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falkenstein01 Medieval Histories

Falkenstein – a refuge for pilgrims on the road to St. Wolfgang

Between St. Gilger and St. Wolfgang on the lake of Wolfgang (Wolfgangsee) an old pilgrim path winds its way around the lake and into the mountains. Midway lies and old chapel, the so-called Falkenstein Kapelle.

In 2009 archaeologists discovered a hitherto unknown refuge for pilgrims, where two eremites lived permanently in order to care for the travellers, of which it is estimated that more than 300.000 passed by yearly at the end of the 14th century. The refuge was discovered through Aerial Archaeology using modern laser-techniques applied from the air by LBI ArchPro.

Beneath the foundation an under-structure consisting of two cellars were uncovered, complete with a wooden water-pipe. The pipe led water from the spring, which according to the legend sprang from the rock, where St. Wolfgang in the mid 10th century struck with his crozier. The spring ended up in one of the cellars where the pilgrims were able to fill their vials and flasks with the holy water.

The next-door cellar was obviously used as a store-room for food – salted and smoked meat, speck etc. Here a bonanza of exciting finds were uncovered: fragments of glass, richly decorated pottery together with pieces from at least two potted hearths, pipes for smoking tobacco, a flute carved of bone, a collection of pearls from rosaries and six so-called “Wolfgangihackerl”, miniatures of the axe, which was considered the primary symbol of St. Wolfgang. More than 100 coins dating from the 17th century and later were found in the surroundings, all of which witness to the rather comfortable life at the pilgrimage in Early Modern Europe.

Modern day “Wolfgangihackerls” may be bought at the small village of St. Wolfgang even today. The axe refers to an event in the life of the saint. After having selected a solitary spot in the wilderness, he prayed and then threw his axe into the thicket; the spot on which the axe fell he regarded as the place where God intended he should build his cell – at Falkenstein. It takes app. three hours to walk from St. Gilgen to St. Wolfgang along the shore of the lake. Whether you set out from one place or the other there is a small ferry, which will take you back

VIAS – Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science

Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Archäologische Prospektion und Virtuelle Archäologie

Read about Flying Lasers and Archaeology

Photos: Franz Neumayr for LBI ArchPro


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