Wels is a city in Upper Austria. With 62,470 inhabitants (as of
January 1, 2020), Wels is the second largest city in the federal
state of Upper Austria after the state capital Linz and ranks eighth
on the list of cities in Austria.
In terms of administrative law, the municipality of Wels is one of three Upper Austrian cities with its own statute (statutory city) and thus performs the tasks of the district administration itself. The Wels-Land district administration and the district and regional court of Wels are also located here.
The city experienced two heydays during Roman times and the Middle Ages. Wels acquired its current economic importance as a trade fair and industrial city and as a traffic junction.
The oldest finds from the Wels area date from the younger Stone
Age, i.e. the period from 3500 to 1700 BC. They found simple tools,
especially on the banks of the Traun and in what is now the city
In the Bronze Age, from 1700 BC Cemetery fields were created in the area of today's airport as well as an urn field not far from it, which is dated to the time of the urn field culture (1100–750 BC). There were 60 graves with additions, such as bronze jewelry or food.
Swords from the Hallstatt period (750–400 BC) were found in the Pernau.
In the Latène period (up to 100 BC) Celts populated the area around Wels and left behind gold coins, swords and fibulas made of iron and earthenware. The name "Traun" comes from this time. The name "catfish" may also be of Celtic origin. Wels would then mean something like “settlement on the Traunwindungen”.
As has been established from layers deposited in the course of floods, the Traun formed an extensive river system with numerous tributaries in the Wels area. The division of the water masses led to the fact that the arms of the Traun at Wels were shallow and it was therefore possible to cross at fords.
The small settlement developed into an important base and outpost of the Roman Empire. Under Emperor Hadrian what was then Ovilava or Ovilavis was elevated to a city (municipium). The built-up area included the area from the Traun to the height of today's Kaiser-Josef-Platz. There were already brick houses, steam baths, an arena and an irrigation system that brought water from the Reinberg across the Traun.
As a result, Wels became a large city (colonia) under Emperor Caracalla. Due to the threat of the Alemanni, the city was expanded, surrounded by a city wall - the area was about 90 hectares - and a road from Passau was built along the Danube. What is certain is that six towers and a gate system were integrated into the walls, which were built from the castle along the Western Railway and across Feldgasse back towards the banks of the Traun.
As part of his reform of the provincial system, Emperor Diocletian made Wels a capital that administered the area of the Roman Empire north of the Alps, the Ufernoricum (Noricum Ripense). Two duumviri who acted as city judges, two aediles who advocated compliance with laws and market rights, a quaestor who administered the city treasury, and a 100-member city council headed the city.
Ovilava administered an area that was enclosed by the Inn and Danube, bounded to the east by the administrative areas of Lauriacum (Enns), and reached as far as Bad Ischl. The city district included border fortifications, which also included Linz (Lentia) and Passau (Boiodurum), and countless settlements on Upper Austrian and Salzburg soil.
What is striking about the Roman burial culture in Wels is that only a few precious things were buried. This was due, on the one hand, to the nearby border with the constant threat of raids and wars, and, on the other hand, to the severe climate, which is why only a few wealthy citizens settled there. Richer graves only come from earlier periods of settlement.
From the 3rd to the 5th century, the area around Wels was often invaded by Germanic and Vandal tribes as well as by Attila's army in the course of the beginning of the migration of the peoples. Under Emperor Gallienus, the province of Noricum was described as devastated. The officer and king of Italy, Odoacer, had Noricum evacuated as it could no longer be held.
From the 4th century, Wels is likely to have become a small and insignificant settlement again for a few centuries. In the Antonini Itinerary (3rd century) the city is mentioned several times under the name Ovilavis, but it is no longer mentioned in the Vita Sancti Severini, which reflects the situation at the end of the 4th century.
Economy in the Roman Wels
Agriculture and border trade as well as brick production, pottery and stone mining were the economic basis of the town.
Since several Roman imperial roads ran through the city, including the great east-west connection to Enns, many goods were imported from the west, such as Gaul and the Rhine area, including terra sigillata vessels and statuettes, including the so-called "Venus of Wels". But there was also brisk trade with Italy. Amphorae, oyster shells and bronze figures of Italian origin were found.
The cultivation of grain just covered the regional consumption; cattle and horses were probably exported. In today's urban area, the oldest granary in the Eastern Alps was found, in which, according to the findings, mainly wheat, dwarf wheat, emmer, barley and rye were stored.
Religion in the Roman Wels
There is evidence that a pontiff and the College of Sexviri, a
community devoted to the imperial cult, were resident. Their temple,
dedicated to the Capitoline Triassic, has not yet been found.
However, consecration stones have been found for other gods and
spirit beings such as Apollo, Jupiter, Vulcanus, Genius and Laren.
Some statues of Diana, Venus, Fortuna, Mercurius and Minerva could
also be excavated.
The Celtic world of gods could only be proven on the basis of a statue of a mother goddess and an image of the Celtic bull god Tarvos Trigaranus.
The emerging Christianity was represented in Wels since the 3rd or 4th century. These first years of the Christian religion were mainly characterized by persecution and oppression, but Florian von Lorch is said to have worked in Wels before he fled to St. Pölten. Part of a pilaster provides information about an early Christian church from the 4th or 5th century and suggests a larger Christian community.
The Ursa tombstone is considered to be one of the oldest finds from an early Christian community. The tombstone was commissioned by a Roman soldier for his wife.
The Bavarians settled the region around Wels in the 6th century. Weapons found in Bavarian burial grounds date from the 7th century.
In the 8th century Wels was again equipped with fortifications. Wels was first mentioned in 776 as castrum uueles, which means something like "fortified settlement Wels" or "castle Wels". Before the official seat of Count Machelm, a relative of the Agilolfinger, Wels came to the Carolingian possessions until the late 9th century.
From the year 1000 Wels was called the "market" and was known for its cloth trade. Since Wels belonged to the Lambach monastery in the 11th century, it was later assigned to the diocese of Würzburg.
In the 12th century Wels was properly divided, because the market rights, the toll for the bridge, the parish church and a Marienkapelle were administered separately by Würzburg, Lambach Abbey, Kremsmünster Abbey and some nobles. The oldest surviving Wels documents date from this time. These are Bruckamt bills, i.e. records of the income from the Traun Bridge, which was created between 1138 and 1140.
After the death of the last Traungauer in 1192, Wels came into the possession of the Babenbergers through an inheritance contract, who in 1222 registered Wels as a city (civitas). At that time, Wels was already one of the largest fortifications in Upper Austria, along with Linz and Steyr, and was the scene of a battle between the armies of Duke Heinrich XIII. of Bavaria and King Ottokar II of Bohemia.
In 1233 Duke Otto II of Bavaria broke into the territory of the Babenbergs, to which he was subject after the occupation of the city of Wels.
The town square was built in the 13th century and the leather gate, the forerunner of the leather tower, was mentioned in 1326. The Habsburgs doubled the size of the city.
On June 13, 1295, a Wels seal was used for the first time.
In the 14th century, the market rights were expanded, protective devices were built against flooding, the beverage tax was exempted, the right of seizure and stacking rights were granted, and the city only had to pay taxes to the sovereign.
Characteristic for the 14th and 15th centuries was the emergence of the first wealthy middle-class families who built their houses - some of which have been preserved to this day - in the area of the town square and the Traungasse, and the training of craft guilds, the so-called "collieries". Their houses were and are mainly in today's Schmidt- and Bäckergasse. Similarly, some noble families, parishes and monasteries owned houses for which they wanted to obtain the status of (tax-exempt) free houses.
Emperor Maximilian I.
Emperor Maximilian I stayed in Wels very often, much more often than other emperors. One reason for this was certainly his hunting lodge in the Welser Heide. Under him, the town hall and Wels Castle were expanded in 1514 and he granted some privileges to the city. In 1519 he gave the city the right to seal in red wax.
At the end of 1518 the emperor made the last stop in Wels. An illness prevented him from recovering, so that he died in the castle at the beginning of 1519 with the words “I am fully equipped for this journey with God's grace”. Emperor Maximilian I was buried in Wiener Neustadt.
In the 16th century, Wels experienced an economic boom due to its position as a transshipment point for agricultural goods from the area and from long-distance trade. Structures that have survived from this period are the water tower, built around 1577, which stored water drawn up from the Mühlbach, which was distributed through a pipe system in the city, and the Ledererturm, which was renewed in 1619.
The Reformation movement was mainly supported by the Wels nobles
and students. Since the middle of the 16th century, mainly
Protestant citizens lived in Wels. The theologian Konrad Cordatus,
an acquaintance of Martin Luther, came from the area of Wels. An
event hall next to the Protestant church is named after him. The
re-Catholicization ordered by Emperor Ferdinand II was carried out
very strictly and resulted in a strong wave of emigration,
especially among the leading families.
With the exception of 1626, Wels was largely spared from peasant revolts and the efforts of the Counter-Reformation. When the rebellious farmers under Stefan Fadinger stopped in Wels, the city fell victim to the flames, damage from which Wels found it difficult to recover.
In the second half of the 16th century, about 200 houses were built, and the economy and arts and crafts began to flourish. Iron processing, wholesaling and money business became important at this time.
From 1569, the mayor and city judge, who were elected annually, joined the existing political administration of the city. From this point on, the city judge only had legal duties.
After the Thirty Years War, during which troops were quartered in Wels several times, the city coffers were empty. The plague, floods and an earthquake in 1690 caused great damage. The population of Wels at the time was around 4,000 people who lived in around 550 houses.
The economic order of the city changed: the iron trade and weavers lost their importance, only the number of breweries rose to five. The country's largest grain market and some representatives of handicrafts survived the recession. Nevertheless, many new monuments were built in the 18th century, and some old buildings were renovated or rebuilt under the leadership of Wolfgang Grinzenberger and Johann Michael Prunner. The former bread tower at Kaiser-Josef-Platz (1733), the town hall (1739) and the Minorite monastery (1745) were built or significantly changed.
In the 17th century the portcullis was added to the city arms.
Emperor Josef II.
The reforms of Emperor Josef II showed their effects in Wels. On the one hand, some chapels were demolished or closed. In 1784 the Minorite monastery was closed, but in 1781 the foundation stone for the Protestant community was laid; the first meetings took place. In the year the suburban parish was founded (1785), the moat was drained.
Around 1800, Wels was repeatedly occupied and looted by French troops, but also served as the headquarters of several Austrian regiments. Inflation brought factories to a standstill and grain prices fell because of too good harvests.
Today a monument in the form of a statue is dedicated to Emperor Josef II on the Kaiser-Josef-Platz named after him, which refers to the lifting of heir subservience.
Biedermeier and Vormärz
High politics in the 19th century was shaped by the Metternich system, and Wels was not subjected to any major reforms either. The city grew slowly and was, among other things, the base of the k. u. k. Hussar Regiment 12, got new offices and from 1823 uniform city lighting.
In 1829 the Wels Theater Association was founded, which played four times a week in the former hospital church, and later five times. It was not until 1883 that the Linz State Theater took over the program for the Wels stage.
The opening of the Budweis – Linz – Gmunden horse-drawn railway in 1835, which was not replaced by the railway until 1860, was important for economic development. The economy was shaped by the beginning of industrialization. In the second half of the 19th century, a nail and hat factory as well as a few machine factories and the Wels art mill Fritsch were established.
After the March Revolution in 1848, numerous newspapers were founded, including the first weekly "Der Welser Landbote", published by Michael Haas. His son Johann Nepomuk Haas (1820–1897) later headed the weekly newspaper "Welser Anzeiger", which had been published since 1855 and which until 1939 was one of the most important newspapers in Upper Austria. Today his former shop houses a bookshop on Wels town square.
The building of the dragoon barracks, which was as big as the old town at the time, was significant. It was completed in 1858 and immediately occupied by Hussar Regiment No. 6. Until the end of the First World War, dragoon regiments, most recently the fourth, were stationed in Wels.
The opening of the “k.k. privileged Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Bahn ”(Western Railway) in 1860. This gave Wels a connection to the Austrian railway network, so that Vienna, Linz and Salzburg could be reached within hours.
Fin de siècle
The turn of the 20th century was marked by brisk construction activity, buildings such as the Sparkasse on Ringstrasse and the hospital were built, as well as factories, including the Knorr food factory, the Teufelberger hemp and wire rope production, the Reformwerk agricultural machinery factory, the Nöttling frame factory and the power station founded.
In 1904 the city museum was opened in the Sparkasse building on the Ring.
First World War and the interwar period
The First World War tore a deep hole in the city's budget. The city had to take care of the wounded and secure basic supplies for the civilian population, but it was also not allowed to forget economic issues. Inflation dominated the postwar economy until it was slowed down for a few years in 1924.
The increasing number of citizens led to the founding of the Welser Heimstättengenossenschaft in 1911 and to large building projects in the housing sector on the part of the municipal authorities. The milling school was founded in 1921 and the state women's clinic in 1923.
After the war things picked up again, the city grew very quickly and new industrial companies were founded, such as the Tigerwerk paint factory. Nevertheless, high unemployment and financial crises dominated the city at the end of the 1920s.
During this time, the city became known for the first industrial application of composting, a process developed by the researcher couple Annie Francé-Harrar and Raoul Heinrich Francé. On December 28, 1920 the "Welser natural fertilizer factory" was founded, which was operated until 1939.
time of the nationalsocialism
The preparations for the takeover of power by the National Socialists were made on the evening before March 12, 1938 in Café Markut on Ringstrasse. The military was placed under the Nazi leadership and the police were taken over by the SS and the SA.
During the Second World War, the villages of Lichtenegg, Pernau and Puchberg were incorporated. The Vogelweide district was also created during this time, and in 1939 the airport was used as the home base for the III. Group of Kampfgeschwader 76 expanded. The Gunskirchen concentration camp, a subsidiary of the Mauthausen concentration camp, was located in the neighboring community of Gunskirchen. In 1938 the Welfen acquired a machine factory that produced tractors and their company Flugzeug- und Metallbauwerke Wels (FMW) worked for the German Air Force; about 45 percent were employed in slave labor. In Wels there were several large camps for prisoners of war and foreign civilian workers: the “Rennbahn” camp for French prisoners of war was housed in an exhibition hall on the “Reichsnährstandsgelände” (exhibition grounds), a camp for male foreign civilian workers on Wiesenstrasse and the one on Römerstrasse “Wispl” camp for Eastern workers, the “Oberhaid” camp for Soviet prisoners of war on Wallerer Strasse and a camp for Italian military internees in “Herminenhof”. Thousands of people had to do forced labor in countless factories and work details.
During the National Socialist era, Wels was an important location for the German Wehrmacht: on the one hand, numerous units of the field and reserve army and the air force were stationed here, on the other hand, extensive military facilities were built. In addition to schools and various other larger public buildings such as the Herminenhof and the “Deutsche Turnhalle” (today's ÖTB gymnasium), private properties were also used - sometimes under duress - to accommodate soldiers. The Wehrmacht set up several barracks barracks camps (in Lichtenegg and Neustadt), residential buildings for soldiers, construction camps for prisoners of war (in Pernau), reserve hospitals (in addition to the air force hospital in Neustadt there was a general hospital as well as in the school buildings of today's secondary school Dr.-Schauerstraße and the grammar school / middle school in Vogelweiderstraße lazarette) and various military offices (Heerespflegungsamt, Heereszeugamt, Heimatkraftfahrpark, Heeresbauamt, Army base administration) The military airport that existed before the Nazi era was extensively expanded as the Wels air base. An aircraft pilot school trained more than 1,000 soldiers. 5000 Welser served in the German Wehrmacht, around 700 lost their lives in the process.
After the Gunskirchen concentration camp was liberated by US
troops on May 5, 1945, numerous surviving prisoners were taken to
hospitals, including those in Wels. By the end of August 1945, 1,032
liberated people had died in the city as a result of their
imprisonment. The dead were buried at the northwest end of the Wels
city cemetery. A memorial erected in 1947 and a memorial erected in
2001 with the inscription “About 1030 people who died as a result of
the Nazi regime after their liberation from the Gunskirchen subcamp
in Wels rest here”, commemorate these victims.
At least 131 people related to the city of Wels or the communities of today's Wels-Land district were definitely or (in the case of “decentralized” killings) victims of Nazi euthanasia in the Hartheim Castle killing facility, the Niedernhart sanctuary and the facility " At the Spiegelgrund ”. At least 13 people of Jewish origin from Wels were victims of the Holocaust.
In 1944 and 1945, more than 500 people died in a total of eleven Allied air bomb attacks. Almost 300 residential buildings were destroyed and hundreds more damaged. Around a fifth of the living space was thus destroyed. In May 1945 the city was liberated by the US Army.
Dealing with the Nazi era after 1945
Since the end of the 1990s, the Austrian Green Party and the Communist Party of Austria have been trying to rename streets and squares with the names of personalities who are believed to have a close relationship with National Socialism. Examples of this are Wagner-Jauregg-Strasse, named after the Nobel Prize laureate Julius Wagner-Jauregg, who was born in Wels, Ginzkeystrasse, named after Franz Karl Ginzkey, an author and member of the NSDAP, and Waggerlstrasse, named after Karl Heinrich Waggerl, a writer and also a member of the NSDAP. A memorial plaque for SS-Kameradschaft IV, which was placed in the "Sigmar" chapel in 1964 and was criticized for years, was removed in 1995 by unknown perpetrators. The name of the gym of the Wels gymnastics club, "Moritz-Etzold-Halle", which had been controversial for decades, was changed to "Gym Wels" in 1997. Moritz Etzold had been a NSDAP district trainer. In the same year, Ottokar-Kernstock-Strasse, named in 1955 after the author of the "Hakenkreuz-Lied", was renamed. The then mayor Karl Bregartner had previously stated that he had no problem with the name Kernstock.
In 2008, six stumbling blocks were laid in Wels in memory of victims of National Socialism - three people of Jewish origin and three resistance fighters.
post war period
Until 1948 the food supply was precarious, industry was down and livestock was severely reduced. The railroad was destroyed, the economy took ten years to recover somewhat. New companies were founded during this difficult time, such as the Vogel pump factory in 1945 or the Rübig steel goods company in 1947.
The increasing traffic and the high number of students were important problems in the following period. They were largely resolved with the expansion and new construction of roads and railways and the commercial academy (1952) and the technical college (1962). All of today's kindergartens were founded at that time, and the housing associations invested heavily in new living space.
The foundations for most of today's public facilities were laid in the 1960s and 1970s. The city library, the adult education center or the music school were launched at the time.
The high point of the good economic and socio-political development was the granting of a separate statute for the city in 1964, Wels was elevated to a separate (city) district after decades of efforts. In the course of this, the coat of arms and the city colors green and red were officially included in the municipal statutes. In the official description of the city arms it says:
“In blue on a green, corrugated shield base, a silver, two-tower, tinned gate, the openwork arched gate with raised, golden portcullis, the towers with three black open windows each, one placed above two. The Austrian red-white-red sign hovers above the building. "
The coat of arms symbolizes Wels Castle or the former fortifications of the city in the Middle Ages with the Traun River in front of it.
During this time, Eisenfeld Castle from the 18th century was destroyed.
In addition to the founding of the Noitzmühle district and many social institutions, such as the Lebenshilfe and advice centers for drug and alcohol addicts, the 1970s also brought energy crises and economic setbacks in the form of bankruptcies of some large companies such as the Reisner & Wolff company or the Welsermühl paper mill.
Linz Airport (LNZ / LOWL) is only about 15 km away, but Wels Airport (LOLW) with 1390 m of asphalt runway is also available for general aviation.
Wels is an important rail junction on the Salzburg - Vienna route and a stop for almost all international trains.
From Salzburg on the A1 to Voralpenkreuz and on the Innkreis Autobahn A8 to Wels. From Vienna on the A1 to the Haid junction and on the A25 to Wels. From Passau via the A8.
Around the city
Several city bus routes make every point in the city relatively
quick to reach.
NO bus service on Sundays, but it is possible to call an "AST" taxi by phone.
Call (07242 20 69 69) at least 30 minutes before departure and give your name, departure point (number), departure time, destination (free choice of destination in the timetable area) and number of people.