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
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
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