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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

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.
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.
Production of Traditionally Hand-Crafted Terrazzo

Production of Traditionally Hand-Crafted Terrazzo

Terrazzo is a long-lived, heavy-duty, and low-maintenance type of flooring that can be decorated in a broad diversity of patterns and is produced without chemical additives. 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 by hand. Next, the terrazzo chips are beaten (geprackt), rolled with an iron terrazzo roller, and…
Gilding & Faux Painting

Gilding & Faux Painting

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 and oil gilding. Faux painting (known as Staffieren or, in former times, as Fassmalerei) denotes the painting and decorative embedding of non-gilded surfaces. This includes marbelising, wood imitation, and porcelain imitation. Knowledge of the complex techniques is for the most part passed on…
Making and Wearing of the "Linz Goldhaube"

Making and Wearing of the "Linz Goldhaube"

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 on sacred and secular occasions since the beginning of the 19th century. The production of a Goldhaube requires between 250 and 300 hours of work as well as manual skill and the necessary knowledge of old handcrafting techniques, which are upheld and passed on by…
Indigo Hand Block Printing in the Mühlviertel Region

Indigo Hand Block Printing in the Mühlviertel Region

The highly complex and time-consuming process of indigo hand-printing became established in the region of northern Upper Austria known as the Mühlviertel during the 19th century. Regional craftsmen and craftswomen went abroad to learn this new technique “on the road”. And now, the knowledge of Mühlviertel-style indigo hand block printing is already being passed on to the fourth generation in the Wagner family. Their large collection of handmade wooden patterns exhibits a broad variety of…
Pocket knife-making in Trattenbach

Pocket knife-making in Trattenbach

The Trattenbach pocket knife, a foldable knife that consists of a blade and a lathed wooden handle, has been hand-produced in Trattenbach, upper Austria for nearly 600 years. Many people carry a knife of this type on their persons as a constant companion that gets used for all sorts of things. Making this knife requires detailed knowledge of the materials involved as well as experience in working with steel, wood, and water power.
Production of the Molln Jew’s Harp

Production of the Molln Jew’s Harp

The Jew’s harp (Maultrommel) is a small musical instrument consisting of a metal frame and a steel tongue or reed. With the instrument pressed between the teeth, the flexible steel reed is plucked and vibrates, using the musician’s head as a resonance chamber (see article on "Jew's Harp Playing in Austria"). The Jew’s harp is thought to be of Asian origin, and the existence of a Jew’s harp makers’ guild in Molln is documented as early as the 17th century. Today, there remain only three family…
Bobbin lace-making in Salzburg

Bobbin lace-making in Salzburg

In bobbin lace-making (Klöppelei), several threads are used simultaneously: they are wound onto spindle-shaped bobbins, crossed two by two and then twisted together. This produces the lace that protects the edges of textile products from fraying and gives them an artistic ornamentation. Due to the great demand for this lace, lace-making in Salzburg grew to become an industry of trans-regional importance.
Basket weaving

Basket weaving

The millennia-old handicraft of weaving baskets from various natural materials has always been an important component of everyday life. The baskets, woven and sewn from willow, straw, and split wood, were used for carrying and storing various items. In many parts of Austria, basket weaving was an important cottage industry. In the region of southern Styria, a rich range of variations on the art of basket weaving has been preserved.
Pitch-oil burning in the eastern Mühlviertel region

Pitch-oil burning in the eastern Mühlviertel region

While pitch oil was originally widely used in folk medicine, today its applications are limited to home use. In Upper Austria’s eastern Mühlviertel region, liquid resin is still extracted today using pitch-oil stones. On the slightly slanted stones, small kilns of resin-rich pine are constructed and covered with soil. About two hours after the kiln is ignited, the pitch oil begins flowing along the stone’s small leaf-vein grooves. This method of extracting resin is still practised by several…
Austrian Scythe Forging

Austrian Scythe Forging

Prior to the mechanisation of farming, the scythe numbered among the most important harvesting implements. And even after the introduction of mowing machines, it remained a crucial tool for small farming operations and hence also for regional food production until well into the 20th century. This went hand in hand with specialised know-how acquired over centuries.
Reverse glass painting in Sandl

Reverse glass painting in Sandl

With the migration of Northern Bohemian glassmakers, the craft of reverse glass painting arrived in the district Mühlviertel around 1760. It is a region that is along with the Southern part of Bohemia and the Waldviertel district in neighbouring Lower Austria, still renowned for its fine glass products.
Charcoal burning

Charcoal burning

Charcoal burning is a traditional handicraft that originated in agricultural societies and is primarily concerned with the production of charcoal. Using dry distillation, wood is heated under the exclusion of oxygen and charred over a period of weeks, turning it into mostly pure carbon.
Resin extraction in Lower Austria

Resin extraction in Lower Austria

Resin extraction from black pines, also called Austrian pines, has been a common trade for centuries. The surface of the tree trunk is wounded to artificially stimulate the flow of resin. The resin thus collected is then processed in refineries and boiling houses to make turpentine oil and rosin, also known as colophony. Until the second half of the 20th century, these intermediate products served as the basis for the industrial manufacture of paper, lacquer, paint, soap, and many other…
Specialities of individual pharmacies

Specialities of individual pharmacies

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.
The Lake Constance Radhaube in lamé lace

The Lake Constance Radhaube in lamé lace

The Lake Constance Radhaube, a wheel-shaped bonnet, is unique due to its ornaments, which are made of golden and silver threads of equal quality on either side. The bonnet is typically worn in combination with traditional (Austrian) dress (“Tracht”) on festive occasions such as dance performances or festivals.
Blueprint - resist block printing and indigo dyeing in Burgenland

Blueprint - resist block printing and indigo dyeing in Burgenland

Blueprint in Burgenland involves the dyeing of fabric with the help of a special type of printing technique called “Reservedrucktechnik” (resist printing). Traditionally, wood patterns and paste are used to apply the requested design onto the fabric, which is subsequently dyed indigo. It is said that textile printing was probably discovered by chance and can now be traced back for centuries in countries such as Hungary, Turkey, the Czech Republic or Egypt.
The gunsmith´s craft in Ferlach

The gunsmith´s craft in Ferlach

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.
Bread- making in the Lesach Valley

Bread- making in the Lesach Valley

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.