previous next

ULRICHSBERG Carinthia, Austria.

A mountain (1020 m high) on the W side of the Zollfeld, near Virunum, the provincial capital of Noricum. On the top of the isolated mountain stands the ruin of the Late Gothic Church of St. Ulrich which gave the mountain its name. In the Middle Ages it was called Mons Carantanus. Many spoils have been built into the walls of this church, and above the main entrance one finds a fragment of an inscription which refers to a procurator's votive offering for Isis Noreia. This and other observations led to excavations in 1934-38, and 1948, during which buildings from two Roman periods were identified, the 1st and 6th c. A.D. In the center of each of the two building complexes is a cult building.

One of these is a structure 43 m long in a slight hollow N of the modern St. Ulrich's. Its strange plan suggests a cult building with a double function: a) for the above-mentioned Isis Noreia, comparable to the goddess Isis; b) for the otherwise unknown god Casuontanus, whose name is found on an inscription in the large basin. The carefully waterproofed basin would indicate that water must have played an important part in this cult as in other native Celtic temples. This sanctuary was somewhat isolated from the rest of the buildings to leave sufficient room for the attendance of the faithful at the outdoor ceremonies. The finds indicate that the cult originated in pre-Roman times. Adjoining buildings include a large, well-equipped dwelling (for the priests) and three houses, one with a bath, to shelter pilgrims. This place of pilgrimage seems to have functioned until late in the 5th c. A.D. It came to an end when nearby a cult building of the new Christian religion was erected.

This Early Christian church (26.5 x 16.3 m) became in turn the center of a small building complex. It had one nave (16.3 x 9.8 m) and on the N side two rooms (prothesis and diaconicon) and in the W an entrance hall (narthex) with a masonry bench. The outside of the apse was decorated with shallow pilasters. The semicircular clergy bench has been moved from the apse closer to the audience; in front of it was the altar. The advanced architecture (pilasters, narthex, etc.) justify dating it to the late 5th c. A.D.

Around the church was grouped a small settlement consisting of a few miserable primitive stone houses. The mountain top was, however, not protected by a wall or developed as a refuge, as elsewhere. Since the end of ancient times a few families had lived here in this remote place, which was protected by woods. Thus a new type of settlement, the first Almdorf (mountain village) in the E Alps was developed here. It perished with the invasion of the Slavs and Awari at the end of the 6th c. A.D.


R. Egger, “Der Ulrichsberg. Ein heiliger Berg Kärntens,” Carinthia 140 (1950) 29ffMPI; id. in EAA 7 (1966) 1051ff; R. Noll, Frühes Christentum in Österreich (1954) 106f; H. Vetters, “Virunum,” RE IX A 1 (1961) 282ff, 297.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: