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Social – Faith and Church:

A document from Duke Albrecht II from 1344 confirms that there was already a church in Ischl around 1270.


Ischl originally belonged to the Frauenstift Traunkirchen, to which all churches in the "Ischlland" were subordinate. At the beginning of the 15th century, the mother church of Traunkirchen was divided. The churches of the upper Kammergut were subordinated to the parish of Goisern. Ischl became Goisern's branch church. From there the branch priests rode to their assigned places to exercise pastoral care. So Ischl did not have an independent priest until he was promoted to a pastor.


May 26, 1554 was a memorable day when Ischl was elevated to an independent parish by Bishop Wolfgang Passau. This important event fell in the century of the Reformation. Luther's teachings made their way into the Kammergut as early as the first half of the 16th century. Promoted by the rural nobility and rich citizens, Protestantism also gained ground because there was a great shortage of priests and there was often a lack of good pastors.


In 1568, Maximilian II (1564 – 1576) granted the Protestant Christians of the chamber estate the freedom to practice their religion, so it is not surprising that from around 1575, instead of Catholic pastors, Protestant priests appeared in Ischl. From the pastor Paul Neumayr (1602) the Catholic pastoral care in Ischl is again documented.


The first pastors had a low income because they didn't have the tithe that Goisern collected and they didn't have a farm that could have contributed a subsidy.


In 1609, the salt clerk Veit Spindler granted financial support at the request of the Ischl pastor "so that a learned priest and good preacher can be preserved in such a respectable community".


In 1622 the monastery in Traunkirchen became a Jesuit residence. The Jesuit missionaries traveled the Kammergut and exercised the bailiwick rights intensively.


In 1634 the emperor appointed the Salzamtmann to be the religious inspector and, in his own religious dragonfly, tightened the compulsion to follow the Catholic religious norms.


In 1672 the population of the parish of Ischl had grown to 3,000 souls.

The stormy waves of Reformation and Counter-Reformation flared up again at the end of the 17th century. The Hofkammer wanted to finally get rid of the Protestants in the Kammergut.

Another means of coercion by the government was the establishment of a sovereign religious reform commission in 1712, which did not find the hoped-for support from the tolerant salt official, Count von Seeau. Therefore, the court chamber extended the powers of the commission and granted it the main inspection and supreme authority before the salt official in all religious incidents. The commission had the right to pronounce the expulsion of the Protestant partner from the country even in mixed marriages, and was only allowed to allow him to remain in the country if he did not prevent the Catholic part and the household members from worship, only married the children to Catholics, and did not spread the contradiction and no other annoyance. The religious commissioners now had a free hand and did not lack the necessary zeal for the Catholic cause.


Around 1731 a new wave of reformations flooded from Salzburg into the Kammergut. The great persecution of Protestants was going on in Salzburg, many Protestants fled to their co-religionists across the border. The Salzamt strengthened the border guard because they feared a general uprising in Salzburg and its spread to the Kammergut.


Count von Seeau, who understood the religious feelings of the population better than anyone else, saw the only effective means of suppressing the evangelical doctrine in expelling those residents who persisted in the new faith and were inaccessible to all attempts at conversion, following the example of the Archbishop of Salzburg.


However, the government wanted to avoid this because they rightly feared disadvantages for the Salzkammergut. The government's policy was like dancing on eggshells, they wanted to make people Catholic under all circumstances, but not lose them.


The Protestants who decided to emigrate in 1733, whom the religious commission described as ringleaders in a report to the secret court chancellery, were sent to Transylvania, for which the Salt Office had to provide the necessary ships. There were about 30 to 40 of them. The proceeds from their possessions of houses and land remained with the emigrants after deduction of the ten percent departure fee to be paid to the rulers.


The government's hope of being able to curb Lutheran teaching through leniency and accommodation was not fulfilled; Protestantism is still widespread in the Kammergut.


And since Austrian goodness didn't work, sharper tones were found in Vienna. In 1735 about 80 apostates were again allowed to emigrate, but the unmarried young boys among them who were fit for military service were to be retained and placed among the recruits; the emigrants also had to pay the shipping costs themselves. Educational contributions and alms could henceforth only be given to needy Catholics. The Salzburg emigrants who remained in the Kammergut were to be agreed to leave those who had become Catholic, but to "unfailingly abolish" the heretics; it was forbidden to include one in the work. When recruiting soldiers in the Kammergut, untamed and wanton boys were handed over to the militia by the salt office, but Lutheran ones by the religious commission itself against their will.


The government issued stricter mandates to the regional courts in order to prevent the importation of non-Catholic books and correspondence, such as the dealings of Protestants with the Reich. A guard house was built at the Lauffener bridge and manned by three invalids to better monitor the people passing through in matters of religion.


From 1737 the government tried to get rid of the remaining Protestants entirely, supported the emigration of those who publicly professed Lutheranism in every way and made life at home difficult for them. The Salt Office visitation of December 1737 hoped to have deported the last remaining Lutherans. She was wrong, the evangelical faith had not died out in the Kammergut, its followers in the country had only become Catholics outwardly and only obeyed the commandments of the church out of necessity, because otherwise they would have lost work and bread.


As late as 1742 the order was issued to suspend all workers who did not appear in the churches or left them during services.

The overzealousness of the religious commission and individual missionaries even fought the Sunday work of the Pfannhauser and boatmen, but the Salt Office, which was concerned with maintaining operations, found insightful helpers in the local clergy. In Ischl, the pastor was willing to offer early mass on Sundays and public holidays to such an extent that the workers could attend the service without disturbing the order of the south. Incidentally, the church would not have had any reason to forbid work on Sundays and public holidays, since for centuries its institutions had used the healing salt of God as atonement for the profanation of Sundays.


The construction of the Ischler Bergkirche, ordered by Empress Maria Theresia, also took place during this period. The chapel, built between 1747 and 1751, was intended to "serve the workers of the Ischl salt mine to perform prayer and to maintain devotion to preserve the divine blessing".  

The period from 1750 to the patent of tolerance in 1781 was completely under the influence of the strictly Catholic Empress Maria Theresia, who did not want to see any means left unexploited in the Kammergut to strengthen the Catholic faith in the population and to suppress the heretical evangelical doctrine. Severe penalties were meted out to all those who gave the official bodies or supervisory bodies justifiable cause for complaints.

The subjects of the Wildenstein dominion who took in servants had to submit a spiritual certificate to the nursing office that they were Catholic, otherwise they had to pay a fine.


As late as 1776, those who missed Sunday services had to be arrested for 24 hours with bread and water. Parties who used bacon for cooking on a fast day, as well as the innkeepers who served during the service, were arrested for 24 hours, but threatened with severe corporal punishment in the event of a repeat offense.


The deportation of the Protestants to Hungary lasted until 1753, later an attempt was made to convert them in the Kremsmünster conversion house, "particularly so as not to at least teach their children the same poison in which one might secretly hope".

The Hofkammer attached great importance to the distribution of Catholic books and the prevention of the importation of Protestant writings.

Under the pretense of a pilgrimage, the evangelicals had often visited their co-religionists in Germany and brought Lutheran books with them. As a result, only those people were allowed to cross the border who could identify themselves with a parish certificate about their Catholic way of life. The border guards had a strict mandate to search for Lutheran books, and they exposed themselves to punishment if they left them with the owners. In the Kammergut itself, it was the task of the religious commission to search for banned books, take them away from the owners and send them to punishment. The writings found had to be taken to the salt office and were not allowed to be kept in the administration offices and chancellery. The salt office had to send the seized books immediately to the censorship commission.


When Emperor Joseph II came to power in 1781, the suppression of Protestantism also came to an end in the Chamber estate and the Protestant faith gained its freedom. The Protestants from Gosau, Goisern and Hallstatt united in faith communities and built houses of prayer; Gosau and Goisern also chose pastors and built apartments for them.


A prayer house and a Protestant school were established in Gosau around 1783, and a pastor and a schoolmaster were employed. The evangelical community in Goisern also had a house of prayer in 1783. In February 1802, the Goisern pastorate comprised 4000 souls, including the Hallstatt and Obertraun branches.


In 1790 the evangelical community in Hallstatt had a house of prayer, but no pastor of its own and was affiliated with the pastorate in Goisern.

The first half of the 19th century was a period of undisturbed development for the Protestant parishes in the Kammergut, and their equality with the Catholic parishes was based on the law. Of course, the final barriers had not yet fallen; Protestants were not allowed to teach Catholic children and, for the most part, were not allowed to rest among Catholics even in death.


Goisern was the largest evangelical community in the Kammergut.


The Salzamt was the patron saint of the parishes in Altmünster, Ebensee, Ischl, Laufen, Goisern, Hallstatt with Obertraun and Gosau up until the 19th century. The patronage rights and duties that accrued to the Salzamt extended its sphere of activity, but also increased the financial expenditure for church purposes. In the case of parish errands, however, the episcopal ordinariate was always involved and asked for their good opinion on the proposal for appointment.


The connection between the church and the Salt Office led to the clergy being treated equally to civil servants who worked in wood, an advantage that was also given to teachers.


Attending church services on Sundays and public holidays was made compulsory for civil servants up until the 19th century.


Sources used:

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian salt works from the beginning of the 16th to the middle of the 18th century", Vienna 1932

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian Salt Works from 1750 to the time after the French Wars", Vienna 1934

Carl Schraml "The Upper Austrian Salt Works from 1818 to the end of the Salt Office in 1850", Vienna 1936

Franz Stüger, commemorative publication "400 year anniversary of the parish of Bad Ischl", Bad Ischl 1954

Ischl home club "Bad Ischl home book 2004", Bad Ischl 2004

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