Spittal an der Drau (German Spittal an der Drau, Slovenian Špital
ob Dravi) is an ancient city in Austria, in the west of the federal
state of Carinthia. The city is located on the banks of the Drava
River at the confluence of the small river Steyr.
In 1191, Otto II, Count of Ortenburg, together with his brother Hermann, founded a hospital (Hospital, Spittl) and a church in the upper reaches of the Drava. Later, a small town grew up around the city, which, after the end of the Ortenburg dynasty, came under the rule of the counts of Celje.
In 1457, Spittal received city rights. At the same time, it was annexed to the Austrian possessions of the Habsburgs. In 1524, Emperor Ferdinand I granted the city to one of his Spanish confidants, Gabriel Salamanca, along with the title of Count of Ortenburg. Salamanca built in Spittal one of the most beautiful Renaissance palaces in Austria - the Porzia Palace.
Spittal an der Drau lies between the Lurnfeld and the Lower Drautal. The Lieser flows through the city from north to south and then flows into the Drava. Also south of Spittal is the Spittaler's "local mountain", the Goldeck. The municipality of Spittal extends partly over the south bank of the Millstätter See.
In 1191, Count Otto II von Ortenburg and his brother, the
archdeacon Hermann von Ortenburg, founded a hospital (Spittl) with a
chapel on the Lieserufer near today's parish church, which the
Salzburg Archbishop Adalbert confirmed in a document on April 11,
1191. The hospital, which gives the place its name, was intended for
the care of pilgrims who traveled south over the Katschberg and the
Radstädter Tauern. The emerging settlement on the right bank of the
Lieser was protected by a tower castle belonging to the
Ortenburgers, which probably stood on the site of today's castle.
In 1242 Spittal an der Drau was elevated to a market, the convenient location at the confluence of Möll and Lieser in the Drau as well as the toll and rafting rights on the Drau caused an initial economic boom. In 1324 the market is mentioned as the seat of a judge. In 1403 Spittal was given the right to hold four annual markets lasting several days and one weekly market. In 1408 they got the exclusive rights for the Drava rafting and iron transport from the nearby Krems near Gmünd. The people of Gmünd had to have the iron transported by the Spittalers and declare customs here. After the Ortenburgers died out in 1418, rule over the Counts of Cilli came to the rulers, the Habsburgs. Friedrich III. could assert the county against claims of the Counts of Gorizia. In 1457 Spittal was given the right to elect judges and councils itself. In 1478 the market was destroyed by the Turks invading Carinthia, in the following decades feuds, peasant revolts and the war with the Hungarians under Matthias Corvinus, which resulted in years of occupation of the entire region, brought prosperity; In 1522 the market finally burned down completely. The hospital was then rebuilt on the eastern bank of the Lieser and now houses the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences.
In 1524 Gabriel von Salamanca received the county of Ortenburg, a Spaniard and favorite of Ferdinand I. From 1533 onwards he had the Porcia Castle built in the Renaissance style. His descendants named themselves after the county of Ortenburger. The area was largely Protestant when, in the course of the Counter Reformation in 1600, an armed commission under the governor, Count Johann von Ortenburg, tried to force the population to re-enter the Catholic Church under threat of banishment and expropriation.
In 1662, the French-born Princes Porcia became landlords and lords of the castle. In the 18th century there was a second economic boom as a result of the emerging iron industry and the associated trade and commerce. This heyday ended in 1797 when the market burned down in the course of the French Wars. In 1809 there were again fighting with Napoleon's troops near Spittal, all of Upper Carinthia and East Tyrol then fell to France through the Peace of Schönbrunn, and Spittal was assigned to the Carinthie department in the French province of Illyria. After the end of the coalition wars, this status was terminated in 1814. In 1829 the market burned down again. In 1871 the train connection to the southern railway came.
After the formation of the communities in the Austrian Empire in 1849/50, Markt Spittal grew into a large community in 1865 through the incorporation of the six local communities Baldramsdorf, Molzbichl, Edling, Lendorf, Lieserhofen and Amlach, but shrank back to almost its original size in 1886/87. Since then, only St. Peter-Edling (1964) and Molzbichl (1973) have been incorporated again, and parts of the Millstatt and Ferndorf area were connected in 1973, whereby Spittal acquired a portion of the Millstätter See south bank.
In autumn 1919, during the Carinthian defensive battle, Porcia Castle was the seat of the Carinthian provincial government for some time. In memory of this, Spittal an der Drau was promoted to town on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Carinthian referendum in 1930.
In the time of National Socialism, Spittal an der Drau was next to Wolfsberg and the Loiblpass one of the locations of a prisoner of war camp in Carinthia. Two grave fields called “Russian cemeteries” with the remains of around 6000 prisoners of war and forced laborers who died under the inhuman camp conditions are a reminder of this time. The station was bombed in 1944, and craters from misdirected projectiles can still be found in the forest in the Fratres district.
After the end of the Second World War, the city was occupied by the British and ruled from Graz.