Culture in what is today Austria, can be traced back to around 1050 BC with the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. However, a culture of Austria as we know it today began to take shape when the Austrian lands were part of the Holy Roman Empire, with the Privilegium Minus of 1156, which elevated Austria to the status of a Duchy, marking an important step in its development. Austrian culture has largely been influenced by its neighbours, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Bohemia.
Art and Literature
The Vienna Secession was part of a varied movement around 1900 that is now covered by the general term Art Nouveau. Major figures of the Vienna Secession were Otto Wagner, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Koloman Moser.
Austrian literature can be divided into two main divisions, namely the period up until the mid 20th century, and the period subsequent, after both the Austro-Hungarian and German empires were gone. Austria went from being a major European power, to being a small country. In addition, there is a body of literature that some would deem Austrian but is not written in German.
Complementing its status as a land of artists, Austria has always been a country of great poets, writers and novelists. It was the home of novelists Arthur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig, Thomas Bernhard, and Robert Musil, and of poets Georg Trakl, Franz Werfel, Franz Grillparzer, Rainer Maria Rilke and Adalbert Stifter. Famous contemporary Austrian playwrights and novelists include Elfriede Jelinek and Peter Handke.
Science, Philosophy and Economics
Austria was the cradle of numerous scientists with international reputations. Among them are Ludwig Boltzmann, Ernst Mach, Victor Franz Hess and Christian Doppler, prominent scientists in the 19nth century. In the 20th century, contributions by Lise Meitner, Erwin Schrödinger and Wolfgang Pauli to nuclear research and quantum mechanics were key to these areas’ development during the 1920s and 1930s. A present-day quantum physicist is Anton Zeilinger, noted as the first scientist to demonstrate quantum teleportation.
In addition to physicists, Austria was the birthplace of two of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. In addition to them biologists Gregor Mendel and Konrad Lorenz as well as mathematician Kurt Gödel and engineers such as Ferdinand Porsche and Siegfried Marcus were Austrians.
A focus of Austrian science has always been medicine and psychology, starting in medieval times with Paracelsus. Eminent physicians like Theodore Billroth, Clemens von Pirquet and Anton von Eiselsberg have built upon the achievements of the 19th century Vienna School of Medicine. Austria was home to psychologists Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Paul Watzlawick and Hans Asperger and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl.
The Austrian School of Economics, which is prominent as one of the main competitive directions for economic theory, is related to Austrian economists Joseph Schumpeter, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Other noteworthy Austrian-born émigrés include the management thinker Peter Drucker.
Austria is famous for its castles, palaces, and cemeteries, among other architectural works. Some of Austria’s most famous castles include Festung Hohensalzburg, Burg Hohenwerfen, Castle Liechtenstein and the Schloß Artstetten. Many of Austria’s castles were created during the Habsburg reign.
Austria is also known for its cemeteries. Vienna has fifty different cemeteries, of which the Zentralfriedhof is the most famous. The Habsburgs are buried in the Imperial Crypt.
Austria is rich in Roman Catholic tradition. One of Austria’s oldest cathedrals is the Minoritenkirche in Vienna. It was built in the Gothic style in the year 1224. One of the world’s tallest cathedrals, the 136-metre-tall (446-foot-tall) Stephansdom is the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna; the Stephansdom is 107 metres (351 feet) long and 34 metres (111.5 feet) wide.
Two of the most famous Austrian palaces are the Belvedere and Schönbrunn. The baroque-style Belvedere palace was built in the period 1714–1723, by Prince Eugene of Savoy, and now is home to the Austrian Gallery. Schönbrunn palace was built in 1696 by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach for Emperor Leopold I; empress Maria Theresa of Austria ordered the palace restyled in Rococo. In 1996, it was added to the United Nations’ World Cultural Heritage list.