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LAVANT East Tyrol, Austria.

At the S edge of the Lienz basin, ca. 4 km S of the ruins of the Roman town of Aguntum and near Lavant, the Kirchbichl, a hill with steep slopes on all sides, rises to a height of ca. 800 m. The ascent is possible only on the N side by a serpentine path. On its peak (W) stands the Church of St. Peter; midway on the S side, the Church of St. Ulrich. Excavations have disclosed evidence not only of Early Imperial civilization but also of the fact that the hill served as a fortified refuge in Late Classical times. The only natural access had been blocked at a sharp turn of the road by a gate with tower, closed on both sides by heavy walls ca. 875 m long, which encircled the hill and encompassed an area of ca. 30,000 sq. m. The terraced interior was largely left free of building.

Under St. Peter's choir, square foundations were discovered which are interpreted as the remains of a rectangular Celtic-Roman temple. This pagan cult building was changed in Early Christian times into a chapel through the addition of a semicircular clerics' bench. The most important structure was found SW of St. Ulrich's: an unusually long building (10 x 41 m), which proved to be the largest Early Christian church in Noricum. The long architectural history of the whole complex, with many modifications over the centuries, is very complicated; and the reuse of building materials makes establishing a chronology difficult. It is doubtful that the unusually large building represents a undied concept. Probably the B section belongs to the oldest part of the building and was erected soon after the construction of the fortification (ca. 400 A.D.).

West of St. Ulrich's the ruins of an extensive dwelling complex were found, part of which was equipped for heating and may have been the residence of the bishop.

The historical significance of Kirchbichl is that ca. A.D. 400 a fortified refuge was established here to protect the population of the surrounding area in the troubled times of the migrations, and that at the same time a fortified residence for the bishop (probably the Bishop of Aguntum) was created. It is of interest that the place outlasted the big invasion by the Slavs and Awari ca. 600. For this reason the impressive church ruins have been preserved.


W. Alzinger, Aguntum und Lavant. Führer durch die römerzeitlichen Ruinen Osttirols (1974) 44ffMPI.


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