Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Making and Wearing of the "Linz Goldhaube"

Applicant: Martina Pühringer, Oberösterreichische Goldhaubengemeinschaft
Province: Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg
Domain: Traditional Craftsmanship

The version of the Goldhaube [Golden Cap] native to Linz is a gold-embroidered piece of headwear that represents the most materially valuable element of Upper Austria’s traditional festive costume for women, and it has been worn since the beginning of the 19th century. The production of a Goldhaube requires between 250 and 300 hours of work as well as manual skills and essential knowledge of old handcrafting techniques, which are upheld and passed on by Goldhaube groups in collaboration with producers of traditional costumes. To make a Goldhaube, a ca. 16 x 116 cm ribbon of golden fabric is embroidered with numerous decorative, shiny ornaments. The pattern is up to the embroiderer herself, while the shape of the Goldhaube is determined by a wire frame that is the same throughout Upper Austria, as well as in neighbouring Lower Austria, Salzburg, and Bavaria. Goldhauben are passed on within families and worn together with traditional festive garb (consisting of a full-length silk dress, traditional accessories, prayer book, shoulder scarf, glovettes, and a pearl pouch) on secular and sacred occasions, for example on Sundays on which traditional costumes are typically worn, at harvest festivals, and at wedding anniversary celebrations.

Gold-embroidered headwear has been worn on special occasions since the 13th century. The present-day Goldhaube developed out of the so-called Böndelhaube at the beginning of the 19th century. The silk parts of the Böndelhaube were increasingly pulled towards the back, and the Boden or the Böndel became the knob-like shape characteristic of the Linz Goldhaube, which is common today all over Upper Austria and in neighbouring regions.
Upper Austria is currently home to around 15,000 active wearers. They are organised as Goldhaube societies, which are divided into 433 local groups and 17 regional groups and often maintain strong ties to traditional costume associations, hat groups, brass bands, and other such organisations. The activities of the Goldhaube women are strongly characterised by church holidays. Recurring occasions include Corpus Christi processions, harvest festivals, wedding anniversaries, and first masses. Additionally, many local groups organise events such as Liebstatt Sundays, traditional costume Sundays, blessings of herbs (on 15 August), and celebrations at homes for the elderly. Numerous exhibitions of handicrafts, Christmas trees, Christmas crèches, and presentations connected with traditional yearly events round out their activities. Courses in embroidery and sewing as well as numerous other handicraft courses are offered in order to pass on knowledge related to the making of traditional items.
Goldhaube societies define themselves not only as bearers of traditions, but also as charitable organisations, and the therefore collect money for various causes (flood relief, juvenile cancer treatment, earthquake victims, the charities “Licht ins Dunkel” and “Lebenshilfe”, church renovations, etc.). Despite the many local groups, too few young people are carrying on this tradition, since membership in a Goldhaube group is time- and cost-intensive. But efforts are being made to counter this lack of new participants by involving more young girls in the groups’ activities and via educational efforts including traditional costume shows, lectures, and exhibitions, as well as intensified media work.