top of page

13 The Emperor Matthias – tunnels + iron ore


Stud Name:             "Archduke Matthias - Stollen", from 1612 "Kaiser Matthias - Stollen"

                                    Emperor Matthias, reign 1612 – 1619, son of Emperor Maximilian II.

Struck:           1577            

Length:                         420 m

Altitude:                    959 m

In 1577, after looking around for 14 years and still not finding anything special, the mining experts of the Salzamt decided to convert a trial dig from the Neuhauser - Kehr im Obernberg - tunnel into a weir and to dig a new mountain below to drain the brine . It was the Archduke Matthias tunnel that, after nine years of driving through limestone, finally came across salted Haselgebirge.

As expected, the Matthias tunnel - main shaft soon reached the rear, eastern salt boundary again. However, a trial transverse building opened up good Haselgebirge over a longer distance.

Two mountain inspections were carried out in 1584 for a more expedient opening up of the Ischler Salzberg. In the Archduke Mathias tunnel, because the salt mountains had improved, a new building was to be built behind the so-called water building. In the meantime, in the Matthias tunnel, the main shaft and two test digs had been driven out of the salt into the water-bearing limestone.

In 1586 a mountain inspection was carried out again at the Ischler Salzberg. It turned out that the test pit sunk by the Archduke Mathias tunnel had encountered good salt rock over a whole mountain thickness. For this reason, the uncertain investigation work in the mining tunnels at Obereck ("Moosegg") and Roßmoos should be stopped quickly and the Archduke Matthias tunnel should be driven under with a new hill climb, the Neuberg tunnel.

Situation of the water dams and weirs in the Kaiser Matthias tunnel around 1654:

A total of 9 waterworks;                                                                                                              

Water, Archduke Matthias, Seeauer, Rettenbacher, Hippelsroider, Cain, Our Lady, Haimb and Klein Trattel – building.                    

The 9 Schöpfbaue were already cut before 1648 and were used as princes - as well as Kain and Trattel - weir with indulgences in the Frauenholz - tunnels.

The Matthias tunnel – main shaft was 387 stalks (461.3 m) long until it reached the salt boundary. 6 Stabel (7.2m) after the salt line there was a test dig down into the Neuberg tunnel. On the continuation of the Matthias tunnel - main shaft 9 constructions were created. Namely the water - and Archduke Matthias - building, which lay under a sky and contained 42 rooms (4,754m³) brine. The two constructions were undercut from the Neuberg tunnel with a weir furnace and referred to as the prince's weir.  In 1725 the base of the Fürsten weir in the Matthias tunnel broke through into the Rassfellner weir in the Neuberg tunnel below. The princes' weir was later extended up to the St. John's tunnel and only abandoned around 1744.

The following buildings, namely the Seeauer, Rettenbacher, Hippelsroider, Kain, Fraun, Haimb and Klein Trattel buildings contained 60 rooms (6,792m³) of brine and were also under a sky. They were also run under from the Neuberg tunnel with a weir furnace and prepared for an outlet weir.  This weir was called the Cain and Trattel weir during the leaching in the Matthias tunnel. When it was further watered down into the St. Johannes tunnel, it was renamed the Zierler weir. The Zierler weir was in operation until 1807.

Behind these buildings, the Matthias tunnel - main shaft was still 16 Stabel (19.1m) long. Their field place was already in the deaf mountains.


In 1654 the thickness of the mountain from the Matthias tunnel to the Obernberg tunnel was still around 10 bar (11.9m). The St. Johannes tunnel was opened in 1725 to gain this mountain thickness and for higher drainage of the weirs created in the Archduke Matthias tunnel.

In 1656 there was a partly brick and partly wooden mountain house near the Matthias tunnel. When this was later removed, the still usable woodwork was used to build a, not far from the Neuberg -  tunnel built under the name Taxhaus, wooden room. Miners were housed in this wooden room.                                                                                                                                                                              

The Starhembergsche inspection commission of 1707 already found the Matthias tunnel devious, behind the dam outlet there were collapsed weirs, which were exploited by robbery watering, whereby the generated brine flowed through the main shaft.

The introduction of the fresh water required for the leaching in the deeper tunnels came from the stream and the springs in the area of the Matthias tunnel mouth hole. The water collected in wooden tubes was fed into the mountain via the Matthias tunnel – main shaft.

From 1769, the water needed to dilute the weirs was channeled through a surface dig above the St. Johannes tunnel and from there via the Saherböck dig to the Matthias tunnel main shaft.

From 1784, the water required for brine production was collected in a “watering hut” above the Matthias tunnel and diverted via the newly built watering pit to the Matthias tunnel – main shaft. From there, the water reached, depending on the need, either through the pastor Weissbacher - Schurf and the subsequent digging to the weirs located on the evening side (west side) in the deeper tunnels. The morning (eastern) weirs could be over the v. Adlersberg - conversion and the Weilenböcker - digging and the subsequent digging can be achieved.

Situation of the weirs in the Matthias tunnel around 1850:   

A total of 3 weirs, all pronounced dead around 1850;                                                                             

Preuner and Raßfellner weir, from Frauenholz - via Neuberg - up to Matthias - tunnel.                                                                                      Zierler – weir and princes – weir from Matthias –  on St. Johannes - tunnel up verlaugt.

Until 1933, the drainage route led in the Matthias tunnel via the drainage pit to the main shaft and along this further to the Plenzner pit leading down into the Neuberg pit. In addition, another water pipe came down from the St. Johannes tunnel via the Saherböck scour to the main shaft.

In 1931, during the main inspection, it was decided to leave the Matthias tunnel open because future watering should come from the Törlbach via the Maria Theresia tunnel. For this reason, dams were built in 1932 at the end of the tunnel and at the head of the Plenzner and Weissbacher quarry. A final inspection to check the dams took place on February 5, 1934. The tunnel entrances to the Matthias tunnel and the drainage pit were then finally sealed.


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

Leopold Schiendorfer "Perneck - A Village Through the Ages", Linz 2006

Johann Steiner "The traveling companion through Upper Austrian Switzerland", Linz 1820, reprint Gmunden 1981

Georg Chancellor "Ischl's chronicle", Ischl 1881, reprint Bad Ischl 1983

Michael Kefer "Description of the main maps of the kk Salzberg zu Ischl", 1820, transcription by Thomas Nussbaumer, as of September 13, 2016

Anton Dicklberger "Systematic history of the salt pans of Upper Austria", Volume I, Ischl 1807, transcription by Thomas Nussbaumer, as of 06.2018

Pit map around 1700

Rock carvings near the Matthias tunnel

Drainage pit in the Matthias tunnel

Built  1784 - In service until 1934

From 1784 water was in a "watering hut" above

of the Matthias tunnel from the Sulzbach and from a strong one

Source (Kaltenbrunn source)

caught and over the newly built drainage pit on the

Matthias Stollen – main shaft derived.


From there, the water reached, depending on the need, either through the

Pastor Weissbacher - digging and the subsequent digging to the

on the

Evening side (west side) located weirs in the deeper tunnels.

The morning (eastern)

Defense could over the v. Adlersberg – conversion and the

Weilenböcker – Schurf as well

the following prospects can be reached.


Miner Franz v. Schwind started in 1842

Laying of cast-iron water pipes at the Ischler Salzberg. This made it possible the long way that those in the upper horizons

collected water had to travel to fill the leach workers, since the iron pipes could be under higher pressure than the wooden pipes. The rapid supply of larger amounts of water to the production workers and drainage

the stretches soaked by the weeping wooden pipes was now possible.


In September 2018, members of the IGM uncovered the mouth of the drainage pit, revealing a surprisingly well-preserved portal.


Text: Archive Salinen Austria, Archive IGM                                             

Water basin for watering into the Matthias tunnel

Built  1883 - In service until 1934

In 1883, to secure the machine and watering operation in

arid times 

the manufacture of a large concrete water collection trough in the

near the

Matthias – Stollen in place of the one that has existed for ages

rotten collection box

made of wood approved.

This one covered with a simple wooden hut

water collection trough, served

for feeding the winding machine and for the leaching operation.


In September 2018, members of the IGM

approx. 100 m3 capacity

Water basin at the Matthias gallery cleared of trees at the edge of the basin,

which on the one hand restricted the view of this building,

on the other hand threatened to burst through the concrete wall with their roots.

This water basin is fed by the very productive "Kaltenbrunn spring".


This basin is the largest surviving building which was built from "Pernecker Romanzement" - hydraulic Pernecker lime, also known as "Hydrauer". This was produced in large quantities in the cement works at the Josefstollen.


Text: Archive Salinen Austria, Archive IGM

In the iron ore

The iron ore tunnels

Stud Names:   2 lower, 1 middle and 1 upper iron ore tunnels  

Struck:      before 1500

Length:                    lower left cleat approx.             40 m                                                                                                                   

                 right lower stud                 crime                                                                                                      

                               middle stud                             crime                                                                                                      

                              upper stud                                43 m     

Altitude:               lower left stud                     1018 m                                                                                                            

                              right lower stud                  1024 m                                                                                                            

                              middle stud                             1040 m                                                                                                           

                              upper stud                                 1105 m      


1st story:

In historical times there was also ore mining in the Salzkammergut. However, for the most part it has remained at prospecting attempts and only in a few cases has there been short-term mining.

The ore deposits are exclusively sulphide ores such as pyrites, galena, chalcopyrite and sphalerite, which are accompanied by spar iron and brown iron ore and occur on the border between Werfen slate and dolomite.

On the Reinfalzalm above the Ischler Salzberg, iron mining in the so-called "Eisenarz" can be traced back to the 15th century. Around 1500, a certain Hans Gaisbrucker from Lauffen operated a mine for pyrite and brown iron ore including a vitriol smelter.

The remains of 4 tunnel mouths from iron mining can still be found in the area. The iron smelter was probably at the foot of the Salzberg just below the mouth of the Leopold tunnel. This is confirmed by slag residues that can be found in the ground in the area of the lower barn that was removed, the former impact room and up to the Auer well.

Vitriol was produced by roasting the pyrite, extracting the iron sulphide, which had been subject to a weathering process for several months, with water and boiling the solution until the blue-green vitriol crystals crystallized out. For this roasting and boiling process, 100 Rachel wood, which is around 700 m³, were used annually.

The Vitriolsudhütte was not far from the Matthias tunnel at the foot of the Sudhüttenwand. The 100 m³ heap can still be seen here today. The by-products of vitriol boiling are a strongly red-colored, earthy mass that was used as red chalk by masons and carpenters.

Dicklberger (1820) writes about the fate of the vitriol works at Reinfalz:  When in 1562 the exploration of the Ischler Salzberg was suggested by Hans Praunfalk, administrator in Aussee, the high directive was issued at the same time "to occupy the Salzberg, to visit the salt store, to diligently tend the forests on the Reinfalz, Mitterberg and in this area, and to completely stop all melting and boiling of the vitriol in these places in order not to tolerate any waste in the forests that will be necessary in the future for salt brewing.” Emperor Ferdinand I gave this order on September 25, 1562 and one year later the Ischl salt mine was approached.

This sealed the fate of the vitriol boiling plant.

In the 1920s, two of the tunnels used to access the ore deposits were rediscovered by the Perneck miner Josef Hütter. According to old miners, the upper Eisenarz tunnel had been retrofitted in 1866 by the then mine manager August Aigner on his own initiative. The lower left iron ore tunnel was reconstructed 12 m by a group of speleologists from Linz at the end of the 1930s. In 2014, under the direction of Horst Feichtinger, a 7 m long new tunnel section was cleared in the mouth hole area of the upper iron ore tunnel.

In 1858 the same ore formation had been driven through when the tamper turned in the Maria Theresia horizon. The vertical distance between the Eisenarz and the Stampfer - Kehr is around 400 m.

2. Location and geology:

The Eisenarze area is some 100 meters south of the Reinfalzalm (1026 m) on the Ischler Salzberg. Here, at the northern foot of the Sudhüttenwand, a ditch runs steeply in the forest in a SE direction. This graben is of tectonic origin and forms the boundary between limestone (Jurassic) in the NE and dolomite (Triassic) in the SW. The ditch extends to the crest of the ridge formed by the Sudhüttenwand and the Zwerchwand at about 1170 m above sea level.

Of the tunnels from the 16th century in the area of the ditch, only the upper iron ore tunnel, also known as the "Hütter-Stollen" after its rediscoverer (1920), is still conditionally passable today. From the other 3 you will only find Pingen and Halden, from the bottom left  Iron ore tunnel even still has the mouth hole. Above the Hütter tunnel, the mineralization is exposed on a cuirass. Otherwise there are no more outcrops during the day.

The mineralization can be found at the layer boundary between the Werfen slate and the Hallstatt dolomite. Sulphide ores include galena, sphalerite and pyrites. Calcite, dolomite and siderite (iron carbonate) form the carbonates and brown iron ore and quartz form the oxides.

Dolomite occupies the largest space in the ore pieces that can be found, calcite and siderite are rare. As a typical weathering mineral, brown iron stone is only found near the surface. The most conspicuous and predominant sulphide mineral is galena, which can be found up to     8 mm thick veins that are easily visible to the naked eye. Zinc blende can only be detected microscopically. You won't find pyrites at all. However, the existing vitriol boiler requires a pyrite deposit.


3. Cleats:

3.1. Lower Left Iron Ore Adit:

The lower left iron ore adit is at an altitude of 1018 m and is easy to find, as the damp and cold weather rising from the mouth of the adit forms a vapor strip that is visible from afar. Its entrance is frozen almost all year round. The tunnel was rebuilt at the end of the 1930s to a length of 12 m. Following that, he's been on the run since about 1985. The tunnel was originally passable over a length of about 30 m. Near its aft end was a shaft that had completely collapsed at a depth of about 15 m.

The entire tunnel including the shaft is in Jura limestone and there were no signs underground that it had ever hit another rock formation. The tailings pile consists largely of the same rock, but isolated pieces of Werfen slate can also be found. Since no mineralized rock is found, it can be concluded that the adit did not reach the mineralization at all.

3.2. Lower Right Iron Ore Adit:

The lower right vitriol tunnel, previously unknown in the specialist literature, was discovered during field inspections by F. Federspiel, H. Feichtinger and E. Ramsauer in the summer of 2016.

This tunnel is about 70 m south-west of the lower left vitriol tunnel at an altitude of 1024 m. The extensive slag heap is a good 28 m long at the crown. It is made up of fine-grained heaps containing plenty of ore. The size of the heap indicates what is probably the most extensive mine workings in the entire area. From the foot of the heap, the ore path, which is still clearly visible in sections, leads to the former vitriol sud hut near the Matthias tunnel.


3.3. Medium Iron Ore - Adits:

The middle iron ore tunnel is located at 1040 m above sea level in the lower part of the steeply rising ditch that begins in Eisenarz. Nothing remains of the tunnel mouth, but the Pinge and the heap are still clearly visible in the steeply sloping terrain. In addition to samples from the Hallstatt dolomite and the Werfen strata, numerous pieces with relatively rich galena mineralization can be found. This heap is the richest of the 4 tunnels.  

3.4. Upper Iron Ore – Adit:

The mouth of the upper Eisenerz - or Hütter - tunnel is at 1105 m above sea level and is very similar to a natural cave entrance. Only when you have crawled through the narrow entrance area do you come to a chamber-like extension, which still contains the remains of an old wooden structure. The ceiling height in the center of the hall is up to 3.5 m. On the side, a short tunnel leads past a rock pillar into a second chamber, which can also only be reached by crawling. The second working chamber runs parallel to the first chamber and is offset to the SE. A third mining area can be reached via a short, narrow gap. The approximately 4.5 m long and around 1.5 m high excavation chamber shows white sinter formations on the ceiling, which clearly stand out from the black rock coatings. The further continuation of the tunnel is likely to be closed by a breach. There are no longer any documents about the former extent of the tunnel.

While the first and second chambers are in the dolomite, pinching between the dolomite and the Werfen slate can be seen in the third chamber.

The 7.5 m long part of the tunnel, newly discovered by Horst Feichtinger in 2014, begins about 5 m behind the mouth hole area. With a width of 50 cm and a height of 90 cm, it runs in a straight line and evenly in the SE direction. Sintering and mineral efflorescence can be observed on the tunnel ceiling.

There are numerous black chunks on the heap of this tunnel, which only turn out to be ore-bearing after they have been smashed. The manganese-rich, black coating is the result of centuries of weathering on the rock. The mineralization here also consists mainly of galena.

4. Vitriol - production and use:

Vitriols are minerals that belong to the salts of sulfuric acid (sulphates). The white zinc vitriol, the green iron vitriol and the blue copper vitriol are the most important representatives of this mineral class.

The term vitriol comes from Latin and is translated as "glass", based on the glass-like appearance of the crystals of vitriols.

Vitriols occur as oxidation products of sulphide ores. They are obtained by capturing leachates containing vitriol or by leaching weathered, oxidized metal ores. Georgius Agricola describes the production of vitriol in his work "Of the 12 Books of Metallurgy" published in 1556. Sulfur pyrites were leached out with hot water, the vitriol precipitated out of the solution and the resulting vitriol sludge was heated in a boiling furnace to evaporate the residual moisture.

Iron vitriol was primarily used to color leather, the so-called "blackening of leather". Iron vitriols were also used in fabric dyeing, for the production of dyes and ink, and as a disinfectant.

The representatives of the medieval alchemists saw more than just minerals behind the vitriole. For the alchemists, vitriols were the outer philosopher's stone, with the help of which the transformation of seemingly worthless materials into precious metals such as gold and silver should be possible. Despite centuries of research, the alchemists did not succeed in producing gold and silver with the vitriols.


Sources used:

Anton Dicklberger "Systematic history of the salt pans in Upper Austria", Volume I, Ischl 1817, transcription by Thomas Nussbaumer, Weitra 2018

Ludwig Antes and Siegfried Lapp "On the mineralization on the Reinfalzalm", Leoben 1966

Othmar Schauberger "Historical mining in the Salzkammergut", communication of the Austrian consortium for prehistory and early history, vol. 24, Vienna 1973

Johann Steiner "The traveling companion through Upper Austrian Switzerland", Linz 1820, reprint Gmunden 1981

Alfred Pichler "Lipplesgrabenstollenhütte", State Association for Speleology, Linz 2003

Wilhelm Freh "The iron mining in the country above the Enns", Linz 1949

Erich Haslinger "Ore deposits in the Salzkammergut", Vienna 1962