Crosses and martyrs
Wooden witnesses of times past
In Dürnstein and Loiben can be found a multitude of wayside crosses and ‘Marteln’ or martyrs. In Austrian and Bavarian tongues, these are stone or wooden posts bearing a crucifix or the image of a saint. Many of these martyrs and crosses were erected by locals in thanksgiving, others appear in documents from as early as the 14th century as border markers.
Of particular note is the so-called Michaelerkreuz (‘St. Michael’s Cross’), where the path from Menthal intersects the former Landesstraße or state road. Here, winegrowers were obliged to hand over a tenth of their harvest to the authorities at Michaelmas (September 29).
In the Middle Ages superstition played an important role, particularly in the putting up of wayside crosses. The Catholic Church had crosses erected at many road forks as they were thought to be devilish places.
And the Devil plays an important role in the myths and legends surrounding crosses and martyrs. For instance, the Hinterskirchler Kreuz above Loiben’s parish church is supposed to remind us of a deliverance from the Devil.
According to legend, a woman took a ride home on a horse-drawn cart. But the driver, who did not show his face and was wrapped in a dark coat, drove in the direction of the Danube. The woman got scared and shouted, “For the love of God!” At the same moment she was jolted off the cart. The call to God is thought to have saved her life.
It takes time and leisure to find some of these wayside crosses and Marteln. While the vineyard Madonna at Lindenstöckl, the Dürnstein plague cross from 1746 in front of the town gate and the Ratscherkreuz in Oberloiben are easy to find, there are other wooden ‘witnesses of times past’ at vineyard entrances which are easily missed by visitors in a hurry.
Supported by the Federal Province of Lower Austria and the European Union (LEADER)