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Intangible cultural heritage

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

Festive practices of the civic guards and ceremonial militias of the district of Murau
Social practices in Styria, inscribed 2012

Five civic guards and ceremonial militias make up the District Association of Guards in the Styrian district of Murau, in the Austrian province of Styria: the Murau Civic Guard, the Krakaudorf Ceremonial Militia, the Krakauebene Ceremonial Militia, the Ranten Corpus Christi Guard, and the Ceremonial Militia of the Parish of St Peter am Kammersberg. Their historical origins can be traced back to the 17th century. Several times a year, they participate as guards of honour in festive events and religious processions, thereby enhancing the ceremonial character of the occasion.

Most of the existing formations grew out of the local protection forces or began as groups tasked with protecting Catholic processions from disruptions by Protestants during the time of the Reformation and Counter-Revolution. The uniforms go back to the recurring war activities in the Napoleonic era at the beginning of the 19th century and the appearance of the soldiers of that time. It is from this model that today’s ceremonial dress has evolved: often colourful uniforms with tailcoat-like jackets out of green or brown cloth with red cuffs and white trousers. A distinctive feature at ceremonial occasions is, in addition to the firing of a salute, flag-spinning, which is practised only by the guards from Ranten and St Peter.
The individual guard members come from all levels of society, and the tradition is passed on from one generation to the next. Since the 20th century, in addition to their representational function in both the sacred and secular realm, the guards have also assumed a social function in the context of their club activities, with participation in local festivities varying from guard to guard. Although individual guards joined together in the late 1980s to form a district association in order to improved networking, each group continues to cultivate its own traditions and maintain its own appearance.




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