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.   Lindwurm, 20 kb

Rhino skull, 6 kb   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.

Austrian Stamp, ATS 2,-, 29 kb

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 exhibits.

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. Stadtwappen Klagenfurt

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.
[anonymus, 1608]

From September 1996 to July 1997 the Lindwurm was removed for restoration.

Flying Lindwurm, 15 kb  

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.

Lindwurm Postcards


  • 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.
  • Thenius, E. & Vavra, N. (1996): Fossilien im Volksglauben und Alltag. Bedeutung und Verwendung vorzeitlicher Tier- und Pflanzenreste von der Steinzeit bis heute. - Senckenberg-Buch 71, 179 p., (Kramer) Frankfurt a/Main.
  • 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 courtesy 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
Erstellt 1996 / Letzte Änderungen 18.04.1999
Aktuelle Version 09.06.2002