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.

Carnival in the Ausseerland region

Applicant: Bernhard Laimer, Maschkera-Gesellschaft
Province: Styria

Fasching [Carnival] in the Ausseerland region takes place from Fasching Sunday to Fasching Tuesday. Three main figures play significant roles in these festivities: Trommelweiber [Drumwives], Flinserl [Glitterers], and Pless (representing winter). The Trommelweiber, a manifestation of the gender role swaps common in Fasching festivities, accompany the Fasching procession—led by the Obertrommelweib and the rhythmic drumbeats of the Trommelweiber brass band. Flinserl and Pless appear on Fasching Tuesday. The sparkling Flinserl, with their magnificent costumes, join with the accompanying figures of the Zacherl to represent a specific regional Fasching formation, the historical origins of which have yet to be determined—although it is thought that they may be influenced by Venetian Carnival traditions. There are also masked figures (Maschkera) who proceed from tavern to tavern in small and large groups. Furthermore, all three days feature so-called “Fasching protocols” that are read aloud in various establishments that serve food and drink—with blunders, local politics, and local events from the old year satirised in rhymed and sung form and hand-drawn pictures to support these performances. Such Fasching protocols are presented by singers from the various villages in the Ausseerland region.

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.

Festive practices of the civic guards and militias of the district of Murau

Applicant: Obmann Rudolf Paschek für den Bezirksverband der Bürger- und Schützengarden des Bezirkes Murau
Province: Styria

The district of Murau in the Austrian province of Styria assembles five civic guards and militias whose origins can be traced back to the 17 th century. Several times a year, they participate as ceremonial guards in festive events and religious processions, thereby contributing to the solemnity of each occasion. Due to their traditional connection to the church, the guards sally forth at Corpus Christi and the feast of the community patron saint. They also serve as honour guards for jubilees, weddings and high-ranking visitors. They are characterised by their traditional uniforms, arms and a typical marching order.

Carrying out the Freiung at the annual "Maxlaun" market in Niederwölz

Applicant: Mag. Alfred Baltzer und Ing. Rudolf Paschek für den Arbeitskreis Volkskultur Murau
Province: Styria

The procession of the "Maxlaun" market revolves around the “Freiung”, symbol of the market privilege. The three-day market is held annually at Niederwölz in the district of Murau on the second weekend of October. Its name is derived from Maximilian, the church patron venerated on 12 October. In his honour citizens organise a parade to carry the “Freiung”, a festively decorated arm carved out of wood, painted black and holding a sword, to the market square along a traditional route. It symbolised the freedom of the market, unrestricted trading rights and public peace through a ban on carrying arms. Nowadays, the mayor chooses the bearer of the symbol who in turn appoints a person charged with ensuring passage through the crowd. The procession is accompanied by the local band and choir, the fire brigade and the men of the mountain rescue service.

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.

Basket- making - weaving with willow, straw and split wood

Applicant: Stainzer Korbflechter und Besenbinder aus dem Blaurackenverei LEiV, Kulturverein Gniebing/Weißenbach, Korbflechter aus Fruttendorf-Gießelsdorf
Province: Styria

Basket-weaving from materials found in nature has been an important part of everyday life for thousands of years. The baskets, woven and sewn from willow, straw and split wood, were used for carrying and holding. In many parts of Austria, basket weaving used to be an important home industry. An extensive knowledge and large range of weaving techniques have been preserved in the region of South-Eastern Styria. After collecting and drying their materials throughout the year, weavers and interested novices meet there in order to exchange their know-how and pass on traditional craft techniques as well as their knowledge of the materials.

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.

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.

The Carnival Run of Murau

Applicant: Mag. Alfred Baltzer und Ing. Rudolf Paschek, i.V. Arbeitskreis Volkskultur Murau
Province: Styria

This exhausting and elaborate procession and “Heische” tradition (a custom of asking for alms) takes place in regular intervals of two to five years on a certain day of the year - typically on Carnival Monday - in several villages in the district of Murau. The equipment of the carnival runners commemorates the former clothing of threshers, while the appearance and the number of carnival runners as well as their accompanying figures show slight regional differences. The participating groups and figures move either by vehicle or by foot from yard to yard and have to overcome obstacles before being allowed to enter. These typically comprise either overcoming a tightened chain (Speng) or accepting a challenge for a duel.

The Öblarner Krampusspiel – Krampus Play in Öblarn

Applicant: Ing. Gert Planitzer
Province: Styria

The Öblarner Krampusspiel belongs to the genre of sacred folk theater, which – above all during the 18th century, in the wake of Austria’s re-Catholicization – was part of the religious and moral instruction of the common people. The Öblarner Krampusspiel, as one of the last surviving Styrian folk theater traditions, is put on by amateur performers every year in early December, taking place both in farmhouses and as public performances on the market square. The scripts for the play’s individual figures – such as the Hunters, Lucifer and his retinue, the Smith, the “Habergoas” (a cheerful and naughty character with a billy goat’s head) and Death – are learned via a tradition that is largely oral in nature, only having been put to paper during the 1980s. The first written mention of the Krampusspiel in Öblarn was by Archduke Johann of Austria, who saw this play while a guest at the nearby palace Schloss Gstatt in 1816.

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).

"Samsontragen" in the Lungau region and in Murau

Applicant: Gauverband der Lungauer Heimat- und Brauchtumsvereinigungen, Gauobmann Eduard Fuchsberger
Province: Salzburg, Styria

In Austria, the tradition of “Samsontragen“ can only be found in the Lungau region (Salzburg) and in two communities in the adjacent federal province of Styria. These regions, however, consider this tradition, which attracts innumerable guests every year, to be a firm part of their annual rites.

"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.

"Taubenschießen" in Altaussee

Applicant: Gerhard Wimmer, Taubenschützenverein Altaussee-Schneiderwirt
Province: Styria

Taubenschießen [lit. “pigeon shooting”] in Altaussee is a social sport involving at least three shooters. Members of the Taubenschützenverein [Pigeon Shooters’ Association] meet at the inn Schneiderwirt, the site of a shooting range constructed around a giant pendulum. The projectile to be “shot”—or, more to the point, released—is an approximately 2 kg wooden pigeon with an iron beak that hangs from an 8 m chain made of steel wire links. The tail of the pigeon attaches to a string—which the marksman, with as steady a hand as possible, has to bring into line with the chain and the middle of the target. When the marksman lets go of the string, the ensuing pendulum motion sends the pigeon swinging towards the target, in which it lodges itself thanks to its iron beak. The Zieler [target attendant] then records the shot’s result on the edge of the target and swings the pigeon back to the Aufigeber [server], who hands the pigeon to the next marksman.

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.

Viennese Tuning and Playing Technique for the Zither

Applicant: Cornelia Mayer, Univ. Ass. Mag. Katharina Pecher-Havers
Province: Upper Austria, Styria, Vienna

Both the stringing and the playing technique associated with the Viennese tuning of the zither arose in mid-19th-century Vienna and were first described in Carl Ignaz Umlauf’s zither treatise of 1859. Viennese zither-tuning and playing technique quickly spread, and with the numerous zither treatises and associations that arose, the Viennese zither eventually became an instrument with a widespread presence among members of the working class. Playing together was conducive to social cohesion and cultural identity. And with the theme to the movie The Third Man, Viennese zither-tuning and playing technique became known the world over. Its tuning and technique are still used today in Vienna, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, and Styria.

Knowledge concerning the breeding of Lipizzan horses

Applicant: SHS/Bundesgestüt Piber
Province: Styria

Across all of Europe, Lipizzans represent the only parade horse that has been raised in the traditional way since the Renaissance. The Lipizzans’ preservation is based on extensive knowledge about breeding, caring for, and training these horses, knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation in a largely oral manner. The bearers of this knowledge in Austria are the employees of the federal stud farm in Piber, who have been breeding Lipizzans for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna since 1920. All of this stud’s employees come from the environs of Piber and feel a strong connection to the Lipizzan breed, an affinity that has sometimes even given rise to special vocabulary describing the horses—as in the common reference to their “Roman noses.” The Gstütler [stud farmers] receive years of training by experienced hands, years spent in direct contact with the horses. The basis for passing on the relevant knowledge consists in daily visits to all of the stalls and daily meetings of the employees, with the breeding herd inspected and discussed together on a continual basis. Alongside running the stud farm itself, international exchange with other Lipizzan studs is essential, since a clear “breeder’s eye” can only be maintained in constant contact with past and ongoing developments.

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.