Iron Trail with Erzberg and the old town of Steyr

Date of Submission: 23/01/2002
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Bundesministerium fur Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur
State, Province or Region:
Upper Austria
Ref.: 20

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Old part of Steyr including Wehrgrabenviertel:

The old town of Steyr and the Wehrgrabenviertel, or moat quarters, form a unique symbiosis of well-preserved medieval houses with adjacent industrial settlement ("Steyrdorf" merging into the rural suburbs).

Situated at the confluence of the Enns and Steyr rivers the castle and the surrounding city, which controlled the river crossings, originate in 990. The rivers served both as trafic routes and as hydraulic power reservoirs for the iron industry fluorishing since medieval times owing to the rich ore deposit in the hinterland. Steyr is one of the most significant historic industrial towns in Austria. In the 20th century, the economic importance of the Wehrgrabenviertel declined, a fact that helped preserve the quarter in its entire substance. Since the Middle Ages a number of outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings were added to the old town which has maintained its prospect of a complete ensemble to date: a large main square is lined with magnificent houses and dominated by the beautiful Late Gothic parish church on the hill above.

Styrian Erzberg and Eisenstraße (Iron Road):
The Erzberg/Eisenstraße region between the towns of Leoben and Hieflau in Styria has been coined in terms of architecture and landscape by its iron mining, smelting and trading activities since the Middle Ages.

The Erzberg represents the most prominent ore mining example in Central Europe. The formerly preferred and now exclusive open pit mining process with its imposing worked terraces has resulted in a stepped shape of the entire mountainside. The former ore smelting industry in Eissenerz featured 19 ironworks dating back to the 16th century. In Vordernberg, there were 14 so-called "wheelworks". Essential parts of these three works, which were renewed in the 19th century, have been preserved, especially in the latter town; the large roasting plant near the medieval Laurenzikirche, the wheelwork IV of 1846 complete with all its technical equipment, parts of the wheelworks I,III,X,XI and XIV, a hammer mill and the former mining school (1840-49, today the mining university in Leoben), as well as numerous miners houses in both Eisenerz and Vordemberg. Leoben's townscape is characterised by the houses of rich iron merchants. The same applies to Trofaiach where you also find the remains of the once biggest charcoal furnace on the continent. Radmer still shows traces of Bronze Age copper extraction, as well as remains of later copper production and ore mining done until recently, 1çth century Hieflau, too,had a furnace plus the large "timber rake" in the Enns river with the adjacent "charcoal burning ground" where the timber transported by the river was charred to become charcoal to be delivered to Eisenerz. Of the former haulage systems the most notable are the roadside structure of the former rail line from Erzberg to Vordernberg, the water ton lift at the Erzberg mountain and the standard-gauge cogwheel railway over the Prabichl mountain opened in 1891. A number of other auxiliary facilities of the once exclusive ore mining and smelting region complement its appearance, 700 years of extensive industrial activity have shaped the area into an exceptional and impressive cultural landscape.