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Medieval Town - Friesach


The fortification with the town moat belonging to it, the castle buildings on Petersberg mountain, the keep with the Rupertikapelle (St. Rupert’s Chapel), the Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church) and the Stadtpfarrkirche parish church – all these buildings, which were built between the 11th and 13th centuries, represent the heyday of Romanesque architecture in Friesach and impressively bear witness to the former importance of this Carinthian town, which was mentioned in a document for the first time in 860. However, in addition to a visit to the main sights, Friesach also invites visitors on a discovery tour through the medieval town centre. The scenery is particularly impressive at the Middle Ages festival, “Spectaculum”, which takes place every summer. During the festival, all evidence of modern times disappear from Friesach for one evening. Even electricity is completely renounced and the town centre is only lit by torches and fireplaces. Furthermore, the only valid tender during the festival is the (specially minted) Friesacher Pfennig (penny), which was the currency of the whole southeastern Alps area in the 13th century.


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    History

    • Medieval Town - Friesach
      In the year 860, King Ludwig the German handed over a number of farms, including the estate "ad Friesah", to Salzburg‘s church as a donation. Under the sole ownership of Salzburg‘s bishops, Friesach experienced a strong upturn in foreign trade in the 10th century.

      Luxury goods, spices and slaves came from the Orient and were sent to the north. Salt, metals and amber were sent to the south. In 1124, Friesach was documented as being a town. Only a short time after that, Salzburg’s archbishops had the Friesacher Pfennig minted for the first time. The silver coin was a symbol for the once economic power of the town. For two hundred years, the penny was used as supraregional tender even as far as eastern Hungary. The fortifications of the town of Friesach were destroyed several times due to military conflicts and fires, but they were always reconstructed. In 1292, the fortification was given its new appearance which it has kept until today. A further economic highlight for Friesach was the upturn in the mining industry in the 16th century. Iron and silver were mined close to the town. Due to the decline in precious metal mining and foreign trade, the town rapidly lost its political and economic importance in the subsequent centuries. In 1805, the reign of Salzburg’s bishops, which lasted nearly a thousand years, ended. The administration was placed in the hands of the citizens who, from that time on, elected the town councillors and mayors. Then demolition and renovation work commenced. But already in 1881, a society was formed which supported the conservation of old buildings. So Friesach continued to be one of the few Austrian towns which could maintain their medieval flair. Since the provincial exhibition, “Schauplatz Mittelalter Friesach” (scene from the Middle Ages) in the year 2001, the town has been enjoying a constantly growing number of visitors.
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    Architecture and Furniture

    • Medieval Town - Friesach Architecture

      The town of Friesach, with its medieval appearance preserved until today, holds countless treasures from the Romanesque period.

      The town wall with its moat date from the late 13th century. The curtain wall, which is made of quarry stone, is 10 to 11.5 metres high and 1.25 to 1.6 metres thick. On well-preserved parts on the wall there are merlons from the 15th century. Originally, there were five gate towers, none of which is completely preserved. The church on the Petersberg mountain, which was mentioned for the first time in a document in 1130, was, due to imminent danger of an enemy attack, soon provided with a defence architecture. In 1077, Archbishop Gebhard had a fortified castle constructed. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the castle was enlarged and was also reconstructed after a fire. The keep on the Petersberg was built between 1180 and 1220. As the structure was exposed to the weather after all wooden parts were removed in 1836, the tower was renovated in 1893. An engraving from the 17th century served as a model. The ground plan of the Peterskirche church itself looks like the church in Quedlinburg from around 930where Heinrich I was buried. Originally, the church might have been a wooden building, which was replaced by the cross-vaulted choir with a semicircular apse in the 11th and 12th centuries. The parish church of Friesach is a three-nave High Romanesque pillar basilica which was built between 1144 and 1167. In the 14th century, Bishop Gerold of Gurk had the church provided with a cross-rib vaulted Gothic choir. After several fires, the church was renovated for the last time between 1896 and 1912. Unfortunately, the architects did not do a very good job of the façade and the roof.

      Design

      The late-Romanesque murals make the Rupertikapelle chapel, which can be found on the fourth floor of Friesach‘s keep, a special gem.

      As the frescoes were exposed to the weather for about 60 years in the 19th century, only parts of the great paintings, which originally completely covered the walls, vaults and niches of the chapel, are preserved. On the eastern wall of the sacred room are representations of St. Virgil and St. Rupert, to whom the chapel owes its name. The northern and southern walls are decorated with scenes from the life of Jesus. A further outstanding example of Romanesque painting is the fresco of St. Romanus. The image of the saint was created in 1140 in the apse of the Gebhardkapelle (Gebhard’s Chapel) and is located today in the Rupertikapelle chapel, in which the town museum of Friesach was established in 1993. Also exhibited there is the sculpture of a “Maria lactans”. The breastfeeding Madonna dates back to around 1230 and was originally on display in the Peterskirche church. The figure of the Mother of God was based on examples in Northern Italy where, in the 12th century, similar miraculous images were worshiped. The charnel house of Friesach’s parish church, which was created around the year 1200, had to make way for road improvements in the 19th century, but its Romanesque tympanum found its way back to its original place and was erected north of the church. In the meantime, the tympanum has adorned the entrance area of the conference room in Friesach’s old town hall. Also the baptismal font of the parish church, which was erected in the 12th century, experienced a brief relocation. The sacred object with its diverse ornamentation was moved within the church from the tower hall to the chancel arch in 1945.


Object
Burgenstadt Friesach
Fürstenhofplatz 1
9360 Friesach
Österreich

Tourist Information:
Tourismusinformation Friesach
Fürstenhofplatz 1
9360 Friesach
Österreich
+43 4268 22 13 -43
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