TU Graz


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Sozialpartnerschaft - Speikkogel, Steiermark (18/25)
Späth, Ernst Spaun, Anton Ritter von


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The Habsburg Domains around 1400.

Late Middle Ages: The years between 1250 to 1522 in Austria were characterised by a high degree of homogeneity both in terms of its political history (Habsburg rule) and the development of the arts (the Gothic period). The beginning of this period was marked by the efforts of the Bohemian king Přemysl Otakar II to unite the whole Danube region and to establish an empire stretching from the River Oder to the Adriatic. He conquered the Babenberg domains and inherited land from the Sponheim family in Carinthia (Podbrady Bequest in 1268), gained influence in Salzburg and was at first supported by the Austrians. In Tirol he was confronted with opposition from the Meinhardiner family, the house of the Counts of Gorizia, who supported Rudolf of Habsburg, the German king, when he claimed the Babenberg domains for his empire in 1273. After the first campaign against him Otakar surrendered in 1276; two years later, in an attempt to reassert his rights, Otakar marched on Vienna, but was defeated and killed in the Battle of Dürnkrut (between Dürnkrut and Jedenspeigen) on August 26, 1278. During his rule, the towns of Marchegg, Bruck an der Mur and Leoben were founded.

Rudolf of Habsburg invested his sons with the Babenberg domains in 1282 (from 1283 under Albrecht's I sole rule), Count Meinhard of Tirol was bequeathed Carinthia and Carniola.

The relentless rule of the first Habsburg, who came from western Switzerland and brought his entourage with him, roused opposition in Austria. Albrecht was also involved in conflicts with the Archbishop of Salzburg over salt mining, wanted to acquire land in Hungary, and finally ascended the German throne. His sons succeeded in establishing their rule in Austria, but were otherwise beset by misfortune. Rudolf III, who was elected king in Bohemia, died as early as 1307, Friedrich III was defeated by his rival, Louis of Bavaria, in the war over the German crown and Heinrich lost a desicive battle to the Swiss at Morgarten in 1315. Although physically handicapped, Albrecht II not only managed to establish Habsburg rule in the Austrian domains owing to his political skills but also acquired Carinthia in 1335. In Carinthia, Otto, who had also established the monastery of Neuberg in Styria, had himself elected duke on the Zollfeld plain in accordance with an age-old tradition. During this period the Carthusian monasteries of Mauerbach and Gaming in Lower Austria were founded. The early years of the 14th century were marked by severe natural disasters (earthquake in 1348) and the plague; it was during this period that Vienna became the capital. Albrecht's son Rudolf IV (1358-1365) founded the University of Vienna and had St. Stephen's Cathedral rebuilt in Gothic style. He also tried to make Vienna a diocese and claimed immense privileges for Austria by a forged charter ("Privilegium maius"), which Emperor Karl IV refused to accept; however, it was later sanctioned by the Habsburg Friedrich III when he became emperor, thus endowing the members of the Habsburg family with the title of archduke.

Under the rule of Margarete Maultasch in Tirol, the family of the Meinhardiner were involved in rivalries with the Wittelsbachs of Bavaria and the Luxembourgs in Bohemia; Rudolf IV took advantage of the situation and gained Tirol in 1363, when his domains comprised almost the entire territory of present-day Austria. A few years later Habsburgs acquired lands west of the Arlberg pass (present-day Vorarlberg). By the acquisition of Trieste, the Habsburgs also gained a foothold on the Adriatic.

At this stage Austria was affected by the partition of the Habsburg family lands due to quarrels between the Dukes Albrecht III and Leopold III in 1379, a partition which lasted for 100 years. Albrecht received the Austrian lands on the River Danube and Leopold gained the lands of Innerösterreich (Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, Tirol and the lands in the west stretching to the river Rhine). In the west, lands were lost to the Swiss on various occasions, Leopold III became involved in conflicts with the Swiss, was defeated and died in battle near Sempach 1386; the Habsburgs were again defeated near Näfels in 1388, but succeeded in compensating for these losses by the acquisition of the city of Freiburg.

On account of its location on the River Danube, Vienna developed into a commercial centre, roads leading to the south were built across mountains, ore mining activity at Erzberg Mountain and in Carinthia increased considerably. Building construction also flourished during that period, as manifested in many preserved buildings in Gothic style. In the fields of painting and poetry significant works were accomplished.

Duke Albrecht III was an important patron of the arts, he founded Laxenburg Castle and commissioned Leopold Stainreuter to write the "Chronik von den 95 Herrschaften" ("Chronicle of the 95 Realms").

The early years of the 15th century were marked by conflicts between the various lines of the Habsburg family. Thus the Estates gained more influence as the people's representatives, they assembled in diets "to advise and support" the sovereign. Finally, Albrecht V managed to restore a strong and energetic rule after 1411, but was soon forced to defend Austria against the Hussites, who came from Bohemia and Moravia and ravaged Austrian lands north of the River Danube on numerous occasions. Albrecht V had married Elisabeth, the daughter of Emperor Siegmund of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia and Hungary. After his death in 1437 Albrecht became not only King of Bohemia and Hungary but also King of Germany. Albrecht himself died prematurely in 1439, before his son Ladislaus was born. Friedrich III of Styria (from 1440 King and from 1452 Emperor) became Ladislaus's guardian; his reign was marked by almost ceaseless strife with the Estates (the nobility, knights, prelates and towns), who had become very powerful. They forced Friedrich to release Ladislaus from tutelage and forged alliances with the national leaders in Hungary and Bohemia. When Ladislaus Postumus died prematurely in 1457, Matthias Corvinus became King of Hungary and in Bohemia George of Podbrady was elected king.

In Tirol Duke Friedrich IV had trouble remaining in power as he laid himself open to criticism at the Council of Constance. He also had to assert himself against a rebellion of his nobles in Tirol. The profits from the silver mines in the Inntal Valley enabled Friedrich's son, Sigmund, to have many buildings constructed (e.g. Ambras Castle, church in Schwaz). Ernst, who was later called "der Eiserne" (the "Iron Ruler"), ruled in Styria and Carinthia; these regions prospered under his reign and continued to do so under the rule of his son Friedrich III (AEIOU), who made Wiener Neustadt his preferred residence and also extended the fortress of Graz.

During the second half of the 15th century Styria and Carinthia were often threatened by the Turks, who were pushing on towards the North; for defence, castles and town walls were strengthened and extended, in villages churches were fortified. The farmers, who saw themselves neglected and endangered, rose against their liege-lords on several occasions. Emperor Friedrich III tried to restore peace with the Austrian Estates but failed on account of weakness of his own and the activities of Matthias Corvinus. The latter invaded Austria the first time in 1477 and occupied considerable parts of the country after 1482. He took residence in Vienna, where he died unexpectedly in 1490.

One of the reasons why Matthias Corvinus invaded Austria was the situation in the Archdiocese of Salzburg and the diocese of Passau. Since the 14th century archbishops and bishops of Salzburg and Passau had been members of noble families from the neighbouring lands; there were rivalries between Austrian and Bavarian candidates and sometimes two candidates were elected to the same office. In the early years of the 15th century knights and citizens of Salzburg founded the "Igelbund" ("Hedgehog") alliance and established estates; in the second half of the century the archbishops were short of money. The Archbishop of Gran fled and sought refuge at Friedrich's III court and when Friedrich installed him as the new prelate of Salzburg, the conflict with the Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus, reached its climax, resulting in Corvinus' receiving possessions of the Passau diocese in Austria as a pledge.

Unlike the court of Matthias Corvinus, where the Renaissance was already flourishing, the Habsburg court and the Austrian lands were still cultivating the Gothic style. Owing to the Danube School, the Gothic style did not die out until the early years of the 16th century. Many magnificent Winged Altars were produced, churches and town houses were built in more monumental and impressive form than ever before. The castles of Wiener Neustadt, Graz and Linz are some fine examples of building activity under Friedrich, in Salzburg Leonhard von Keutschach had Hohensalzburg Castle built.

During the second half of the 15th century the economic situation improved considerably. In some areas trade prospered, large ironworks were established (early-capitalist enterprises), salt was mined in Tirol, Styria and near Hallein in Salzburg, gold mining yielded considerable profits in the valleys of the Tauern mountains in Salzburg und Carinthia, silver was mined in Oberzeiring (Styria) and Schwaz (Tirol). A pension scheme for the miners working in mines of the Eisenerz Alps was introduced.

When Emperor Friedrich's III son, Maximilian, married Mary of Burgundy, the foundations were laid for the significant role the House of Habsburg was to play throughout the world. Augsburg and Innsbruck were the main residential towns of Maximilian I, who was a patron of the arts and promoted the Renaissance style, even though, as a German prince, he did so in the tradition of his own family. He appointed scientists and artists to his court and had a magnificent monument built for himself (Tomb of Maximilian), which was planned to be erected in Wiener Neustadt but was finally built in Innsbruck. During Maximilian I's rule (died at Wels in 1519) the period of the Middle Ages came to an end. New developments were taking place all around the world: America was "discovered", Humanism was flourishing, the German Reformation was just beginning and the Ottomans were pushing on towards the Balkans and Hungary.

Literature: A. Lhotsky, Geschichte Österreichs seit der Mitte des 13. Jahrhunderts (1281-1358), 1967; H. Wiesflecker, Kaiser Maximilian, 5 vols., 1970ff.; A. Kusternigg, Die Zeit König Ottokars in Österreich, 1978; Die Zeit der frühen Habsburger, exhibition catalogue, Wiener Neustadt 1982; B. Rill, Friedrich III., Matthias Corvinus und die Renaissance in Ungarn, exhibition catalogue, Schallaburg 1982; O. Brunner, Land und Herrschaft, 51984; Habsburgs europäischer Durchbruch, 1987; G. Hödl, Habsburg und Österreich 1277-1494, 1988; Eines Fürsten Traum, exhibition catalogue, Schloß Tirol und Stams 1995.

References to other albums:
Video Album: Freistadt in Oberösterreich.
History of Music: Kyrie fons bonitatis mit Tropus Divinitatis amator,
Darstellungen von Musikinstrumenten,
Fidler und Tänzerin,
Neidhart: Der Prem,
Mönch von Salzburg: Kühhorn,
Ulrich von Liechtenstein: Süeze doene,
Michel Beheim: Das Buch von den Wienern,

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