Leo Santifaller

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Leo Santifaller (born July 24, 1890 in Kastelruth , Fürstete Grafschaft Tirol , † September 5, 1974 in Vienna ) was an Austrian historian of South Tyrolean origin.

In the course of his successful academic career, Santifaller was director of the Bolzano State Archives (1921–1927), professor at the University of Breslau (1929–1942/43) and at the University of Vienna (1942 / 43–1962), head of the Institute for Austrian Historical Research ( 1945–1962), General Director of the Austrian State Archives (1945–1955), Director of the Austrian Cultural Institute in Rome (1956–1964), founder of specialist journals, honorary doctorate at four universities and member of numerous scientific organizations such as the Austrian Academy of Sciences .


The Lafayhof in Castelrotto

Origin and youth

According to Santifaller, the Santifallers themselves are an old Ladin family who are said to have lived in the mountains of South Tyrol before the Romans and Teutons; it has been documented in the Brixen loan books since the 15th century . In the 17th century, a branch of the family moved to Castelrotto, where the Santifallers had also lived in an old noble residence, the Lafayhof, since 1813. Both Santifaller's grandfather Georg (1814–1896) and his father Michael (1845–1923) later owned this farm.

Father Michael, who had studied law in Innsbruck , was a full-time notary in Castelrotto in addition to his function as a landowner. In 1887 he married the Castelrotto farmer's daughter Christina Fulterer (1856–1936), after the eldest, Leo, the couple had four more children: the art historian, poet, translator, cultural organizer and entrepreneur Maria Christina, married Hemsoth, most recently Sellschopp (1904–1978) , the writers Pius (1893–1995), Karl (1899–1914) and Sabine, married Salzinger (1897–1991).

Santifaller grew up in the mountainous farming village of Castelrotto. He himself speaks of a beautiful and happy childhood, of which, according to his parents' wishes, he spent most of the time well protected on his own farm and in the surrounding nature. The milieu was that of a bourgeois Catholic of a wealthy family of notaries. The six-year Kastelruther elementary school was attended in winter, in summer Santifaller received private lessons from the first year of school. At that time he was already reading religious, historical, art-historical, geographical and poetic works from his father's private library, which he later inherited. At the farm run by his mother, he got to know the farm work with the farmhands, maids and day laborers of the family.

As a teenager Santifaller came to the humanistic high school of the Franciscans in Bozen , where he lived with the educated Marie Schmid. Here he soon became interested in the demanding history lessons of Father Calasanz Rief, reading works by important historians at an early age. In addition to school reading, he says he did extensive private reading, especially in the natural science subjects of astronomy and physics. For the last three years of high school, Santifaller switched to the German state high school in Trento , where he continued to read history and science books and magazines and was allowed to use the private observatory of a friend.

Santifaller's teacher Oswald Redlich around 1918


Even before graduating from high school, Santifaller was determined to become a scientist, either a historian or an astronomer. He made contacts with Göttingen , whose mathematical faculty enjoyed a worldwide reputation; However, due to the resistance of his father, the study in northern Germany did not take place and so Santifaller went to the University of Vienna . Here he studied mathematics and physics until he - discouraged by his studies and the dismissive professors - attended a “wonderful and heartwarming” speech by the historian Oswald Redlich in 1911 and then decided to become a historian himself.

After a few semesters in Vienna, Santifaller went to Freiburg im Breisgau in the summer semester of 1914 on a state scholarship , where Heinrich Finke encouraged him to work in the field of Spanish document theory and palaeography . Santifaller's intentions in this area were - like the visit to the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn - however nullified by the outbreak of the First World War . In the winter semester of 1914/15 Santifaller began to study in Innsbruck, in January 1915 he had to join the heavy artillery . He was first trained in the artillery school in Trento and then moved to the Komorn Fortress . In August 1915 he came to South Tyrol as an officer, where he took part in the mountain war against Italy until 1918 . During these four years in the high mountains, Santifaller also studied numerous historical works and worked on his dissertation. After the war he returned home and in May 1919 he received permission to travel to Vienna for two weeks, where he received his doctorate for a pioneering prosopographic work on the Brixen cathedral chapter.

From 1919 on he was a full member of the Institute for Austrian Historical Research and, at the age of 29, completed further training there, namely that of auxiliary historical sciences and archival studies. For the two years of his studies at the institute in Vienna, he lived with Fritz Beil.

Head of the Bolzano State Archives

From 1921 to 1972 the seat of the Bolzano State Archives , Maretsch Castle from the south

Immediately after the end of the World War, from 1918 onwards, archival holdings in Innsbruck and Vienna that had been created in South Tyrol were delivered to Italy in accordance with the principle of provenance . At the request of Italy, Oswald Redlich proposed Santifaller as head of the new State Archives in Bolzano. After “thorough deliberation and detailed consultation with his teachers”, Santifaller started work in August 1921 and held the management function until the beginning of 1927. In Bolzano he married Bertha Richter, whom he had already met in 1913 in South Tyrol. Bertha Santifaller was the daughter of the geographer and historian Eduard Richter , she worked as a painter and place name researcher. The marriage remained childless.

When he took up his duties, he was given the vacant Maretsch Castle as an archive building, 150 railway wagons with archival materials (with the archives of the South Tyrolean authorities and the Brixen monastery ) and a former Austrian gendarmerie sergeant as an assistant. The archive was set up and accessible to the public within a year. Santifaller also acquired a reference library for scientific work and began to publish books: above all his book on the Brixen cathedral chapter and source editions such as the Wintheri calendar . He lived with his wife in a single rented room.

Collaboration with the Monumenta Germaniae Historica and habilitation in Berlin

While Santifaller was planning his habilitation in Munich , Paul Kehr made a decisive contribution to his life by offering him the first assistant position at the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) in Berlin . Santifaller asked for a few more months in Rome , where he continued to work on his research on papal diplomacy, supported by a research grant from the Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft . He did research in the archives and the library of the Vatican and got a quarter-hour special audience with Pius XI with his wife .

In April 1927 Santifaller started his service with the MGH. He frequented numerous important scientists in Berlin and later reports of an exceptionally good climate among the “monumentists”. Santifaller himself took care of the entire administration and correspondence of the MGH and worked on Heinrich III's documents .

In December 1928, Santifaller completed his habilitation with Albert Brackmann at the Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Berlin for medieval and modern history, in the summer semester of 1929 he received his first teaching position for historical auxiliary sciences .

Professorship in Wroclaw

In November 1929, Santifaller was appointed full professor for the history of the Middle Ages and modern times at the University of Breslau as the successor to Franz Kampers . In the first few years he held numerous courses, in addition to introductory seminars and seminars, for example the regular colleges on the history of the Middle Ages and constitutional history as well as courses on auxiliary historical sciences. This program was accompanied by 50 dissertations and habilitations as well as non-university lectures and some publications. On weekends the Santifallers had contact with other families of scholars, but also with younger scientists. There was hardly any contact outside of the academic milieu, for example with the Silesian merchant families, civil servants or the nobility. The couple also regularly spent their holidays in South Tyrol in the company of scientists, for example meeting Nobel Prize winners Max Planck and Erwin Schrödinger .

During the almost 14 years in Wroclaw, Santifaller published writings on the Silesian national history, studies on the history of the estates, on questions of palaeography, the writing system and the doctrine of documents, researched the papal chancellery and worked on editions of the Silesian document book and the Brixen documents. He was a member of the Historical Commission for Silesia .,

National Socialism

Shortly after the German troops marched into Austria in 1938, Böhlau Verlag published the publication German Austria and His Return to the Reich , in which Santifaller approved the connection between Austria and the Third Reich . In later self-portrayals, Santifaller did not comment on this; in a listing of his writings published in 1951, it was concealed. After 1945 he was briefly suspended from work and had to answer to a special commission at the BMU because of the National Socialist content of the script. According to Santifaller, the unambiguous and enthusiastic statements about the Fuehrer were inserted by National Socialist students to protect him. A linguistic report prepared for this confirmed Santifaller's statement.

Santifaller's attitude was that of a bourgeois-liberal Greater German ; other representatives of this ideology also advocated the Anschluss in the sense of an all-German Empire modeled on the Holy Roman Empire . Santifaller was a devout Catholic and never a member of the NSDAP . As recently as 1936, he was able to get his Jewish student Dorothea Oschinsky awarded his doctorate in Breslau before she emigrated to Great Britain . In his self-portrayal from 1951, Santifaller remained silent about his relationship to National Socialism.

Professorship in Vienna

After he had been on lists of proposals for other chairs three times (1935 in Munich, 1937 in Graz and 1940 in Vienna), Santifaller was appointed to Vienna in November 1942 and took up his professorship in the following April for the history of the Middle Ages and auxiliary historical sciences . He immediately started teaching and research and in November 1943 the Santifallers moved to an apartment in the 1st district of Vienna (Singerstraße 27/2), which together with most of the Santifallers' scientific collections survived the later air raids on Vienna . Santifaller refused to flee the city, which had been bombed since September 1944, stayed with his sick wife in Vienna and continued teaching until mid-March 1945. He later commented disdainfully on “personalities to whom one believed up to then to be allowed to look up with admiration” who “left the city in the hour of danger”.

As early as April 1945, Santifaller began again with his scientific work, among other things, the Vienna Diplomata department of the MGH was reconstituted, which is now the edition of the diplomas of Konrad III. completed (edited by Friedrich Hausmann ) and that of Frederick I tackled (edited by Heinrich Appelt ). In May he resumed teaching and assumed the role of director at the Institute for Austrian Historical Research. His health was affected by dysentery attacks and hunger. His scientific career now went in rapid succession: in September Santifaller was appointed General Director of the Austrian State Archives by State Chancellor Karl Renner , in November he became a real member (previously a corresponding member since 1943) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and in 1946 chairman of its historical commission . At the same time he became a member of the central management of the MGH and the commission of the Pius Foundation, as well as the presidency of the commission for diplomatic history within the Comité International des Sciences Historiques . Santifaller later wrote that he had not sought these offices and that his "ideal was always silent scientific work".

After the war, Santifaller assumed a dominant position within the newly forming Austrian historical scholarship and shaped entire generations of historians and archivists.

In 1956 Santifaller was responsible for the re-establishment of the Austrian Historical Institute in Rome, as its scientific director he worked from Vienna. In 1960 he was elected a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . In 1961, Santifaller organized the only celebration in the German-speaking area to commemorate Otto I's coronation a thousand years ago.

Retirement and the time after

In 1962, Santifaller retired and from then on concentrated on his various management functions in several commissions of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. This is how the editions of the registers of Innocent III were created. , the diplomas of Konrad III. and Frederick I in the MGH, the regests of the Roman-German emperors and kings as part of the Regesta Imperii, the editions of the “Censimento” of papal documents in Austria, the document book on the history of the Babenbergs, Silesian and Burgenland documents, the Gorizians Regesten and the register of the University of Vienna as well as the processing of the Austrian Biographical Lexicon. In addition, he worked on the history of historical research, which he distinguished as an exact science from historiography as literary art.

Santifaller died in Vienna in September 1974 and was buried in the Castelrotto family grave.


Santifaller's main research areas were the history of South Tyrol, diplomacy , the Liber Diurnus and the Ottonian-Salian imperial church system . As a diplomat, Santifaller dealt in the 1920s with the documents of the Bressanone Cathedral Chapter , in the 1930s with the management of the Silesian Document Book and in his last creative period with the "Censimento", the list of all original papal documents of Innocent III in Austria . until Martin V.


Fonts (selection)

  • The Brixen cathedral chapter in its personal composition in the Middle Ages. Wagner, Innsbruck 1924.
  • The documents of the Brixen Hochstift archives 845–1295. Wagner, Innsbruck 1929.
  • Bolzano scripts of the modern age 1500–1851. Contributions to paleography. (= Writings of the Institute for Border and German Abroad at the University of Marburg , 7). Gustav Fischer, Jena 1930 ( online ).
  • The abbreviations in the oldest papal documents (788–1002). Böhlau, Weimar 1939 (= historical-diplomatic research , 4).
  • 1100 years of Austrian and European history in deeds and documents from the house, court and state archives. 100 collotype plates with transcriptions. In connection with specialists and with the cooperation of the officials of the house, court and State Archives. Austrian State Printing Office, Vienna 1949.
  • Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller . In: Nikolaus Grass (Hrsg.): Austrian historical science of the present in self-portrayals . Volume 2, Wagner, Innsbruck 1951, pp. 163-208.
  • Contributions to the history of writing materials in the Middle Ages, with particular reference to the papal chancellery. (= MIÖG , supplementary volume 16), Vienna 1953.
  • About verbal vocation in documents. (= Meeting reports of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Phil.-hist. Class , 237.2). Böhlau, Graz-Vienna 1961.
  • On the history of the Ottonian-Salian imperial church system. 2nd Edition. Böhlau, Graz-Vienna 1964.
  • The Liber diurnus. Studies and research. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1976.
  • Document research. Methods, goals, results. 4th edition. Böhlau, Vienna a. a. 1986.


Review articles and reference works



  • Nikolaus Grass: Leo Santifaller. 1890-1974. In: Louis Carlen, Hans Constantin Faußner (Hrsg.): Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Lebenslaufen , Hildesheim 2001, pp. 393-399 (reprint).
  • Werner Maleczek : Leo Santifaller (1890–1974), the researcher of the medieval papal charter, and the Italian Crown Prince Umberto in 1924. In: Claudia Alraum, Andreas Holndonner, Hans Christian Lehner, Cornelia Scherer, Thorsten Schlauwitz, Veronika Unger (eds.) : Between Rome and Santiago. Festschrift for Klaus Herbers on his 65th birthday. Winkler, Bochum 2016, ISBN 978-3-89911-239-9 , pp. 397-418 ( online , review online ).
  • Hannes Obermair : Obedient science - science as a profession. Leo Santifaller between Bolzano, Breslau and Vienna. In: Sönke Lorenz , Thomas Zotz (eds.): Early forms of collegiate churches in Europe. Function and change of religious communities from the 6th to the end of the 11th century. Ceremony for Dieter Mertens on his 65th birthday. Leinfelden-Echterdingen 2005 (= Writings on Southwest German Regional Studies , 54), pp. 393–406 ( online ).
  • Hannes Obermair: Leo Santifaller (1890–1974). From archives, cathedral chapters and biographies. In: Karel Hruza (ed.): Austrian historians 1900–1945. CVs and careers in Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia in portraits of the history of science. Böhlau, Vienna 2008, pp. 597–617.
  • Hermann Wiesflecker : Leo Santifaller (1890–1974). Attempt of a picture of life. In: Othmar Pickl , Hermann Wiesflecker (ed.): Contributions to general history. Dedicated to Alexander Novotny at the age of 70 (= publications from the archive of the University of Graz. Vol. 4). Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz 1975, pp. 185–205.
  • Gerhard Oberkofler : The election of Leo Santifaller as a corresponding member of the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin (1955). In: Der Schlern 70, 1996, pp. 745-750.
  • Gerhard Oberkofler: D. Oschinsky and the Tyrolean historical research. In: Der Schlern 77, 2003, pp. 74–77.

Web links


  1. Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 163 f.
  2. ^ Elisabeth Lebensaft: Santifaller Maria Christina , Homepage of the University of Vienna , accessed on February 13, 2014 ( online ).
  3. a b c d e f Winfried Stelzer: Santifaller, Leo , 2005, p. 431 f.
  4. Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 163 f.
  5. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 166 f.
  6. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 168 f.
  7. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 169 f.
  8. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 172 f.
  9. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 173 f.
  10. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 174 f.
  11. Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 175 f.
  12. Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 176 f.
  13. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 177.
  14. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 180.
  15. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 180.
  16. ^ Fifty Years of the Historical Commission for Silesia . In: Yearbook of the Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Breslau , Volume 17, 1972, p. 414 (list of members).
  17. ^ Leo Santifaller: German Austria and its return to the empire. Böhlau, Weimar 1938.
  18. ^ Hannes Obermair: Leo Santifaller (1890–1974). From archives, cathedral chapters and biographies , 2008, p. 610.
  19. a b Gernot Heiss: The Vienna School of History in National Socialism . In: Mitchell G. Ash, Wolfram Nieß, Ramon Pils (Eds.): Humanities in National Socialism. The example of the University of Vienna . Vienna University Press, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-89971-568-2 , pp. 397-426, here: p. 409.
  20. ^ Hannes Obermair: Leo Santifaller (1890–1974). From archives, cathedral chapters and biographies , 2008, p. 611 (with further details).
  21. Ursula Wolf: Litteris et Patriae. The Janus face of history . Steiner, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-515-06875-9 , p. 17.
  22. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 182 f.
  23. ^ Leo Santifaller: Leo Santifaller , 1951, p. 183 f.
  24. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 209.
  25. ^ Hannes Obermair: Leo Santifaller (1890–1974). From archives, cathedral chapters and biographies , 2008, p. 614.