The history of the Danube metropolis has already been presented several times, not least in the three-volume city history by Peter Csendes and Ferdinand Opll from 2001. When a voluminous volume by the two authors about Vienna in the Middle Ages appears, the reader does not expect a repetition of what already exists .
Rather, Opll and Csendes have come up with a different concept for their publication, which appears on the occasion of 800 years of city law privilege for Vienna: In the first part of the volume “contemporary testimonies” from the 9th century to 1529 are offered, followed in the second, thematically structured part the classifying “analyzes”. The time frame describes the appearance of the first archaeological finds and sources in the 9th century, the end point being the first Ottoman siege of the city in 1529.
The “witnesses” – not to be read in the original text, but in paraphrased form – reveal the dense tradition with which the history of Vienna in the Middle Ages can be explored. Document texts and official documents, but also excerpts from chronicles and diaries were compiled. First mentions of the city “Uenia” (not the Latin Vindibona), which are derived from the Vienna River, can be found in the context of armed conflicts with the pagan Hungarians.
In the first half of the 12th century, the foundations for the actual urban development of Vienna were laid by the Babenbergs, who ruled over the margraviate of Austria. Conflicts between the Babenberg Duke Friedrich II. And the citizens of Vienna become clear: In 1236 the Duke stalks a woman at a dance so lewdly that the angry residents ask the Duke to leave the city! In general, the celebration: Viennese wine is praised, but also warned of disputes in the pub.
However, since the sources tend to focus on the developing city, those who are less familiar with the history of Vienna can confidently turn to the second part first. Here the authors explain the “basics of our knowledge” and describe in detail the development of urban space, technical and social infrastructure and legal relationships.
In further informative chapters, the urban economy and urban life of the Viennese are described. In addition to the bourgeoisie, the nobility, members of the university and the Jews, this also includes the “less honorable”, as the sources call them. This, however, describes the majority of the city’s residents: it refers to day laborers or minstrels, servants, maids, prostitutes and the large crowd of beggars.
Rezension: Dr. Heike Talkenberger
Peter Csendes / Ferdinand Opll
Vienna in the Middle Ages
Testimonials and analyzes
Böhlau Verlag, Vienna / Cologne 2021, 520 pages, € 45, –