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Sankt Peter in Holz / Teurnia

26 June 2024


7:30 p.m. guided tour of the archaeological site of Teurnia organised by the Landesmuseum Kärnten; departure from the Römermuseum Teurnia - Sankt Peter in Holz 1, 9811 Lendorf bei Spittal/Drau

9:00 p.m. dinner at the Friedhofkirche Teurnia - St. Peter in Holz 172, 9811 Lendorf bei Spittal/Drau (bring your own food!)

9:30 p.m. start of the performance in the Friedhofkirche Teurnia

event language: German 

information: , +43 (0)476233807 , +43 (0)5053630599 , +43 (0)5053630547

thanks to: Landesmuseumkärnten, Ferdinand Kragl

The first time I arrived here was on a Sunday afternoon, when all shops in Spittal were closed and outside of the library was a shelf of books in disarray. I have never found out whether the fact that I took the book Knaurs Kulturführer in Farbe - Turkei was a legitimate thing, perhaps even hoped for by the Spittal librarians, or an actual theft; whatever it was, that book actually guided me faithfully throughout Anatolia, and if it hadn’t been for the First World War, its borders, the Syrian civil war and the new concrete wall to keep out refugees, it would have guided me all the way to where I wanted to arrive, to the city of our main character Muhammad, to Aleppo. Instead I had to stop at Karkemish, the archaeological site now divided between the Turkish army, Syrian forces loyal to al-Assad and the Kurdish YPG-YPJ militias. The ancient timber sorting center already disputed between the Egyptians and the Hittites, the city on the Euphrates which the Greeks who came following Alexander called Eυρωπος/Europos, just like the other one, further east, where there was a synagogue with images of men and women. Thinking about it now, now that I’m no longer in Spittal but just a few kilometers away, on a hill where there was once a fortified city overlooking the Drava, just as the fortified city of Karkemish overlooked the Euphrates, the Knaurs Kulturführer appears to me in a completely different light, almost as a book of magic. 

What distracts me from these fascinations is the German genius for things done well. The Landesmuseum Kärnten has done a really excellent job here in Sankt Peter in Holz, where, since the beginning of the 20th century, archaeological excavations have revealed the remains of the ancient city of Teurnia, an inhabited center since the Stone Age, then an Ambidravi Celtic village, and finally a Roman oppidum which took on in the late imperial era the role of capital of the province of Noricum mediterraneaum

I am impressed by three choices especially: 

- that of hosting the museum in an old barn built according to the Carinthian tradition, an extraordinary construction, a four-story building with a sloping roof, stone walls plastered in white and the ramp for wagons which is the hill itself. Inside there are statues, capitals, epigraphs from the Roman era seen many other times, but seeing them here in this rural context has a completely different effect: it seems to bring back the sense of the earth, the sense of things; 

- that of protecting the excavation of the 5th century episcopal three nave basilica using a building made of wooden poles, which in addition to lightening the main steel structure, helps to imagine how those same stone remains once interacted with the wood and with the trees found in this area; 

- that of not filling the area with too many explanatory signs, but leaving them as they are, with the empty spaces in between the ruins inviting us to use our senses and imagination; and in fact in front of the mosaic of the cemetery church the spectacle is extraordinary: the animals depicted seem to be alive, the eagle on the floor is the same one you see in the sky as soon as you step outside, the deer is the same one that crosses your path as you drive back home when it’s dark.