Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

The Reither Nikolausspiel – St. Nicholas Play in Reith

Applicant: Johann Hechenblaikner im Auftrag der „Bundesmusikkapelle Reith im Alpbachtal“ und von Max Feichtner (Besitzer des Nikolausspiel-Manuskripts)
Province: Tyrol
Domain: Performing arts
Year of inclusion: 2014

The Reither Nikolausspiel is held every seven years in the village of Reith, which is situated in a Tyrolean valley called the Alpbachtal. The oldest reference to this folk theater tradition is from 1868, and the basis for today’s version was already put into writing by 1875. Until 1919, this fundamentally religious and pedagogical drama was performed in homes, with local lay-performers going from farm to farm in Reith playing individual scenes. The Reither Nikolausspiel consists of twelve scenes typical of this play’s North Tyrolean variants (these are referred to as “Bilder” – lit. “pictures,” an antiquated term for “scenes”), in which the poor’s defiance of the rich and powerful, and also the battle between good and evil, are portrayed.