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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knoweldge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

National Inventory

Since Austria ratified the Convention, the Austrian Commission for UNESCO has been entrusted with creating a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria. Thanks to their unique qualities, each listed tradition contributes to cultural diversity beyond the nation’s borders and conveys the richness of Austria’s living cultural heritage in an understandable manner.
Applications are accepted throughout the year. For more information on the application process and the criteria for inclusion, click here.

Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Bad Mitterndorf Saint Nicholas Play

Bad Mitterndorf Saint Nicholas Play

The Saint Nicholas Play in Bad Mitterndorf is presented each year on 5 December at various locations. The play is acted out in indoor spaces as well as in the form of a procession. The performance was originally held in farmhouses and inns, but since 1959 the event has been presented on Bad Mitterndorf’s main square, thus making it accessible to a wider audience. The Saint Nicholas Play is made up of various figures that form a procession between the performance venues.
“Odlatzbia Oröwen” in the Wiesenwienerwald

“Odlatzbia Oröwen” in the Wiesenwienerwald

While the wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis) occurs in many parts of Europe, it is very rare today and found for the most part only in woods. In Lower Austria, where the tree is referred to as “Odlatzbia” (High German: Adlitzbeere), the knowledge and handicrafts surrounding the “queen of the wild fruit” are passed on from one generation to the next. “Odlatzbia Oröwen” is the culmination of the work process that extends from the planting of the tree to the destemming of its fruit.
The Amras “Matschgerer”

The Amras “Matschgerer”

According to sources, the custom of the Amras “Matschgerer”, celebrated each year during the carnival season, dates back to the 17th century. This tradition, which has its roots in the village community, has been preserved to the present day despite the annexation of Amras by Innsbruck, the provincial capital, and urban influences. At the centre of the custom is, aside from the processions, above all the performances of the masked figures called “Matschgerer” before small audiences, with certain…
The Vintner’s Crown and the guardian tree in Neustift am Walde

The Vintner’s Crown and the guardian tree in Neustift am Walde

The customs of the vintners in the Lower Austrian town of Neustift am Walde date back to the reign of Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780). The Neustift Fair is held annually on the feast day of the village’s patron saint, St. Roch, in August. The centrepiece of the four-day event is the festive procession of the traditional Neustift Vintner’s Crown and the erection of the “Hüterbaum” (“guardian tree”) after the special Holy Mass.
Stinatz Wedding - Stinjačka svadba

Stinatz Wedding - Stinjačka svadba

When they settled in the Southern Burgenland town of Stinatz/Stinjaki in the 16th century, Croats brought specific elements with them that, influenced by regional characteristics as well, made the weddings in this town a testimony to transcultural relations. The wedding custom combines orally transmitted traditions, such as the Stinatz dialect and folk songs, with traditional handicraft techniques like the production of the local (wedding) costumes. This custom illustrates the identity of the…
Kneipp therapy as traditional knowledge and practice according to the theories of Sebastian Kneipp

Kneipp therapy as traditional knowledge and practice according to the theories of Sebastian Kneipp

The Kneipp therapy (also known as “Kneipping”) is a traditional curative method that promotes the prevention of illness and the preservation of health. It is aimed at stimulating circulation, strengthening the immune system, and improving the vegetative nervous system. Kneipp therapy is a holistic method and encompasses five foundational pillars: Exercise, Nutrition, Water, Plants, and Balance. Classic Kneipping consists of multiple affusions of water as well as additional therapies including…
The craft of bookbinding

The craft of bookbinding

The knowledge surrounding the art of bookbinding was developed and passed on by monks in medieval monasteries. The handwritten books and their book covers were often elaborately decorated with gems and gold work. With the invention of book printing in the 15th century, the handicraft of bookbinding established itself as an independent trade, and this craft continues to be practised up to the present day with traditional means.
The Fuhr on Lake Hallstatt

The Fuhr on Lake Hallstatt

The wooden, flat-bottomed boats called Fuhren have a long history on Lake Hallstatt as a means of transporting goods and people. As early as the 13th century, following the reopening of the salt mine in Hallstatt, shipping on the lake and on the Traun River became necessary in order to transport the salt. Today, only very few people still have a mastery of this type of navigation.
The art and craft of stonemasonry

The art and craft of stonemasonry

For millennia, stonemasons have been responsible for the creation of countless religious and secular buildings and pass on their knowledge surrounding the use and cutting of stone, a naturally occurring raw material. Still today, the workpieces produced by stonemasons shape the appearance of many cities and towns.
Local toponyms in the federal province of Tyrol

Local toponyms in the federal province of Tyrol

For over 2,000 years, local toponyms have facilitated orientation and communication for people living in Tyrol. The transmission of knowledge regarding names and locations is ensured via people’s presence in these locations, the work they do on land that supports their livelihoods, and their experiences as well as their maintenance of social relationships, as part of which such names are frequently mentioned. The approximately 120,000 place names used in Tyrol’s nearly 300 municipalities were…
The “Steyrer Kripperl” nativity play

The “Steyrer Kripperl” nativity play

The Steyrer Kripperl is one of the German-speaking world’s last remaining plays for rod puppets. It has been performed for over a century in a permanent location, the building known as the Innerberger Stadl, during the Christmas season by over 20 members of the association Heimatpflege Steyr. This practice involves orally passed down texts performed in the dialect spoken in Steyr and original rod puppets that are manipulated by hand.
Round Dancing on ice in Vienna

Round Dancing on ice in Vienna

Round dancing on ice is an on-ice version of ballroom dancing performed on Viennese ice skating rinks within a defined dancing circle. Anyone who possesses the necessary skills can participate, and there is no fixed set of rules. The various sequences of steps can be freely adapted to the rhythm of the music being played, and people dance in couples or in larger groups with alternating partners just like at a Viennese ballroom event.
Traditions of the miners and iron smelters along the Steirische Eisenstraße (Styrian Iron Route)

Traditions of the miners and iron smelters along the Steirische Eisenstraße (Styrian Iron Route)

The cultural heritage of mine workers, who have their own special dances and songs as well as their own traditional costumes for holidays and celebrations, developed over many centuries along the Steirische Eisenstraße (Styria’s segment of the Central European Iron Trail). This heritage lives on today in the still-active mining region near Styria’s Erzberg (Ore Mountain) and reflects the region’s identity. Present-day practices centre on the feast day of St. Barbara (patron saint of miners),…
Candlemas singing in southern Lower Austria

Candlemas singing in southern Lower Austria

Candlemas singing is a cadging custom practiced in the night between 1 and 2 February (Candlemas) in around 20 communities in southern Lower Austria; in each of these communities, one or more groups of singers go from house to house, bringing their felicitations. The house residents thank them afterwards with food and drink and/or monetary donations, which in many places now go to charitable causes. A Candlemas feast is then held during the following few days.
Flag-throwing in Neckenmarkt

Flag-throwing in Neckenmarkt

Flag-throwing in Neckenmarkt is a centuries-old practice carried out above all on the Tag der Fahne [“Flag Day”] and on Umgangssonntag (the Sunday after Corpus Christi), but also to mark other celebrations, in the community of Neckenmarkt. Knowledge concerning its conduct (spoken formulas, flag-throwing technique, role distribution, etc.) is passed on from one generation to the next within the Burschenschaft [local fraternity] responsible for the practice as well as within the general community.
Traditions of the Untergailtaler Kirchtag and traditional costumes in the Untergailtal / Zilski Žegen in Ziljska Noša

Traditions of the Untergailtaler Kirchtag and traditional costumes in the Untergailtal / Zilski Žegen in Ziljska Noša

The type of kermesse fair that take place annually between May to October in numerous communities of the Lower Gail Valley is known as the Untergailtaler Kirchtag / Ziljski žegen. These fairs consist of three main elements: the traditions of going to church, the horseback game Kufenstechen / štehvanje, štehvanje and the Lindentanz / prvi rej [Linden Dance]; the body of relevant autochthonic songs; and the valley’s traditional costumes (Untergailtaler Tracht / Ziljska noša) that are worn by young…
The cattle offering on Saint George’s day

The cattle offering on Saint George’s day

The cattle offering (Viehumtragen) is a votive custom that has been practiced on 23 April (St. George’s Day) at the parish of St. Georgen in the Pinzgau region since time immemorial, being handed down from generation to generation. In this practice, carried out immediately prior to the beginning of the summer alpine pasture season, the agrarian populace (referred to as the Viehleut, lit. “livestock people”) asks St. George for good fortune (Reim) for their cattle by placing selected animal…
Meadow irrigation in Tyrol

Meadow irrigation in Tyrol

This submission deals with a centuries-old method of irrigating inner-Alpine dry areas. Water is diverted from a brook into the Hauptwaal [main canal], through which it flows downhill at a shallow angle to reach the land that requires irrigation. Today, this simple but efficient method of irrigating agricultural land is still practiced by nine cooperatives in eight municipalities of Tyrol’s Oberland region.
Cathedral workshops in Austria (St. Stephan in Vienna and the Mariendom in Linz)

Cathedral workshops in Austria (St. Stephan in Vienna and the Mariendom in Linz)

For centuries, the cathedral workshops (Dombauhütten) of St. Stephan in Vienna and the Mariendom in Linz have been places where the restoration and maintenance techniques relevant to historical structures as well as social practices and rituals are handed down from generation to generation. In this way, such workshops contribute to the sustained and deep-reaching maintenance of their respective cathedrals as well as guarantee that traditional craftsmanship techniques are preserved and passed on.
The Goldbeater’s craft (Gold, silver, and metal beaters)

The Goldbeater’s craft (Gold, silver, and metal beaters)

Gold leaf is produced by means of a centuries-old handcrafting technique that, in today’s Austria, is practiced by only two remaining goldbeating workshops (which are located in Vienna and in Schwechat). The process they follow expands this valuable precious metal’s surface area so that its symbolic character can be transferred to as large a surface as possible. The knowledge one needs in order to work with this handcrafting technique is handed down from one generation to the next within the…
Larch resin harvesting

Larch resin harvesting

The process by which larch resin and/or larch resin balsam is extracted is a tree-friendly one. First, a tap hole is drilled into a resin pocket in a tree’s trunk; this hole is then stopped with a larch wood plug until the harvest (which generally takes place at two-year intervals). In Carinthia’s Gurk, Metnitz, and Görtschitz Valleys, as well as around the Styrian municipality of Neumarkt, larch resin harvesting is done by resin workers as well as by farmers and foresters. The techniques used…
The Paver’s trade

The Paver’s trade

The paver’s trade is a sustainable form of craftsmanship that has for centuries involved manual labour but nonetheless continued to develop as technology has advanced. The paver’s trade became its own occupation quite early on, and in today’s Austria, it is a regulated occupation in which historical crafting knowledge is passed on to the next generation both orally and through actual practice.
The Dialect of Montafon

The Dialect of Montafon

The Montafon dialect (Muntafunerisch) represents a special case among Austrian’s German dialects. Embedded in Vorarlberg’s landscape of Alemannic-Swabian dialects, it is distinguished by its retention of so-called relic words. The presence of such words can be explained by this area’s settlement history: around 1300 CE, the Rhaeto-Romanic language was superseded here due to the immigration of the Walser people, but today there still remain around 200 relic words, figures of speech, and…
The Educational and Choral Tradition of the Vienna Boys’ Choir

The Educational and Choral Tradition of the Vienna Boys’ Choir

The original function of the Vienna Boys’ Choir was to perform music—above all sacred music—for the Imperial court. The choir still performs this function today at Sunday morning mass at the Wiener Hofburgkapelle (Vienna Court Chapel). The ca. 100 active Vienna Boys’ Choir members, aged between ten and fourteen, are divided into four choirs (one of which consists of girls). Their artistic tradition is distinguished by a special kind of technical training and the passing on of their typical choir…
Viennese Tuning and Playing Technique for the Zither

Viennese Tuning and Playing Technique for the Zither

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. Its tuning and playing technique are still used today…