The Klagenfurt Lindwurm



Whenever you come to Austria, visit Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia. There you will find the famous Lindwurm monument, which was erected by Ulrich Vogelsang in 1590. Although it represents a dragon, it can be regarded as the first palaeontologic reconstruction. In 1335 the cranium of a woolly 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 lethal accidents at the ford and in the swamps near the river Glan. There he hid 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 hid 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.

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

Lindwurm in der Luft

Ein Lindwurm gantz ungeheuer
Wellicher verprent durchs Feuer
Drob menschen und auch vich vertzag
In Wappen fierdt Clagenfurdt statt
Davon sie iren namen hatt.
[anonymus, 1608]

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