Upper Austrian Peasants' War

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A peasant uprising in 1626 that was limited to Upper Austria is known as the Upper Austrian Peasant War .

In contrast to the peasant uprising in 1525 and the second Upper Austrian peasant uprising between 1595 and 1597, in which social revolutionary motives were in the foreground, the uprising was primarily directed against the Counter-Reformation and the Bavarian occupation.

The immediate trigger of the Peasant War was the disproportionate action of the Bavarian governor Adam Graf von Herberstorff , who answered the uprising of armed subjects against the forcible appointment of a Catholic priest by a merciless criminal court, the Frankenburger dice game . The social basis of the uprising went far beyond the peasant class and, in addition to the rural lower classes, also included arable citizens and craftsmen up to the urban intelligentsia, and occasionally even lower nobility. Its failure contributed to the re-Catholicization of Austria.


After the peasant revolts from 1594–1597 had been put down , Emperor Rudolf II saw the opportunity to begin with the recatholization of the Ob der Enns area. According to the Augsburg Religious Peace of 1555 , which was concluded after the first conflicts between Protestant and Catholic countries in the Holy Roman Empire, the entire people had to belong to the religion of their sovereign (according to the legal principle cuius regio, eius religio ). However, these efforts were unsuccessful, and even under his successor, Emperor Mathias , the Counter-Reformation made little progress.

This changed when the energetic Ferdinand II , brought up by the Ingolstadt Jesuits , wanted to take power in 1619. He had already enforced recatholicization by force in Styria, Carinthia and Carniola and was now trying to apply this policy in Upper Austria as well. However, the Ob der Enns state estates under the Calvinist Georg Erasmus von Tschernembl refused to follow suit and allied themselves with the Bohemian rebels . After Ferdinand was elected the new emperor in Frankfurt on August 28, 1619, he traveled back to Vienna via Bavaria. In Munich he concluded an alliance ( Treaty of Munich ) with the Bavarian Duke Maximilian I , who was also the leader of the Catholic League . The emperor appointed him commander-in-chief of the army of the league and promised him to pledge Upper Austria in return for his costs. As the war chest of the Hapsburg by the Turkish wars was empty and broken in Bohemia Rebellion, the Emperor could only compensate in this way the league.

After a Bohemian army under Heinrich Matthias von Thurn could be pushed back at the gates of Vienna on November 26, 1619, Ferdinand gave the Bavarian duke the order on June 30, 1620 to begin the suppression of the uprising in the land above the Enns.

On July 24th, the Bavarian army led by Johann t'Serclaes von Tilly , coming from the Innviertel , which belongs to Bavaria , crossed the border at Haag am Hausruck , conquered Aistersheim Castle , which was occupied by farmers, and entered Linz on August 4th. Tschernembl then fled to the rebels in Bohemia. After the Bohemian rebels had also been defeated in the Battle of White Mountain on November 8, 1620 , this first rebellion of the predominantly Protestant state estates, which was mainly supported by the nobility and bourgeoisie, was overthrown.

Frankenburg dice game - pewter figure diorama from the Peuerbach Peasant War Museum

On March 6, 1621, the emperor announced the pledge to Bavaria to the state estates in Linz and presented Adam von Herberstorff as the new governor. This was able to pacify the country in the following four years and even gain a certain amount of trust among the population, even though high burdens were imposed on them due to the ongoing Thirty Years' War . In 1624, Emperor Ferdinand II saw the situation so firmly that he sent a Reformation Commission to the country. With an imperial mandate, all non-Catholic preachers and schoolmasters had to leave the country from October this year . However, since the pastoral posts that had become vacant could not be filled by local pastors, Italian priests were brought from the Italian part of Tyrol . However, they mostly did not speak German and could not hold the mass in the local language, as the population was used to before. This led to the first unrest in January 1625. In Natternbach , the dean Blasius de Livo and the Italian pastor he appointed were pelted with stones by a few hundred farmers and chased away. Initially, this had no consequences.

But when something similar happened in Frankenburg am Hausruck in May 1625 , Herberstorff wanted to make an example. There, too, the Protestant pastor had previously been expelled, which had triggered an uprising among peasants and citizens. Frankenburg Castle was besieged and the new priest chased away. But after three days, the rebels gave in to the Bavarian governor's offer of mercy: The infamous Frankenburg dice game came about , in which 17 alleged ringleaders were hanged. The Bavarian governor believed that he had taken all courage from the population for further uprisings, but he was seriously mistaken when a year later, in May 1626, a carefully planned peasant uprising broke out in Upper Austria.


Stefan Fadinger

Until Pentecost of 1626, the farmer Stefan Fadinger and his brother-in-law, the landlord Christoph Zeller , both from Parz near St. Agatha , wanted to raise a man from every farm and bourgeois house in Upper Austria for their revolt. The aim was to free Upper Austria from Bavaria and return the land to the Habsburg emperor. They knew that according to the imperial Reformation patent they would have to emigrate if they did not renounce the Protestant faith, but they would have been willing to do so, the main thing being that the hanged peasants would be properly avenged.

But the peasant uprising broke out prematurely when Bavarian soldiers tried to steal a farmer's horse in Lembach two weeks before Pentecost . The farmers who had been on pilgrimage in Lembach banded together and attacked the 25-man Bavarian garrison of the market town . Furthermore, the crowd moved via Sarleinsbach to Rohrbach and gathered numerous other men in their army. Christoph Zeller also joined them, and the troop set out for Peuerbach , where they were waiting for the Bavarian governor Herberstorff . Even before Stefan Fadinger arrived in Peuerbach with his troops from the Mühlviertel, Zeller's impatient army fought with Herberstorff's soldiers on May 21, 1626, which it was able to defeat. On the same day, Fadinger captured Eferding and Wels . The next day, Zeller was elected by the farmers to be captain of the Mühlviertel and the Machlandviertel , and Fadinger to be captain of the Traun and Hausruck districts . While Zeller was already thinking about the siege of Linz and moving into camp in Ottensheim , Fadinger's troops now conquered Kremsmünster and Steyr in order to demand the surrender of Linz from there.

The storm on Peuerbach - tin figure diorama from the Peuerbach Peasant War Museum

At the same time the siege of Freistadt was in progress. For more than a month the 5000 farmers under the leadership of the noble Hans Christoph Hayden besieged the fortified town. They dug jumps, blocked the water supply and demanded the handover. But the Bavarian captain of Freistadt, Albrecht Sokolowsky , who had to count on 150 soldiers and the support of the undecided citizens, did not just give up. So on June 10th, the farmers set fire to some huts on the city moat and began shooting at the city walls. The Bavarian occupiers, who had left their weapons at rest up to this point, began to shoot for the first time and thus drove the besiegers from the fortification.

Famine was already raging in the city and a revolt broke out. A delegation of 50 from Sokolowsky took the side of the revolting Protestant citizens. Sokolowsky, however, remained stubborn and when the farmers dug another hill on June 30th they fired at it again. The subsequent resistance of the peasants ended with the support of the revolting citizens and soldiers in the conquest of the free city.

At this point, since June 24th, the siege of Linz was already underway. But already on the first day Stefan Fadinger was shot during a truce when he negligently rode past the Linz country house, mistakenly believing that his armor was bulletproof and bulletproof or that he himself was an invulnerable " frozen man ". He and his riflemen were shot at by snipers from the roof of the country house, killing his horse and having to flee on foot with a shattered thigh. About two weeks later he died of blood poisoning in Ebelsberg in a house on what is now Fadingerplatz, a consequence of the poorly cared for gunshot wound.

A request by the peasants from Steyr for support from the Kaiser in Vienna was unsuccessful. The six men charged with delivering the message did not even see Emperor Ferdinand II . Meanwhile, troops from Bavaria were already arriving to recapture Upper Austria. On the Danube, ships with ammunition and 340 musketeers broke through the Neuhaus barrier . During the battle with the farmers when they landed in Urfahr , Christoph Zeller was shot and his successor was Achaz Wiellinger , who came from the lower nobility . The siege of the city ended on August 29th. With General Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim - who was a stepson of Herberstorff - a renowned general was commissioned by Duke Maximilian to recapture Upper Austria. After the death of the two leaders, the success of the peasants continued to decline, not least because imperial Habsburg troops supported the Bavarians rather than the peasants. Freistadt was also conquered again, and many of the farmers were taken prisoner.

On September 22nd, Colonel Löbl and the imperial troops were able to recapture Steyr and on September 27th Wels. The farmers were able to achieve their last successes again in the Hausruck and Mühlviertel. At Neukirchen am Walde they defeated the Duke of Holstein's troops and the Bavarian army in the Pramwald . With David Spat from Haibach , the peasant army received another skillful leader who moved via Hofkirchen and Sarleinsbach to Peilstein , occupied Marsbach Castle and Berg Castle and burned down the monastery in Schlägl , which was particularly ruthless among the population for its ruthless approach compared to other monasteries was known against Protestant farmers. With the farmers of Welser Ludwig Schorer , Spat received further support, but this last campaign ended with a defeat against the Bavarian occupation of Haslach .

The farmer's hill in Pinsdorf

Only through the cooperation of the Austrian and Bavarian troops under the general of the Catholic League, Gottfried Heinrich zu Pappenheim, the insurgents were able to fight in two battles on November 9, 1626 in Emlinger Holz, at Alkoven and on November 15 at Pinsdorf near Gmunden on Lake Traunsee to be defeated. At the beginning of winter the war was over and the farmers were worse off than before. They had to feed 12,000 Bavarian soldiers who were now occupying Upper Austria and also pay for the destruction of the Schlägler monastery. Numerous ringleaders were also beheaded or hanged, such as B. the town clerk of Steyregg , the judge of Lasberg or the landlord Elias Vätterer von Tragwein , who had also belonged to the peasant army.

Songs as a mirror of historical events and as a means of propaganda

August Hartmann (* in Munich 1846, † in Munich 1917), librarian at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, has with his collection historical folk songs and contemporary poems from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Collected and explained by August Hartmann. Mit Melodien, edited by Hyacinth Abele , 3 volumes, CH Beck, Munich 1907–1913 (reprint Olms, Hildesheim 1972), presented a standard work with its song numbers 37 to 54 (Volume 1, 1907, pp. 175–255 ) illuminates the events of the Upper Austrian Peasants' War in an excellent way. The solid historical and linguistic explanations were extolled when it was released and that judgment is not outdated today. The folk music archive of the district of Upper Bavaria has copies of the extensive estate and is using the collection as an opportunity to draw attention to these sources again (conference series “Historical folk songs in Bavaria”, conference at Seeon Abbey 2010).

The various song texts at Hartmann are on the one hand a mirror of the historical events with details that are not otherwise passed down, on the other hand they are propaganda products that serve to create opinion, even if they are in the style of the time as "Newe Zeitung" and "Relation" [news] as a "truly thorough report". These songs are part of political propaganda. And for Wolfgang Steinitz : German folk songs of a democratic character from six centuries , Volume 1, Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1954, pp. 25 ff., These songs are remarkable testimony to rebellious sentiments and (at one point) the solidarity between peasants and workers we're not here]. - We quote selected examples from Hartmann.

A pamphlet dated 1626 (place of printing not specified) with the song "I would like to sing happily ..." (Hartmann No. 37) reports how a chain is stretched across the Danube to block the access to Linz, how Wels is captured (23 . and May 24, 1626), how the governor was injured or even killed in front of Linz [only his horse was shot], that the rebellious peasants wore a black flag with a skull and so on. This song text, which is also accompanied by a melody, was sung by bailiff singers in streets and markets, but ends in a call to the "dear subjects" to honor the "dear authorities". “Do not be rushed”, in the name of the Lord Jesus make peace. With the information, the singer connects with a request for peace and quiet.

A song "Oh, highest God in Heaven's Hall ..." (Hartmann No. 38) on a print from Ulm describes the events in May 1626 and the history behind it: The land above the Enns is "hard conquered" and is said to be "good Catholic ". “Old and young are forced to follow this religion.” In Ulm, the “Schiffleut” [Danube boatmen] report, and the bailiff wants to sing about it. Those who do not become Catholic are gouged out their eyes, cut off their ears and nose, and their hearts torn out of their bodies. In “Bäurbach” [Peuerbach] 200 mercenaries had to surrender, the place was burned down. Fifty men who were hiding in the church are killed. In Linz the governor is a strict administrator; he attacks the peasants, but finds himself in distress. The peasants fight with spears, poles, forks, beatings and “cans [rifles] well”, “but nobody else does no harm; Shipmen from Ulm also be there ”, the Danube boatmen attest to this. They heard what happened in Frankenburg ( Frankenburger Würfelspiel , 1625). The song shows understanding for the farmers; this “true relation [newspaper] and thorough report” tends to be in favor of the rebels.

A text that Hartmann presents as his number 41 documents the inscription on a flag that is assigned to Stefan Fadinger , 1626. A sword and a spear are said to have come from Fadinger; We find no references to a song history. This flag is described and illustrated in a supplement on p. 347 ff. Hartmann quotes and explains similar verses on the flags of the rebels under No. 42.

The song “Because there is then the hour in which we have to argue ...”, in Hartmann No. 43 (with three printed melodies), is handwritten and dated 1626. The peasants have left home and farm, wife and child; They are not looking for “no freedom”, but want to be subservient to the [Austrian] “Imperial Majesty” [not to the Bavarian governor]. They want to pay taxes willingly, but they have brought up their wife and children [Protestant] not to let go of your word. According to the title of the song pamphlet (see pamphlet ), this song was sung four times a day, kneeling before the attack and "with sighs and weeping under the open sky". The notes "When my hour is available ..." [Evangelical hymn book, 1995, no. 522] and "It is salvation and we come here ..." [Evangelical hymn book, 1995, no. 342] refer to common hymns (see also references in Hartmann). Hartmann's comment is very detailed. He refers u. a. on the battle of Eferding on November 9, 1626, where the farmers sang “Psalms” beforehand. Also before the battle of Gmunden on Sunday, November 15, 1626, there was an open air service. a. Martin Luther's "A strong castle ..." and " Keep us, Lord, by your word  ...".

The reasons for singing such lyrics to a religious melody are different. Above all, one could expect from a hymn that singers and listeners would know the melody. This attracts attention and makes it easier to spread the new song. The beginning of the text of the desired song is indicated by a note (melody reference; compare tone (literature) ); Printing melodies was time-consuming and therefore too expensive. Thirdly, at that time there was no idea of ​​separately valued melodies for secular and spiritual texts. Religious lyrics could be sung to secular melodies and vice versa. - Pamphlets ( pamphlets ) were cheap goods and should be sellable; they are forerunners of our newspaper (see history of the newspaper). According to the number and diversity, such song pamphlets are based on other library holdings and based on their own originals in a wide range and a. documented by the folk music archive of the Upper Bavaria district .

Hartmann's no. 44 offers with "Ich Stephl Fättinger am upstairs, I really ate with three peasants ..." verses on a painting in Kremsmünster Abbey, dated 1626. On May 28th, the pen is used by the farmers and by Stefan Fadinger taken. One tries to put the conquerors in a mild mood and serves them delicacies, u. a. Artichokes that Fadinger sticks his tongue on. But it's worth the effort; the peasants spare the monastery; the abbot even seems to have been kind to them.

"How hard the building team tried to get Linz early and late ..." (Hartmann No. 45 without dating from an Augsburg copperplate) describes the three-day attack on Linz [19. to July 21, 1626] and the Bavarian governor "Herbersdorf" (that is Adam Graf von Herberstorff ). A hole has already been torn in the city wall, but the onslaught of the peasants is repelled and they suffer great losses. There is no mention of the now dead Fadinger.

In song no. 47 by Hartmann, "When Herr Löbel heard what kind of sympathy it was with Linz ..." [events of July 23, 1626] it is described that Colonel Löbl is rebuilding the bridge at Enns into the camp the peasants (12,000 men) invaded Enns, killed 900, destroyed the entrenchments and captured 11 cannons. But he sends the prisoners home with the promise to "live in subjection from now on". God grant that "all indignation" should cease and everyone should seek "unity" and obedience to the authorities. Apparently this is a text that was formulated in favor of the authorities.

Hartmann's No. 48, “Great misery and also sadness is in the whole of Christendom ...” is with 23 stanzas a longer “description and thorough report” of the peasant uprising. The bloodshed never ends, Heaven mourns. 60,000 farmers have teamed up; Linz is under heavy siege. 2000 soldiers of the Bavarian governor are killed. The peasants want to remain subject to the emperor and the “Augsburg Confession”. The "Prince of Hollestein" [the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp] has come to "Neukirch im Markt" [Neukirchen am Walde] and is looking for accommodation with "fourteen flags". The farmers refuse and beat the soldiers to death "with beating, hoes", the "Holsteiners" are on the run as far as the Danube [19. September 1626]. The peasants also beat the soldiers of the Salzburg bishop [20. September 1626] "to death as like wild pigs". "No shot may harm the pawn" [they have magical inviolability].

Hartmann's No. 50, "The Jesuit Gleißnerei [hypocrisy] and the governor's tyranny ...", are verses of an evangelical preacher who joins the peasants and becomes their leader at the siege of Gmunden on November 1, 1626. Only the name "Student Casparus" is known of his person; he apparently prevented Wels from being plundered by the farmers, he is in front of Waizenkirchen and Neumarkt with 500 farmers, and from October 24, 1626 he leads the siege of Gmunden. - In No. 52 at Hartmann the ridicule is directed. a. against the student [Casparus], who "probably cheated honestly, he completely lied to us." The template is an oil painting in Linz with 12 corresponding fields of many events; there were similar pictures u. a. in Kremsmünster. Hartmann comments on the individual scenes, including a. also to the alleged invulnerability of the farmers by magic ("frozen").

"Hasha! You replicas [neighbors] and farmers, are funny ... ”, in Hartmann No. 53, is a very extensive text with 54 fourteen-line stanzas based on a song pamphlet without any information. He mockingly describes the events of the Peasants' War with historically tangible details and numerous references to events known at the time: "Steffel Fätinger" ( Stefan Fadinger ) as a peasant leader, he too "frozen as hard as stone" [invulnerable]; the papal soldiers are all slain; “Boyerbach” [Peuerbach] is looted; weapons are stolen from the armory and so on. Waizenkirchen, Eferding, Wels, Steyr, Lambach, Linz are mentioned, Pappenheim and the "Crabaten" [Croats; actually Poles from the Krakow area]. The text closes with "Hörberstorf ( Adam Graf von Herberstorff , the Bavarian governor) and Pappenheimer" ( Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim , who finally put down the peasant uprising) as heroes. "Her name remains immortal."

It is an “entertaining farmer's song” on a pamphlet , preserved in a single copy, and it has often been quoted in literature on the historical subject of the Upper Austrian Peasant War since 1827; In 1854 it is referred to as the "Fadinger Song" [it is strange that it does not tell of the wounded before Linz and the death of Fadinger]. Knowing the details, Hartmann concludes that the author witnessed the war himself (despite certain inaccuracies). The aim is (according to Hartmann) to depict the mood that led to the uproar. After initial successes, the writer's attitude changes, who ultimately repents and begs for protection and mercy from Pappenheim.

See also


  • Felix Stieve: The Upper Austrian Peasant Uprising of 1626 . 2 volumes, Mareis, Linz 1904–1905.
  • Dietmar Straub (Red.): The Upper Austrian Peasants' War 1626 . Exhibition of the Province of Upper Austria, Linz Castle, Scharnstein Castle in the Almtal, May 14th to October 31st 1976. Office of the Upper Austrian Provincial Government, Linz 1976.
  • Georg Heilingsetzer : The Upper Austrian Peasants' War 1626. Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Vienna 1976, ISBN 3-215-02273-7 ( Military historical series 32).
  • Karl Eichmeyer, Helmuth Feigl , Walter Litschel: Because the soul and also the good counts. Upper Austrian peasant revolts and peasant wars in the 16th and 17th centuries . Oberösterreichischer Landesverlag, Linz 1976, ISBN 3-85214-146-X .
  • Otto Holzapfel : List of songs: The older German-language popular song tradition . Online version since January 2018 on the homepage of the Volksmusikarchiv des Bezirks Oberbayern (in PDF format; further updates planned), see lexicon file “Bauernkrieg”.

Fiction depictions:

  • Norbert Hanrieder : The Upper Austrian Bauernkriag - dialect epic ; Edited by d. Hanrieder community Putzleinsdorf, Oberösterr. Landesverlag, Linz 1964.
  • Hans Watzlik : Ums Herrgottswort , historical novel, Ludwig Staackmann Verlag, Leipzig 1926.

Individual evidence

  1. In the imperial patent of June 30, 1620 it was said: “That the estates of the Bohemian unrest took part; the country's passes occupied, entrenched, and captured; the Danube river blocked; the most prestigious state offices occupied; the sovereign officers excluded from their meetings; arranged the armaments and the draft of the tenth man; undertake the state government; occupied a Bohemian passport for the good of Bohemia; invaded Lower Austria; obedient cities besieged and plundered; the Bohemian rebels who sent money, ammunition and provisions to Vienna's besieged and refused to pay homage. That is why this commission was given to the Duke of Baiern, who now gives the estates five days to think about it, after which they should categorically declare whether or not they want to submit to submission. "From: Ober- und Nieder-Ennserisch, as well as the Bohemian Journal, that is, a short and true description of what ... happened in the country above and below Enns ... Printed in Munich in 1621 Quoted from Franz Kurz: Attempt at a history of the peasant war in Upper Austria under the leadership of Stephan Fadinger and Achatz Wiellinger ; FI Eurich, 1805, p. 60 ( Google eBook, complete view in Google book search).
  2. ^ Johann Krebs: The literary reception of the Upper Austrian Peasant War . In: Oberösterreichische Heimatblätter , Heft 3, 1989 ( online (PDF) in the forum OoeGeschichte.at).