Hemma from Gurk

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Hemma von Gurk (* between 995 and 1000 ; † June 29 , probably 1045 , in Gurk , Carinthia ) was a Carinthian nobleman, church and monastery founder. She is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church . She is the patron saint of Carinthia and is appealed to for a happy delivery or a cure for eye diseases.

St. Hemma of Gurk. Sebald Bopp around 1510

Hemma has been buried in the crypt of Gurk Cathedral since 1174 . She was beatified on November 21, 1287, canonized on January 5, 1938 by Pope Pius XI. Her feast day is June 27th. Iconographically , she is portrayed as a distinguished woman with the attributes of a double-towered church, certificate and rose, as well as often distributing alms .


Historically verifiable information about Hemma is scarce. The Hemmas family can only be accessed indirectly via the inherited goods. A Waltuni received extensive goods as a gift from King Arnulf in 895 , which later belonged to Hemma's property. Hemma came from the family of Zwentibold (Zwentibolch) from Swabia , a relative and vassal of the Bavarian Luitpoldinger . He received two rich goods from Arnulf in 898, first the Gurk farm, the village of Zeltschach and the Gurktal , then the upper Metnitztal with its side valleys.

At the end of the 10th century, these goods are owned by an imma who was thus related to the Luitpolding people and also distantly to Emperor Heinrich II . In 975 Imma received from Emperor Otto II the right to build a market and a mint in Lieding and to collect market tariffs . This right was transferred to a monastery that was in the process of being founded, which, due to the resistance of the Salzburg archbishops, never got beyond the founding stage; Market and coinage rights were later to be transferred to Gurk, and ultimately used by the Salzburg archbishops for Friesach . Due to the name and the inheritance of the property, Imma can be regarded as the direct ancestor of Hemma, probably the grandmother.

Hemma's birthplace and parents are unknown. The time between 995 and 1000 is assumed to be the time of birth, and around 980 is also often mentioned. She married Wilhelm II, Count of Friesach and Margrave in the Sanntal , who was first mentioned in 1016. As his supporter, he was promoted by King Konrad II as a counterweight to the Carinthian Duke Adalbero von Eppenstein , who, deposed by the king, killed Wilhelm in 1036.

Hemma and Wilhelm. Illustration from the Gurk Fraternity Book, 1685

In the course of the independence efforts of the Gurk bishops of Salzburg, a chaplain Conrad carried out numerous forgeries in the 12th century, which may have destroyed original documents pertaining to Hemma. In these forgeries Wilhelm I was named as the husband and Wilhelm II as the son of Hemma, which is not possible due to the life data. There are no contemporary sources for Hemma's sons. Sources from the 12th century and the names Wilhelm and Hartwig, known from the Hemmas family and her husband, make the assumption of two sons Hemmas credible.

After the death of her husband (and, if historically, the two sons), Hemma was "one of the richest women of her time". The legacy of the grandmother and husband were large estates in the Gurk and Metnitztal, around Friesach and Völkermarkt in Carinthia, in Friuli , in Upper Styria in the Enns , Palten and Liesing valleys and on the Pyhrnpass , in Lower Styria in the Sanntal (room von Cilli and Weitenstein ) and between the rivers Savinja , Save and Sotla and in the Lower Carniola between Save and Krka .

Hemma wanted to found two monasteries. The goods for the foundation of one monastery in the Ennstal were contractually handed over to Archbishop Baldwin of Salzburg . However, it was only thirty years later that Admont Abbey was founded in 1074 by Archbishop Gebhard as Salzburg's own monastery.

According to document 1043, Hemma himself founded a women's monastery in Gurk, which was a noble women's monastery without a fixed rule of the order. Its church stood to the west of today's cathedral and was demolished in the 19th century because it was dilapidated. That Hemma entered the monastery as a lay sister has not been proven, but it is not unlikely. The day of Hemma's death, June 29, is mentioned in the Admont, Ossiach and Gurk books of the dead . The year of death is not certain and is assumed to be around 1045, but certainly after 1043.

In addition to the Gurk Abbey, Hemma also donated a number of churches . The construction of the following nine churches is considered certain: Gurk, Grafendorf near Friesach, Lieding , Glödnitz, St. Radegund am Hohenfeld, Lorenzenberg near Micheldorf, St. Georgen am Weinberg, St. Margarethen near Töllerberg and St. Lambert / Lamprecht on the Lamprechtskogel near Orphanage . The churches of Pisweg, St. Georgen near Strasbourg, Kraßnitz, St. Peter and Paul in Hart im Glantal and Wieting (Carinthia) are also attributed to her . The number is astonishing, as there were only around 20 churches documented before Hemma in Carinthia.


“Hemma and the legend of the fair wages”, Josef Ferdinand Fromiller, around 1739.

According to legend, Hemma was born in Peilenstein as the daughter of Engelbert and Tuta, came from the high nobility and was related to Emperor Heinrich II, at whose court she was educated. She married Wilhelm, Count of Friesach and Margrave in the Sanntal. Her two sons, Wilhelm and Hartwig, were killed by miners in a revolt. Wilhelm punished the rebels harshly, whereupon he went on a pilgrimage to Rome. On the return journey he died in Carinthia. His grave is said to be in graves . Hemma then donated the cathedral and monastery to Gurk.

According to legend, the place for the church was determined by a divine judgment . A team of oxen with building material for the cathedral, which was to be started, was driven up the Gurktal. They stopped at the site of today's cathedral and thus indicated the place where the building should be. This legend follows the tradition of 1 Samuel 6: 7-12.

The legend of fair wages tells a story from the time the cathedral was built: A construction worker was dissatisfied with his wages and asked for more wages. Hemma, who paid the wages to the workers herself, held out the purse and asked him to take out his own wages. When he checked it was the same amount that was due to him anyway. This legend is very similar to the one about Empress Kunigunde , about whom similar things are told about the construction of Bamberg Cathedral .

Worship and canonization

Wooden relief from 1508, pilgrims at Hemma's grave
Hemma dedicates the cathedral to the patron saint Maria; Legenda Beatae Hemmae , 14th century

The monastery in Gurk, founded by Hemma, did not have a long life due to its rich furnishings. Archbishop Gebhard abolished it in 1072 and established the diocese of Gurk with the property of the monastery . The veneration of Hemma should have begun soon after her death. The wages they spent on buildings are likely to have improved the economic situation of the population. The legends speak again and again of their piety and their sense of justice. The transfer ( Translatio ) of Hemmas in 1174 into the newly built crypt of the Gurk Cathedral was "a beatification according to the custom at the time ". Hemma's role as the founder of Gurk was particularly emphasized by the Gurk bishops at this time, as they wanted to break away from the Salzburg archbishops. In the course of the falsification of documents by the chaplain Conrad at the end of the 12th century, any genuine Hemma documents that might still exist were destroyed.

In 1287, Hemma's grave was opened by representatives of the cathedral chapter . The discovery ( inventio ) of the corpse on 21 November 1287 was later than Recognitio , in recognition, at least their salvation. In 1359, in a document issued in Avignon, 20 bishops granted 40 days indulgence to attend the Masses Beate Mariae Virginis et Sancte Hemme , which also required the existence of a separate measurement form. An Officium rhythmicum beatae Hemmae and a Legenda beatae Hemmae , the oldest surviving Hemma manuscripts, have survived from the 14th century . (Both texts together with others form Codex 1/29 of the Carinthian State Archives.) From 1370 onwards, a separate guardian for the grave is repeatedly attested, which suggests a lively pilgrims visit.

From 1465 there was on the part of bishops Gurker efforts to canonization Hemmas that despite the support of Emperor Frederick III. fizzled out. In a briefing in 1468, Pope Paul II postponed the decision to a “more favorable point in time” - which probably meant after the summer break, but which would become over 400 years. The death of the Gurk bishop and the Turkish and Hungarian wars brought the process to a standstill. There were individual attempts to take it up again until 1494. Some of the documents drawn up in the course of this process have been preserved. The witness interviews took place in German and Slovenian. Quite a few witnesses came from Carniola and Lower Styria to Gurk to testify. From the 16th century the Hemma festival was celebrated on the eve of her death, as June 29th is the festival of Peter and Paul . There is evidence of grain donations for the poor from this period.

The St. Lambrecht Father Christoph Jäger published after 40 years of research his book on Hemma 1709 on the fifth of June volume of Acta Sanctorum . On the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Hemma's death there was a three-day celebration from June 27th to 29th, 1745. At this point in time, the holiday for Hemma was probably moved to June 27, which is still valid today. Between June 29 and July 1, 1845, 10,000 to 12,000 pilgrims attended the 800th anniversary.

It was not until Bishop Valentin Wiery (1858–1880) brought the canonization process with a petition to Pope Leo XIII. restarted on December 15, 1879. A book by Gregor Schellander provided support . After Wiery's death in 1881, efforts came to a halt again.

Only as a result of the research of Father Josef Löw from 1931 onwards did the efforts get underway again after 1933, with the support of the bishops of Gurk, Lavant / Maribor and Ljubljana. On January 5, 1938, Pope Pius XI finally confirmed . the canonization of Hemma. At the suggestion of Father Löw, after extensive research , the folk writer Dolores Viesèr wrote a historical novel about the life of the new saints and published it on the occasion of their canonization under the title Hemma von Gurk . In several editions, it contributed significantly to the promotion of inhibition worship beyond home borders, but was soon classified as contrary to the German understanding of the people and history , under the Nazi rule that was now also beginning in Austria . In 1938 the poet was excluded from the Reich Chamber of Literature because of the work .

In 1972, June 27 was included in the regional calendar for the German-speaking area as a non-mandatory day of remembrance , as well as in the diocesan calendars of Salzburg and Graz-Seckau. It is listed as a solemn festival in the Gurk diocesan calendar. In the missal of the Slovenian dioceses, the celebration of St. Hemma in 1975 was recorded as a non-mandatory day of remembrance, in the diocese of Lavant June 27 is a public holiday.

In 1988, great celebrations took place on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the canonization. In Strassburg Castle there was a Hemma exhibition. On June 25th Pope John Paul II visited Gurk and the tomb of Hemma. 70,000 believers took part in the mass on the occasion of a three-country pilgrimage.


Several items are venerated as relics of St. Hemma. However, it is not certain that any of them were in Hemma's possession, and it is known that the hat and shoe were made long after her death.

Ring and pendant

The ring and the pendant have been documented since 1465. Both are highly valued in the veneration of Hemma. From time immemorial, the "eye blessing" was donated with the ring. Both gems are black, opaque, irregularly shaped corundum in an undemanding gold setting. They come from the same source, but due to the lack of decorations, they cannot be classified in terms of time. The two corundums come from the same source, definitely not from Europe. An origin from Thailand is possible .

Inhibitor hat

The headgear known as the "Hemmahut" dates from around 1300. However, besides two English hats, it is the only surviving medieval hat in Europe and is therefore of great cultural and historical importance. Until 1906 he was in the parish church of Zeltschach, since then in the cathedral treasury of Gurk.


The "Hemmaschuh" is a late Gothic lower shoe from the middle of the 15th century. It is a high-sole wooden shoe covered with white leather. It could have been a votive offering for an inhibitor statue. The shoe was kept at Nassenfuß Castle / Lower Carniola (today Mokronog / Slovenia) and has been in Gurk since 1946.

Pilgrimage sites


The Gurk Cathedral , the center of worship Hemma
Holy tomb

The center of devotion to St. Hemma is her grave in the crypt of Gurk Cathedral. Creeping under the sarcophagus was believed to be helpful in giving birth. In one corner of the crypt is the "Hemma stone", a green chlorite slate stone, from which, according to legend, Hemma is said to have supervised the construction of the cathedral. The stone is said to fulfill wishes if you make them while you are sitting on it. The stone stood in front of the cathedral until the 17th century.

Several pilgrimages lead to Gurk , especially from the surrounding area. The most important was the pilgrimage on the so-called “Carniolan Sunday”, the fourth Sunday after Easter . On this day the pilgrims from the Duchy of Carniola came to Gurk. This pilgrimage is documented for the first time in 1609. The pilgrimages were interrupted after the First World War , revived in 1938 on the occasion of Hemma's canonization, and interrupted again during and after the Second World War. In recent years, the pilgrimage routes from Slovenia and Styria to Gurk have been gradually re-established as part of an INTERREG project and are now enjoying increasing popularity with pilgrims from the neighboring regions.

The oldest Hemmakirche in Carinthia is located on the Hemmaberg near Globasnitz . Built in 1498 and consecrated in 1519, the church bears the patronage of St. Hemma and Dorothea . Local pilgrimages led there. In the surrounding places such as Eberndorf, Köcking, Jaunstein, Kleindorf and Globasnitz, Hemma enjoys deep veneration, there are also a large number of wayside shrines of St. Hemma.

In many churches in Lower Carinthia there are references to Hemma, the parish church of Klagenfurt-St. Hemma, the first Carinthian parish church with the patronage of the saints.


In the regions of today's Slovenia that belonged to Hemma's possessions , the veneration of Hemma has been preserved through the centuries. In the Kozjansko region, near Rogatec, there is the parish church of Sveta Ema . The church, built in the 18th century, replaced a chapel built between 1463 and 1466. Sveta Ema has been an independent parish since 1784. Pilštanj (Peilenstein) is, according to legend, the birthplace of Hemma, in the Michaeliskirche there is a Baroque ceiling fresco of Hemma as a young girl with the Pilštanj Castle in the background. In recent years the local pilgrimages to Pilštanj have been revived.

In Dolenjsko (Lower Carniola) there is a keystone in the vault of the Šentrupert parish church , which shows Hemma in the nun's habit and with a keychain, chain and book. Hemma is also revered as a helper of the unfree. The “Hemmaschuh” was kept and venerated for a long time at Mokronog Castle (Nassenfuß).

In Gorenjsko (Upper Carniola) Hemma did not have any possessions, but she was venerated here too. The region around Bled (Veldes), Bohinj (Wochein) and Žiri (Sairach) was the center of the Hemma pilgrimages to Gurk. After Bohinj, Hemma was worshiped by German-speaking settlers, here Hemma is also worshiped as a miner patroness. In the pilgrimage church of Sv. Ana na Ledinici near Žiri is a statue of Hemma from 1770, holding a cross and chains in her hands, also a reference to Hemma as the patroness of the peasants and prisoners.

In the cathedral church of sv. Janeza Krstnika in Maribor has had an inhibitor statue since 2005.


In Styria , the Hemma worship is not so widespread. On the Stubalpe there is a branch church of St. Hemma, which belongs to the parish Edelschrott . There used to be a pilgrimage from Edelschrott and Hirschegg to St. Hemma on the Friday of three nails. The most important Styrian Hemma location is the Admont Abbey , which goes back to an initiative by Hemma. A side altar and a stained glass window of the collegiate church, a column in the monastery garden and a bell are dedicated to Hemma. In the convent there is a cycle of paintings about the life of the saints.


Devotional image from the 18th century in the Frangepan type.
Blessed Hemma's
apotheosis ; JF Fromiller 1745, Elisabeth type.

The oldest known representation of St. Hemma dates from 1203 on a seal. It shows the saint in the habit of a nun and in prayer. A contemporary picture has not been preserved. In the bishop's chapel in the west gallery of the cathedral there is a fresco of St. Hemma from 1260/70 together with Wilhelm as well as Emperor Heinrich II and his wife Kunigunde. Another medieval image can be found in a manuscript of the Gurk cathedral chapter from 1340. A fresco of Our Lady in the parish church of Zweinitz, the Hemma next to the hll, dates from 1421 . Shows Leonhard , Kunigunde and Georg at Mary's side.

The so-called Hemma reliefs, which were created around 1508 on behalf of the cathedral provost Wilhelm von Welzer, had an important influence on the future representation of Hemma. The six reliefs carved in lime wood contributed to the spread of the legends depicted, which were subsequently widely imitated. The reliefs are now in the Gurk Cathedral.

Many depictions of St. Hemma also follow the Elisabeth type. Like St. Elisabeth , St. Hemma is shown in habit, such as in the oil painting by Josef Ferdinand Fromiller . Depictions of Hemma in widow's robe cannot always be distinguished from habit, as in the case of the church building depiction of the Hemma reliefs mentioned above. Another type of representation that is also widespread is the so-called Frangepan type. It goes back to a portrait of Sebald Bopp, which he painted around 1510. The picture shows a bearer of the Brandenburg swan order and probably shows Beatrix Countess Frangepan, wife of Georg von Brandenburg-Ansbach . The picture may have been reinterpreted as the portrait of Hemma in the 17th century. From the baroque onwards, this picture, also called "Krainer Hemma", became a model for many copyists.


Scientific literature

Literary adaptations
  • Gabriele Lamberger: Hemma von Gurk. The saint of Carinthia, Carniola and Styria . Play, Saarbrücken 1957
  • Dolores Viesèr: Hemma von Gurk . Carinthia, Klagenfurt 1999, ISBN 3-85378-505-0 .
  • Franzobel : Hemma - a woman's passion. Wieser, Klagenfurt 2013, ISBN 978-3-99029-069-9 .
Dramatic adaptations

Web links

Commons : Hemma von Gurk  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The chapter follows Heinz Dopsch : Hemma von Gurk - A founder between legend and reality . In: Tropper 1988, pp. 11-21.
  2. Walther Fresacher: The development of the Gurk core area. Ed .: Carinthia I. 161st year. Announcements of the history association for Carinthia , Klagenfurt 1971, p. 77-93, here: p 79 (346 p.).
  3. Dopsch 1988, p. 18.
  4. ^ Mother Church St. Ruprecht ( Memento of October 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), AEIOU
  5. Till 2005, p. 53
  6. Tropper 1988, p. 104
  7. Dopsch 1988, p. 11
  8. Tropper 1988, p. 175
  9. Tropper 1988, p. 73
  10. Tropper 1988, p. 74
  11. ^ Acta Sanctorum, June tom. VII. Analecta veterum monumentorum MSS. ad Acta S. De B. Hemma vidua, fundatrice Gurcensis in Carinthia ecclesiae . Acta recentoria: Auctore Paulo Waldnero. Paris-Rome 1867.
  12. Gregor Schellander: The Blessed Hemma von Gurk . Published by the Gurker Consistory, Klagenfurt 1879
  13. Löw was active in the Congregation for Rites from 1936 and played a key role in drafting the documents for the confirmation of cult: Gurcensis Confirmationis Cultus Praestiti Servae Dei, Hemmae Comitissae Viduae, Ecclesiae Gurcensis Fundatricis, Beatae Nuncupatae. Positio Super Casu Excepto (= Sacra Rituum Congregatio, Sectio Historica, S. Hist. N. 36. Vatican 1937).
  14. Helga Abret: A Christian Alternative in the Thirties. Dolores Viesèr's historical novel "Hemma von Gurk" (1938). In: Martin G. Petrowsky (Ed.): Poetry in the shadow of the great crises. Erika Mitterer's work in the context of literary history. Published in collaboration with Helga Abret. Praesens_Verlag, Vienna 2006, ISBN 3-7069-0352-0 , pp. 199-217.
  15. Tropper 1988, p. 104
  16. Helmut Trnek: Ring and Pendant St. Hemmas - Jewels of the Saints of Gurk , in: Tropper 1988, pp. 145–151; Gerhard Niedermayer: The stones of the ring and pendant of St. Hemma from the Gurk Cathedral in Carinthia , in: Tropper 1988, pp. 152–155.
  17. Ingeborg Petrascheck-Heim: The Hemma hat from a costume and textile perspective , in: Tropper 1988, pp. 156–161.
  18. Ingeborg Petrascheck-Heim: The Hemmaschuh from a costume and textile perspective , in: Tropper 1988, p. 162f.
  19. Elisabeth Reichmann-Endres: The reliefs of the Hemma history in Gurk . In: Tropper, 1988, pp. 247-256.
  20. ^ Gregor Martin Lechner: Hl. Hemma von Gurk - On the problem of their iconography in comparison with the holy women Kunigunde, Hedwig and Elisabeth . In: Tropper, 1988, pp. 257-267.
  21. Gottfried Biedermann: suction. Portrait of Hemma von Gurk . In: Tropper, 1988, pp. 459f.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on July 21, 2006 in this version .