: Carinthia, Styria

The folk plays known as the Laßnitzer Volksschauspiele [Laßnitz Folk Plays] are performed at irregular, multi-year intervals in the Styrian community of Laßnitz. No one knows when these plays originated or who created them. Written versions have existed since the 19th century; before that, the plays had been handed down orally. All of these plays are themed on local customs and medieval beliefs pertaining to the Christian liturgies for Easter and Christmas. Out of an originally large number of plays, only five have been preserved. A special feature of the Laßnitzer Volksschauspiele is the importance of singing; the actors and actresses thus also need to have musical and vocal talent.

Bread- making in the Lesach Valley

Applicant: Lesachtaler Mühlenverein und Kulturvereine Liesing, Mario Lugger und Hans Guggenberger
Province: Carinthia

The tradition of bread making in the Lesach Valley (Carinthia), especially in the communities of Maria Luggau and Liesing, includes grain cultivation and extraction (in a specific mountain farming region), the most important facts on mill construction, particular idioms and sayings, rituals (e.g. to draw three crosses before cutting bread, to place a palm cross in the field), the annual mill festival in Maria Luggau and the local village and bread festival.

Telling fairy tales

Applicant: Helmut Wittmann
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Storytelling is the art of entertaining people in a playful and intellectual way by recounting fairy tales. For centuries, fairy tales, sagas and stories have been handed down orally. In the past, people recounted stories while working; today legends and tales are told through narrating societies, cultural initiatives, schools and kindergartens. These stories reflect the graphic power of local events, conditions and characteristics. Furthermore, their common theme centers on the art of informing people about fundamental experiences in a playful and intellectual way. Fairy tales and sagas transmit the essence of the individual’s - as well as the community’s collective - cultural identity far better than any type of formal instruction.

Jew's harp playing in Austria

Applicant: Obmann Dr. Franz Kumpl für den Österreichischen Maultrommelverein
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The Jew’s harp is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world, particularly common among the Asian Turkic peoples and in Europe. Made from a variety of materials including metal and bamboo, it produces a drone effect. Over time centres of production and unique styles have emerged and, each of which has grown historically and became embedded in the regional folk culture. Since the medieval times Molln in Upper Austria is such a centre, where they even established a guild of jew’s harp makers. Historically, the instrument played a key role in courtship and in convivial musical entertainment. In Austria, a style of play predominates where the player uses two to four instruments, differently tuned, either as a solo instrument or in a duet or trio, and mostly in combination with other instruments.

Metnitzer Kinisingen – Epiphany caroling in Metnitz

Applicant: Direktor SR Siegmund Kogler
Province: Carinthia

The Metnitzer Kinisingen in the Metnitztal, a valley in Carinthia, would seem to date back to the 16th century; the first written mention of its lyrics, still sung today, is in a manuscript from 1724. Together with the three kings and the star-bearer, a group of singers (referred to as the “Rotte”) wanders through the entire Metnitztal, going from farmhouse to farmhouse, between New Year’s and 6 January (Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day), singing the 17 verses of the “Kinilied” (Song of the Three Kings). To go along with the singing, the kings and the star-bearer perform a special pantomime routine in which they move silently and according to precisely defined rules. In addition to the 17 verses, well-wishes for a good year are recited to the residents of each house. In lieu of money, the members of the Rotte are given food and drink following their performance, after which they sing one final song and move on.

Austrian Sign Language

Applicant: Helene Jarmer, Präsidentin des Österreichischen Gehörlosenbundes
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The Austrian Sign Language forms the social and cultural foundation of the Austrian sign language community. It is the mother tongue of the deaf people in Austria and thus reflects an important part of their identity . Since 2005, the Austrian Sign Language has been recognised as a language in its own right, yet many of its users still consider themselves as a linguistic and cultural minority in Austria. The Austrian Sign Language is mostly used by deaf persons and occasionally learned by hearing persons as an additional language. It is used in all regions of Austria with variances in local dialects and correspondingly different vocabulary. The first Sign Language School was founded in V ienna already in 1779. Since then, the language has been cultivated and handed down in schools, associations and families of deaf persons. Additionally, it is passed on in the form of poetry, theatre and performing arts.

The Austrian folk dance movement

Applicant: Dr. Helmut Jeglitsch, Vorsitzender der Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Österreichischer Volkstanz
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The Austrian folk dance movement is rooted in the research and collecting activity of a few persons at the end of the 19th century. It has borrowed much from rural traditions, despite the fact that these elements have mostly become indistinguishable. Concurrently to the systematisation and chronicling of the various dances, a concentration and alignment towards Austrian peculiarities was begun. Yet, instead of simply collecting and safeguarding the dances for posterity, they are increasingly taught and thus saved from extinction.

Austrian scythe-forging

Applicant: Sensenverein Österreich - Hansjörg Rinner
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Prior to the mechanization of agriculture, the scythe was one of the most important harvesting implements worldwide. And even after the introduction of combine harvester and similar machinery, it remained important for small farms and thus for regional food production until well into the 20th century. Favorable economic and geographic conditions (iron ore deposits, wood and water) meant that as early as pre-industrial times, Austria came to produce a surplus of scythes, and the specialized knowledge accumulated over centuries of scythe production made the type known as the “blue scythe” a successful Austrian export. With the advent of mechanized harvesting techniques, however, scythe production in Austria began to stagnate. Of the 215 scythe forging manufactories that existed in Austria around 1900, only two producers have survived to the present day.

Ratschen during Holy Week

Applicant: Franz Ederer
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Ratschen (ratcheting) is a noisemaking tradition that is practiced in many parts of Austria in various forms during the day preceding Easter. A central element is the so-called Ratsche (ratchet), a mechanical percussion instrument made of wood, the sound of which is meant to replace the tooling of the silent church bells from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. In the most common form of ratcheting, children go through the community at various times, making noise and chanting according to an established sequence. The chant can vary from region to region and are either passed on from older children to younger ones or taught by an adult supervisor. The most common chant is the so-called "Eng´lisher Gruß", or Angels´ Greeting: "We ratchet, we ratchet the Angels´ Greeting, that every Catholic Christian must pray. Get down, get down, get down on your knees, say three `Our Father´ and an ´Ave Marie´." Following this ratcheting, the children are rewarded with money, sweets, or Easter Eggs in the so-calles "Absammeln" (collection).

Slovenian field and house names in Carinthia

Applicant: Vertreter der Bürgerinitiativen, Vinko Wieser
Province: Carinthia

Traditional Slovenian field and house names are key to understanding the economic, socio-historical and linguistic development of Carinthia and its surroundings. They form part of the cultural heritage of Carinthian Slovenes, as well as the German-speaking inhabitants of the region.

"Silent Night" - the Christmas carol

Applicant: MMag. Michael Neureiter i.V. Stille-Nacht-Gesellschaft
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The song “Silent Night! Holy Night!” was composed in 1818 and has since become a focal point in peoples’ Christmas celebrations, both in the trusted circle of family and friends as well as ecclesiastic festivities, particularly the Christmas Mass. For many, “Silent Night” is the mother of all Christmas carols.

Gilding and Faux Painting

Applicant: Waltraud Luegger
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Gilding and faux painting have been practiced since ancient times in order to make objects appear as if made from solid gold or other materials. There are various techniques for doing so, such as poliment gilding and oil gilding. The faux-painting of non-gilded surfaces is referred to as Staffieren or Fassmalerei, terms which also encompass the addition of colour to sculptures and relief art as well as to picture and mirror frames, church altars, furniture, and interiors in general. This includes marbelizing, wood imitation, and porcelain imitation. Knowledge of the complex techniques involved is for the most part passed on orally, and mastering such work takes several years. The heyday of gilding and faux painting was during the baroque and rococo eras, and in the art nouveau and art deco periods, as well, these techniques were in high demand. From the second half of the 20th century, interest in such work greatly declined; gilding has all but disappeared in contemporary architecture, for which less and less craftspeople still practice and pass on these techniques.

Knowledge of timber rafting on the Upper Drava

Applicant: Oberdrautaler Flößer (Verein)
Province: Carinthia

Up into the 20th century, the river Drava served Carinthia as an important west-east transport route. Specifically, it served sawmills and, from the 17th century onward, cellulose factories, for which reason it became known as the “Carinthian Wood Road.” The earliest documentation of freight transport on the Drava is from 1209. From Upper Carinthia, logs and sawn wood, iron products, and other goods were transported downriver using timber rafts. These rafts were tied together using “Wieden” (twisted hazel branches) as well as ring hooks made of iron. They were 21.5 m long, 4.5 m wide, they usually featured two rudders at the front and one in back, and were piloted by two men. The knowledge of this technique of raft lashing and piloting continues to be passed down to younger generations to this day, with six villages each building one such raft each; these rafts are then piloted down the last remaining free-flowing stretch of the Drava in Austria.

Knowledge of traditional seed cultivation and production

Applicant: Verein ARCHE NOAH
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Every culture has developed specific species and varieties of edible plants, with the associated knowledge and techniques being adapted to its dietary habits and the growing conditions at hand. By means of targeted planting, care, selection, usage and multiplication, farmers and gardeners have given rise to an enormous degree of diversity. The knowledge of seed planting, seed harvesting, selection, cleaning and storage was and continues to be passed on from generation to generation both in families and in communities. Farm and local varieties, which are ideally adapted to regional conditions, not only constitute the basis of families’, communities’ and regions’ nutrition, but also provide for common identities within such groups. It follows, then, that varieties of certain agricultural plants such as rye (e.g. Lungauer Tauernroggen), beets (e.g. Wildschönauer Krautingerrübe) and maize (e.g. Vorarlberger Riebelmais) are directly associated with local products and/or dishes.