Bad Kleinkirchheim - Part II
History of Bad Kleinkirchheim, Carinthia
Now a few words on the history of Bad Kleinkirchheim: The valley of the Kleinkirchheimtal is rather remote and was forested up to the Middle Ages. No signs of Neolithic settlements, Celtic or Roman settlers were ever found. In the fifth and sixth century, Slavonic tribes progressively populated Carinthia and its many hidden valleys. In the 8th century, Bavarians increased their influence of the Slavonic principality. The first settlers in the Kirchheim Valley were probably Franconians who arrived in the 9th century.
The first written record of Bad Kleinkirchheim (and its chapel of St. Ruprecht, today′s St. Ulrich) dates back to 1166. According to legend, another key event for Bad Kleinkirchheim happened in the 11th century: Count Poto of Pottenstein, the Count of Bavaria, had extensive lands and privileges in Carinthia (essentially a Bavarian satellite-principality).
One day, when he was hunting in the Kirchheim Valley, he was wounded and discovered a hot spring. By the miraculous ways of this spring, he was healed and gratefully gave it - alongside with the entire valley - to the nearby monastery of Millstatt. This might be just a legend, but in fact the area did belong to the monastery until its dissolution in 1773.
Bad Kleinkirchheim in the Middle Ages
In 1228, the Church of St. Oswald was first reported - still one of Bad Kleinkirchheim′s most important sights. In 1473 and 1476, Turkish invasions in Carinthia caused terrible damages in many valleys; at this time, the local Knight Order of St. George benefited from "Turk Tax", sort of a fee that the population had to pay to the landlords in exchange for the protection they offered. Since these very landlords had not done very well, many farmers - including several of the Kirchheim Valley - joint revolting peasant armies in 1478.
The other farmers in Kleinkirchheim (which did not become a "Bad" until the 20th century), built a small bastion into a mountain to where they withdrew at the next Turkish invasion later in 1478. The remains of this bastion can still be seen today. In 1480, the Hungarians invaded Carinthia and occupied it for 10 years. In the decades that followed, the Knight Order of St. George was dissolved, and much of the Carinthian population had fallen into poverty. Protestant ideas became very popular, whereas the Catholic ruling class got under pressure.
Later, Jesuits came to Millstatt with the order to work towards a Counter-Reformation. Despite of their success, large areas in Southern Austria - including Bad Kleinkirchheim - still have a relatively high percentage of Protestant population. The next dramatic period in the history of Bad Kleinkirchheim came with the Napoleonic Wars, when the victorious France took parks of Carinthia - including Kleinkirchheim - and merged it with the new Kingdom of Illyria, with today′s Ljubjana as its capital. This was done in 1809 and lasted for five years.
Recent History of Bad Kleinkirchheim
The recent history of Bad Kleinkirchheim begins in 1850, when the current municipality was founded. Ever since the 17th century, the springs of Bad Kleinkirchheim had been used for bathing - but this wasn′t different from many other villages. In the 19th century, the baths became more popular, but it was limited to the main inn of the village, the Baderwirt ("Bath Inn").
Only in 1909, Hans Ronacher built a hotel with a spa - the same year, Bad Kleinkirchheim gained a railway link. The spa of Hans Ronacher was closed during WWI, but re-opened in 1922 and finally, serious investments were made into a tourism infrastructure. The first large-scale public spa was opened in 1934; by then, Bad Kleinkirchheim already had a well-established clientele of spa visitors.
WWII and a devastating storm in 1946 ended all tourism abruptly. It took several years to fix all damages and re-establish a proper road link. The first ski lift of Bad Kleinkirchheim was built in 1956. In the 1960is, the spa facilities were re-newed and in 1977, Kleinkirchheim earned its "Bad" in the name ("Spa" or "Bath"). The first spa, called "Therme St. Kathrein", was supplemented with a second one called "Römertherme" ("Roman Spa") in 1979. The Römertherme was renovated, modernised and extended in 2007.
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