140 years of the Society of Friends of Carnuntum

By Nisa Iduna Kirchengast - Editors: Daniel Kunc, Thomas Mauerhofer

The history of the Society of Friends of Carnuntum dates back to 1884, when it was founded under the name Verein Carnuntum. The GFC, today one of the oldest and most traditional archaeological support associations in Austria, aimed from the very beginning to support research in and around Carnuntum and to present the finds to the public in its own museum. Under the patronage of Crown Prince Rudolf, systematic excavations began, which brought important finds to light, including a Mithraic sanctuary (Mithraeum I “Am Stein”) and Amphitheater of the military town.


Mithraeum III during the excavations of the Carnuntum Association in 1894

(J. Cencic - W.Jobst, Report on the excavations 1994-1998 in the Mithraeum III of Carnuntum, CarnJb 2004, 63 Fig. 3).

Es wäre nicht blos eine patriotische That, sondern auch ein internationales Werk, 
wenn ein Consortium die edle Sache in die Hand nähme… 
das alte Carnuntum neu zu beleben!
Josef von Doblhoff-Dier, „Carnuntum redivivum“ in der Presse vom 26. April 1884

In 1898, the Carnuntum Association commissioned Colonel Max von Groller to carry out a systematic excavation on the Pfaffenberg, the results of which were published in the Roman Limes in Austria series in 1900. Despite initial challenges, such as the lack of trained specialists, the members continued their work and made a significant contribution to research into Roman history in Carnuntum. The activities of the association and selected results of the excavations were published in the association's own reports of the Carnuntum Association.


1. Präsident des Vereins Carnuntum, Alfred Ritter von Arneth (Daheim-Kalender 1897, S. 245)

Financed from private funds, the society has counted important personalities from the imperial family, nobility, science and business among its members over the course of its 140-year history. Its work included not only scientific research, but also the establishment of the Carnuntinum Museum in 1904, which was opened by the Emperor himself. The former mayor of Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, Karl Hollitzer, provided the association with a plot of land in the town, close to the Danube, to build the museum. This museum, designed in the style of a provincial Roman villa, has since housed not only new finds from the excavations, but also important items from members' private collections. Over the next few decades, the museum was run by the Carnuntum Association, but in 1939 Carnuntum became a "Führer affair" and, like many institutions in the former Austria, was incorporated into the Nazi dictatorship's power structure. The association was dissolved and the museum was transferred to the then Gau Niederdonau. It was only after the end of the war that the Association of Friends of Carnuntum was able to reconstitute itself in 1948 and received the museum back from the Ministry of the Interior. It was finally taken over by the province of Lower Austria in 1953.

    Models of the submitted museum designs, exhibited in the Museum Carnuntinum

    Today, the society continues its work by supporting current research projects in Carnuntum and sharing its knowledge through lectures, specialist conferences and scientific publications. The society publishes its activities in the Acta Carnuntina and thus makes an important contribution to the dissemination of the latest research in and around Carnuntum. Its aim thus remains unchanged: the promotion of archaeological research and the preservation of archaeological evidence of Roman history for future generations. The history of the society not only reflects the history of research in Carnuntum, but also the history of the times, from its beginnings in the 19th century to its current work in the 21st century.

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