Der Klagenfurter Lindwurm
|Whenever you come to Austria, visit Klagenfurt,
the capital of Carinthia. There you will find the
famous Lindwurm monument, which was errected by Ulrich Vogelsang
in 1590. Although it represents a dragon, it can be
regarded as the first palaeontological reconstruction.
||In 1335 the cranium of a wooly rhinoceros from the ice-age was found in a gravel pit
near Klagenfurt. It was instantly interpreted as the skull of a dragon or Lindwurm. This
fossil, which is still at exhibition at the Landesmuseum für Kärnten, served as a
model for the head of the Lindwurm.
However, the legend of a dragon haunting the surroundings of Klagenfurt is much older.
The name of the town can be read as "ford of lament". Floods repeatedly destroyed the crossings
over the river Glan and many persons lost their lives. Thus the idea arose, that a water
dragon was responsible for all the letal accidents at the ford and in the swamps near the
river Glan. There he hided in eternal mists. During rain and thunderstorm people could hear
him roar. To relieve the peasants from this creature, the Duke of Carinthia built a huge,
strong tower at the limits of the swamps. Fearless knights hided there, and a stout bull
tied to a chain with barbs was presented as a bait. Soon the winged Lindwurm appeared and
devoured the bull - and hung wriggling on the chain like a fish on the hook. At once he was
slain by the knights. Later the swamps were drained, and the tower was replaced by a castle.
Thus the town Klagenfurt was founded. The city-arms still show tower and dragon to remind
us of this heroic deed.
The oldest settlements of Klagenfurt were actually located north of the present town on top
of a small hill which was secure from inundation. There the river could be crossed by a ford.
To the south the country was marshy and unsafe. That area was not inhabited before the first
half of the 13th century. The oldest document preserved about the Lindwurm - a city seal
dated 1287 - originates from that period. At that time the defeat of the dragon was allready
common folk lore. The finding of an approximately 75 cm long skull of a totally unknown beast
enhanced this belief. However, its proveniance and the date of the discovery remain obscure.
Some state that it was found in 1353 in a gravel pit still known as Lindwurmgrube, others
report that it originates from the Goritschitzen, which is the southern flank of the hill
of ancient Klagenfurt, and some say that it was not unearthed before the middle of the 16th
century. The "dragons skull" was carefully preserved at the town hall until in 1840 the
palaeontologist Franz UNGER determined it as the cranium of the wooly rhinoceros [Rhinoceros
tichorhinus CUVIER = Coelodonta antiquitatis (BLUMENBACH)]. Nine years later the
Naturhistorisches Landesmuseum was founded and the rhino-skull became one of its first
But also the Lindwurm itself underwent a metamorphoses: The oldest city seal shows a two-legged,
winged dragon in front of a tower (which is thus similar to that
of Laibach = Ljubljana). This image was used at least until 1609. But towards the end of the
16th century the idea of what a dragon should look like changed. From then on dragons used to
have four legs, and the city-arms of 1669 show that type of Lindwurm. However, the Lindwurm
of Klagenfurt was never depicted without wings.
Ein Lindwurm gantz ungeheuer
Wellicher verprent durchs Feuer
Im Zollfelt sollicher da lag
Drob menschen und auch vich vertzag
In Wappen fierdt Clagenfurdt statt
Davon sie iren namen hatt.
From September 1996 to July 1997 the Lindwurm was removed for restoration.
"Das Wahrzeichen von Klagenfurt ist am Dienstag flügge
geworden. Der Lindwurm des gleichnamigen Brunnens wird
allerdings nicht zur Luftaufklärung bei der Makakenjagd
eingesetzt, er soll vielmehr bis 1997 renoviert werden."
More Lindwurm Pictures
ABEL O. (1939): Vorzeitliche Tierreste im Deutschen Mythus, Brauchtum und Volksglauben. - 304 p., Jena (Gustav Fischer).
MC BEATH, A. (1998): Trans-Alpine Dragon Hunt. - The Dragon Chronicle, vol. 12, London.
PUSCHNIG, R. (1936): Der "Lindwurmschädel" von Klagenfurt. Carinthia II, vol. 125/45, Sonderdruckreihe 1/35.
UCIK, F.H. (1990): Wollnashorn und Lindwurm. Einige Betrachtungen über das Symbol unserer neuen Vereins-Buchreihe. - Carinthia II, vol. 180/100, p. 295-306, Klagenfurt.
Photo of the fossil rhinoceros cranium courtsey of Dr. G. Piccottini,
Landesmuseum für Kärnten, Klagenfurt.
Flying Lindwurm: © Text: Der Standard 10.09.1996, © Photo: APA/Fritz Press
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© MCMXCVI by J. Georg Friebe
& Vorarlberger Naturschau, Dornbirn (Austria)
last update: 18.04.1999