Styria (duchy)

Styria was a duchy of the Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution in 1806, and a crownland of Austria-Hungary until it dissolved in 1918. Called Steiermark in German, for it formed the Marches of Carantania, this mountainous and scenic region, which became a center for mountaineering in the 19th century, is often called the "green mark", because half of the area is covered with forests and one quarter with meadows, grasslands, vineyards and orchards. Styria is also rich in minerals, soft coal and iron, which has been mined at Erzberg since the time of the Romans. The Windisch Buheln is a famous Austrian wine-producing district. Styria was for long the most densely-populated and productive mountain region of Europe.

Styria, which had a population before World War I that was 68% German-speaking, 32% Slovene, bordered on (clockwise) Lower Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Carniola, Carinthia, Salzburg and Upper Austria. After World War I in 1918 the southern, Slovene-speaking third south of the river Mur was incorporated into Slovenia in the Yugoslavia. The remaining two thirds became a federal state of Austria, while the Slovenian third (Lower Styria) is an informal province in Slovenia. The traditional capital of the Duchy has always been Graz, the residence of the governor and the seat of the administration of the province.


Styria in the first millennium

The Roman history of Styria is as part of Noricum and Pannonia, with a Celtic population of the Taurisci. During the great migrations, various German tribes traversed the region using the river valleys and low passes, but about 600 CE the Slavs took possession and settled.

When Styria came under the hegemony of Charlemagne as a part of Karantania (Carinthia), erected as a border territory against the Avar and Slavs, there was a large influx of Bavarii and other Christianized Germanic peoples, whom the bishops of Salzburg and the patriarchs of Aquileia kept faithful to Rome. Bishop Virgilius of Salzburg (745-84), was largely instrumental in establishing a church hierarchy in the Duchy and gained for himself the name of "Apostle of Karantania". In 811 Charlemagne made the Drava River the boundary between the Dioceses of Salzburg and Aquileia.


In the tenth century a part of Styria was separated from Carinthia under the name of the Carinthian Mark; it was also named the Windic March. The margraves ruling the mark (known as the Otakars) took from the name of the fortified castle of Steier the title of Margraves of Steiermark, and the country received its German name. During the reign of Margrave Ottokar IV (1164-92) Styria was raised to a duchy by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, in 1180.

With the death of Ottokar the first line of rulers of Styria became extinct; the region fell successively to the Babenberg family, rulers of Austria, as stipulated in the Georgenberg Pact; after their extinction to the control of Hungary (1254-60); to King Ottokar of Bohemia; in 1276 to the Habsburgs, who provided it with Habsburgs for Styrian dukes during the years 1379-1439 and 1564-1619.

At the time of the Turkish invasions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the land suffered severely and was depopulated. The Turks made incursions into Styria nearly twenty times; churches, monasteries, cities, and villages were destroyed and plundered, while the population was either killed or carried away into slavery.

Religious history of Styria

The Protestant Reformation made its way into the country about 1530. Duke Karl (ruling 1564 - 90), whose wife was the Catholic Duchess Maria of Bavaria, introduced the Counter-Reformation into the country; in 1573 he invited the Jesuits into Styria and in 1586 he founded the Catholic University of Graz. In 1598 his son and successor Ferdinand suppressed all Protestant schools and expelled the teachers and preachers: Protestant doctrines were maintained only in a few isolated mountain valleys, as in the valley of the Inn and the valley of the Mur. On a narrow reading of the Peace of Augsburg, 1555, with its principle of cuius regio eius religio, only the nobility were not forced to return to the Roman Church; each could have Protestant services privately in his own house.

After Ferdinand had become Emperor of Germany (1619) and had defeated his Protestant opponents in the battle of the White Mountain near Prague (1620), he forbade all Protestant church services whatsoever (1625). In 1628 he commanded the nobility also to return to the Catholic faith. A large number of noble families, consequently, emigrated from the country; but most of them either returned, or their descendants did so, becoming Catholics and recovering their possessions.

In the second half of the seventeenth century renewed action against the Protestants in the isolated mountain valleys resulted in expulsion of Protestant ministers with the peasants who would not give up Protestantism; about 30,000 chose compulsory emigration to Transylvania over conversion. Only an Edict of Toleration issued by the Emperor Joseph II as late as 1781 put an end to religious repression. The Protestants then received the right to found parish communities and to exercise their religion in those enclaves undisturbed.

In 1848 all the provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire received complete liberty of religion and of conscience, parity of religions, and the right to the public exercise of religion.

Ecclesiastically the province was historically divided into two Catholic prince-bishoprics, Seckau and Lavant. Ever since the time of their foundation both have been suffragans of the Archdiocese of Salzburg. The Prince-Bishopric of Sekau was established in 1218; since 1786 the see of the prince-bishop has been Graz. The Prince-Bishopric of Lavant was founded as a bishopric in 1228, and raised to a prince-bishopric in 1446; since 1847 Marburg on the Drave has been the see of the prince-bishop.

Styria contains many old abbeys and monasteries: the collegiate foundation of the Reformed Augustinian Canons of Vorau (founded 1163); the Benedictine abbeys at Admont (1074); at St. Lambrecht (1066); at Seckau (founded as a house of the Augustinian Canons in 1140, suppressed in 1782, from 1883 a monastery, since 1887 abbey of the Beuronese Benedictines); the Cistercian abbey at Rein (1120); the Franciscan monastery at Graz (since 1515; founded in 1230 as a monastery of the Minorites), at Maria-Lankowitz (1467), at Maria-Nazareth (1632); the Minorite monasteries at Graz (1526), and of St. Peter and Paul at Pettau (1239); the Capuchin monasteries at Cilli (1611), Leibnitz (1634), Hartberg (1654), and Schwanberg (1706).

19th century Styria

The Semmering Railway, completed in 1854, was a triumph of engineering in its time, the oldest of the great European mountain railways; it was remarkable for its numerous and long tunnels and viaducts spanning mountain valleys, running from Gloggnitz in Lower Austria to Mürzzuschlag in Styria, and passing through some exceedingly beautiful scenery. The railway brought tourists to alpine lake resorts and mineral springs at Rohitsch and Gleichenberg, the brine springs of Aussee, and the thermal springs of Tuffer, Neuhaus and Tobelbad.

Margraves and Dukes of Styria

After Ottokar IV, Styria fell to the Austrian Babenberg dynasty. For later rulers, see List of rulers of Austria.

See also

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