Cults and Sanctuaries in Noricum

Siehe diesen Text auf

Introduction: general remarks on cult buildings in Noricum

The situation regarding research on cult sites in the province of Noricum in general is currently unsatisfactory. Most of the known sanctuaries were excavated before the First World War or in the period between the wars. The reports which were produced concerning them are sparse due to the economic circumstances of the time, and hardly reveal any information concerning ground plans and layouts, beyond a description of the most important finds. On the other hand, a number of sanctuaries have been discovered since 2004 in southern Noricum, and previously known finds have been newly investigated, as for example three temples of gallo-roman type with surrounding porticoes in Celje, a similar temple on the Gurina in the Carinthian Gail Valley, a podium temple with surrounding colonnades with exedrae for Hercules located on the Zollfeld near Virunum, or the podium temple dating to the pre- or early Augustan period identified in 2006 on the summit of the trading settlement on the Magdalensberg. For this, only short preliminary reports have been published or are currently in press.

The temple sites and sanctuaries within the cities of Noricum have been extensively discussed in the chapter regarding Norican cities, and can briefly be summarized here. At both Virunum and Celeia, a podium temple – with substructures divided into three sections – in its own area sacra next to the Forum is known; each of these temples has come to be known as a Capitolium, although there is no supporting evidence for this identification in the form of cult statues or inscriptions. At Celeia, however, a colossal head and additional sculptural parts from a cult statue belonging to the Apollo type were found in the immediate vicinity; on account of these finds, the main temple should rather be assigned to this divinity, perhaps a local variant in the form of Apollo Belinus or Apollo Grannus. Recently, a votive inscription to Belinus, who is identified as the main divinity of the Noricans by the Christian writer Tertullian, has been found in Celeia. Grannus possessed a sanctuary, described as navale, near the Forum at Teurnia; to date, only its building inscription is known.

At Iuvavum, the ground plan of a peripteral temple was identified after the war in the heavily developed area of the old city of Salzburg; this is the only example of this temple type in the province of Noricum so far. On the basis of numerous fragments of statues and votive inscriptions, this temple was dedicated to the healing god Asclepius, the son of Apollo in Greek myth, and to Hygeia. In the remaining Norican municipalities, there are no official intramural cult buildings known to date. Since over 100 votive inscriptions exist in Noricum to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the major divinity of the Roman state, yet of which only two can be attributed to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva), the Capitoline hypothesis for the temples at Celeia and Virunum needs to be scrutinised. Based on the examples from Teurnia and Iuvavum, one might expect instead a healing divinity somehow connected with Apollo.
Furthermore, a number of cities possessed podium temples in the immediate vicinity of the city boundary or in the middle of an earlier settlement of the Latène period. At Celeia (Miklavski hrb – Nikolausberg) and Virunum (St. Michael on the Zollfeld), these temples of the Hadrianic era (117–138) were connected to Hercules and to the Imperial cult. On the Frauenberg near Flavia Solva, a podium temple with apse was dedicated to Isis in the late first 1st century.

In the smaller settlements in the countryside, the gallo-roman temple with central cella and surrounding porticoes seems to have played an important role. The majority of scholars interpret such cult buildings as products of a gallo-roman hybrid culture, while on the other hand some scholars have seen their development in Britain and Gaul already before the Roman occupation. In addition to the recent finds on the city boundary of Celeia, in Noricum only one such structure has been architecturally and epigraphically attested, namely, the structure erected first in the (early?) 3rd century above a collapsed predecessor and identified as navale, on the Burgstall in the Lavant valley in lower Carinthia. It was dedicated to the local god Latobius, related to Mars, although in its vicinity votive inscriptions and statues to Jupiter were set up. In an inscription near Falvia Solva the god, also adorned in southwest Pannonia and northeast Noricum as Marmogius, is called Mars Latobius Marmogius Toutates Sinates Mogetius.


The Santuary of Noreia in Hohenstein

In Noricum, the sanctuary erected in honour of the local goddess Noreia is of particular interest with regard to questions of transformation. The sanctuary lay in the middle of an area which was of economic importance due to intensive iron working, near Schloss Hohenstein near Pulst in the Glan Valley in Carinthia, only a few hours’ walking distance from Virunum.

The temple, already known before the mid-19th century and first excavated in 1895, was restudied in 1932/33. A publication of the small finds at that time was not carried out, and is no longer possible as the objects were stolen. A trial excavation in 2004 brought to light southern Gallic Terra sigillata in the foundation trenches, and stratigraphically confirmed the date of the construction, previously conjectured on the basis of the fragmentary building inscription and the remains of the architectural decoration, to the Hadrianic period (117-138).
These excavations revealed that the building was a relatively small podium temple (exterior dimensions 12.50 x 7.30 m.), oriented roughly north-northwest – south-southeast. Around three sides, at a distance of ca. 4.5 – 5.5 m., ran a 3 m. wide portico covered with roof tiles. The south side of the temple, the entrance, possessed an exterior staircase which led up to the temple. The 1.9 m. depth of the foundation blocks of the staircase indicates a podium height of 1.2 – 1.8 m. The temple building itself, constructed of mortared quarry stone, was divided into two, whereby the pronaos (4.3 x 2.5 m.) took up slightly more than half the depth of the cella (4.3 x 4.1 m.) adjacent to the north. The relationships in size of the foundations reveal that the temple took the form of a tetrastyle prostyle building, whereby the average intercolumniation at the front normally would measure 2.3 m., but here instead the central intercolumniation was emphasized. The altar, whose existence is assumed, must have been integrated into the staircase leading to the temple, since there is no evidence for foundations belonging to an altar at the foot of the staircase area in the front. Against the north wall of the cella a base was attached, which might have supported a cult statue – of which however no remains have been found.
To the south of the temple, a wall surrounded a sacred area in the form of a slightly distorted rectangle resembling a square (sides between 24.60 m. and 30.90 m.) The south wall which was built on an artificial terrace must have collapsed; no remains of it have been found, but its length can be approximated. A poured foundation (2 m. x 3 m.) rested against the inner face of the north wall. In the north-east corner of the enclosure, a small building was erected, with two of its four walls being constituted by the enclosure wall. Additional remains of walls in the interior of the enclosure point to the existence of supplemental structures, perhaps resembling chapels. On the exterior face of the eastern surrounding wall a portico was added (min. 16.50 m. x 5 m.), which had an entrance at its north protected by a porch. Numerous fragments of wall painting were discovered in the interior of this colonnade. Therefore we might be dealing here with a multi-purpose stoa, common in a number of sanctuaries, which also served as a room for votive offerings.
To the east of the portico, two pits were identified in which an inventory of cult objects had been buried. In a heavily burned layer, much ceramic ware, including native black clay ware, had been buried, along with glass sherds, nails, bones, remains of roof tiles, fragments of limestone statues smashed into infinitesimally small pieces, and a dedicatory stone with fountain outlet and dedication to Noreia Augusta.

The oldest of six preserved inscriptions honouring Noreia was set up by one Chrysanthus, servus vicarius of the Emperor Claudius. A badly damaged inscription was set up by another imperial slave in the late 1st century A.D. A votive offering, described in a dedicatory inscription but unfortunately lost, of a valuable silver bowl with a golden image of Noreia, offered by a cavalry officer from the city of Rome, Q. Fabius Modestus, decurio of the ala I Augusta Thracum, must have occurred after the year of the four emperors and most likely belongs to the early to mid-2nd century A.D. The same dating is probable for the dedication, found in one of the pits, on a stone block which functioned as a water outlet. It is probable that water ran out of a pipe which was attached into the stone, into a basin in front of it; whether this was connected to the cult or whether it was only used for cleansing before entering the sanctuary is unclear.
Based on the dedication to Noreia, the open, unwalled area was in use at least since the middle of the 1st century A.D. and served – as was normal at other sanctuaries too – for the honouring of additional divinities. Heads from small-scale statues of Eros and Attis, as well as a female head with a turreted crown, most likely Magna Mater, were found here. From the temple area comes a shoddily worked limestone relief, measuring only 0.11 m. wide, of Minerva, where she is also mentioned in an inscription.

From the Hadrianic period we possess the building charter of the temple, unfortunately only partially preserved, which contains a dedication to the Provincial Governor Claudius Paternus Clementianus. Although the complete name of the divinity is not preserved, the restoration [Noreiae Au]g(ustae) is, however, practically certain: the worship of no other divinity is attested via dedicatory altars from any nearby temple region, and the temple building itself can only have served the cult of Noreia. The inscription refers to the construction of cella, columnae, pavimenta and porticus. Only a few letters from the name of the building’s patron are preserved; these could be restored to give the nomen gentile Sabi[nius]. The fact that the Sabinii are frequently attested at Virunum as duumviri (‘Mayors’), that their main branch apparently belonged to the equestrian class, and that furthermore one of the heads of the family in the mid-2nd century, Sabinius Veranus, is known to have been partial lessee of the Illyrian tribute, allows the suggestion that in any event a member of this family –even perhaps this particular Veranus himself – might have been the building’s patron.
The administration of the mining activities also seems to have had a particular affinity to the cult of Noreia in Hohenstein. This is revealed by an honorary inscription, certainly set up before the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, most likely in the first half of the 2nd century A.D., by a procurator ferriarum (administrator of the iron mining works) Q. Septueius Valens in honour of his relative Q. Septueius Clemens, conductor (lease holder of the public iron mining works) and of two other procurators, appointed by him. The goddess is here identified not simply as Noreia, as is the case on the remaining inscriptions from Hohenstein, but as Isis Noreia.
An architrave inscription from the Ulrichsberg, visible from the sanctuary, mentions Noreia Isis F[ortuna?]. This inscription was apparently transported from Hohenstein either in late antiquity for the construction of an elevated settlement of the 5th/6th century, or in the mediaeval period; it found its final use as the door lintel of the Gothic church there. A certain A(ulus) Trebonius [- - -] / proc(urator) is mentioned as building patron. Scholars assume that he is to be identified with a knight by the name of A(ulus) Trebonius Garutianus, procurator in the year 68 in the province of Africa, and that he functioned in Noricum under the Flavian emperors as procurator Augusti, that is, as provincial governor. We might, however, be dealing here with an administrator of the mining works, as was the case with the donor of the above-mentioned inscription, Q(uintus) Septueius Valens.
This inscription does make relatively certain, at least, that in the last decades of the 1st c. A.D., an initial temple building was erected or completed by Aulus Trebonius. Furthermore, this structure can only have been a relatively large aedicula or a simple, small anta temple, since the probable restoration of the inscription can easily be fitted onto an architrave of about 3 m. in length.
The noteworthy identification of the local divinity Noreia with Isis can, on the one hand, be associated with the worship of this originally Egyptian goddess privileged under the Flavian emperors and renewed under Hadrian; on the other hand it might be associated with the known affinity for Isis, also attested in northern Italy, on the part of Roman societies of miners.


Noreia – new creation of the Roman period, or old Celtic mother goddess

After this presentation of all of the finds of cultic character known to date, which certainly or probably belong to the sanctuary of Hohenstein, the following picture emerges: building phases of the pre-Roman period, or also only traces of a disturbance of the ground before the Claudian period, have not been identified in the excavations - unfortunately not completed - carried out thus far. The cult of Noreia is epigraphically attested after the time of Claudius. The first temple was most likely erected during the Flavian period, probably already early on during the reign of Vespasian (69-79), if the assignation of the architrave inscription from Ulrichsberg at Hohenstein is accepted. This structure could easily have been erected within the enclosed area, especially if the spring at the entrance, dedicated to Noreia, actually lay on the western side of the site in front of the colonnade built onto it, a situation suggested by the find-spot of the spring’s dedicatory inscription. Under Hadrian, the cult of Noreia was rendered more prominent, and its spatial differentiation was emphasized via the construction of a podium temple, still relatively modest in its dimensions, with a colonnaded courtyard on three sides outside the temenos which had existed for nearly a century. For both of the podium temples, procuratores Augusti or individuals close to them functioned as the patrons of the building. At the earliest under Vespasian, Noreia was brought into connection with Isis, probably as a sign of political loyalty; later on, this identification was taken over by the administration of the iron mines, perhaps due to the special function of Isis as protective goddess of the mining industry. The relationship between Noreia and Isis, however, was limited to these two particular cases and found no imitators in contemporary or later dedications by other founders.

All of the representatives of the cult who are known thus far from inscriptions were foreign members of the Imperial administration or the military, or belonged to families which were closely connected with the provincial administration and which held the lease of the customs tariff and iron mining industry. No private individuals, and nobody who in any way at all could be described as an indigenous Norican, can be counted amongst the worshippers of Noreia. A fitting sign of the official character of the inscriptions is the fact that no women or children are mentioned, nor are they mentioned as co-worshippers, which is usually generally the case elsewhere.

The abandonment of cult activity at Hohenstein occurred at the earliest in the second half of the 2nd c. A.D.; no datable cult objects from a later period can be identified. This circumstance might be connected to the emigration of the majority of the imperial civil servants from Virunum to Lauriacum, on the border of the Danube region, in the final years of the reign of Marcus Aurelius. During the course of the Marcomanni wars, after 171 A.D. the legio II Italica was stationed in Noricum; this legion first had its camp at Locica in northern Slovenia, then at Albing at the mouth of the river Enns, and at the latest in ca. 200 they received their final stationing at Lauriacum. From this point on, their commander was also the provincial governor. In addition, in the course of an administrative reform, the customs- and mining leases were abolished, and these important sources of income were placed under direct state control. This move effectively did away with the audience for the Noreia sanctuary – the Roman military, civil servants and lease holders.

Dedicatory inscriptions honouring Noreia were set up by various members of the military – a tribune, a centurion, equestrian decurions, beneficiarii, imperial cavalry guards – as well as imperial customs slaves, from the mid-2nd until the mid-3rd century, in the territory of Celeia, at Inn in Upper Austria, in Rome itself, and even in the province of Mauretania Caesariensis, where troops who were stationed in Noricum were temporarily active. This shows that the Roman administration, and above all the army in Noricum, had placed themselves under the special protection of Noreia, in addition to their regular divinities, and that this tradition continued even after the abandonment of the sanctuary at Hohenstein.

In all of these cases, Noreia appears as a personification of the province, a fact which is particularly manifest in a dedication of a beneficiarius from Celeia in the sequence of the divinities invoked: Jupiter – Noreia – Celeia. Jupiter symbolises the empire, Noreia the province, and Celeia the military station. In exactly the same way, Noreia appears in a dedication of imperial customs slaves from Atrans (today: Trojane), a military station on the border with Italy; these honoured Norei(a)e Aug(ustae) et Honori stat(ionis) Atrant(inae. An inscription from Celeia, comprising only the names of four divinities, names Noreia together with the protective divinities of the military, Mars, Hercules, and Victory. Therefore, without exception Noreia was invoked together with imperial divinities who – excluding the main divinity, Jupiter – display predominantly military characteristics or belong to religious practice loyal to the emperor, or with other regional personifications.

In contrast to the demonstrable worship of the divinity on the part of imperial civil servants and members of the military, the complete lack of inscriptions honouring Noreia set up by private individuals or indigenous Noricans argues against the identification of the goddess as an old Norican regional mother goddess of Celtic or even pre-Celtic origin, an identification which has so far been favoured in the scholarship. Instead, Noreia seems much more likely to have been a new Roman invention. ‘Noreia’ was probably chosen as the designation for the provincial personification of Noricum because the provincial name of Noricum, derived from the old regnum Noricum and exceptionally neutral in genus, was not suitable for the direct adoption of a divine numen which absolutely had to be feminine. On the one hand, the designation of Noreia was similar enough for the desired association with the province of Noricum to arise automatically; on the other hand, the name of the city of Noreia, mentioned on numerous occasions by Roman authors, acted as ‘godparent’. This city was destroyed or abandoned already before the provincialisation of the eastern Alpine region, probably before, or at the latest during, the Alpine campaign of 16/15 B.C. Its name, however, symbolised ‘age-long’ Roman-Norican brotherhood in arms, which had been manifested after the Kimbern battle of 113 apud Noreiam and which also emerged in the 1st c. B.C. in the defensive battle against the Boii, who had besieged Noreia, and again in the offer of aid to Caesar by a Norican prince in the Civil War; or such an allegiance was promoted after the fact. Apart from that, Noreia symbolises not much more than the other demonstrable, divinised regional or provincial designations such as, for example, Gallia, Dacia, Britannia sancta, Histria Terra or Terra Corsica.

In whatever form Rome brought its influence to bear in Noricum after the Augustan period, it is unanimously agreed that the occupation occurred without significant acts of war, that is on a more or less voluntary basis on the part of the Noricans. Nevertheless, the most important mining works were certainly controlled by the fiscus immediately after the occupation, and the leading Noricans were thereby robbed of a significant source of income. At the latest under the Emperor Claudius, Rome bestowed provincial status on the regnum Noricum, and with this step the ideal opportunity arose to make the official as well as the definitive entry into the Roman empire palatable for the provincials. A manifestation of this was the elevation in status of five important Norican settlements to the rank of autonomous municipalities, whereby the former inhabitants, above all the numerous Italian immigrants, were vested with a certain self-government. Furthermore, with this development, admission to the civitas Romana, otherwise almost only possible after 25 years of auxiliary service, was made easier for the financially better-off provincials, since they assumed municipial posts and therefore were able to be promoted into the ordo decurionum.

While it was the case that the cult of the dea Roma, and/or of Augustus or of the currently reigning emperor, was willingly set up by Rome in the newly conquered or provincialised regions, and these priestly positions were filled by the local aristocracy, exactly the reverse seems to have occurred in Noricum. Due to the friendly relations, the so-called hospitium publicum, between the res publica Romana and the regnum Noricum stretching back centuries, after Noricum had been incorporated into the imperium Romanum, Rome carried out a symbolic act of respect and allegiance with the introduction of the cult of Noreia as provincial divinity, a cult whose care devolved upon the Roman civil servants and the military.

Peter Scherrer



Ch. Flügel – H. Dolenz – M. Luik, Nachgrabungen im Tempelbezirk der Isis Noreia bei Hohenstein im Glantal, Carinthia 195, 2005, 55–71

F. Glaser, Heiligtümer im östlichen Alpenraum als Ausdruck lokaler Identität, in: A. Schmidt-Colinet (ed.), Lokale Identitäten in Randgebieten des römischen Reiches. Akten des Internationalen Symposiums in Wiener Neustadt 2003, Wiener Forschungen zur Archäologie 7 (2004) 91–100

F. Glaser, Ein Heiligtum des Grannus Apollo in Teurnia, Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Instituts 52, 1978–80, 121–127

M. Hell, Ein römischer Tempelbau in Juvavum-Salzburg, Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Salzburger Landeskunde 100, 1960, 29–44

H. Kenner, Die Götterwelt der Austria Romana, Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II 18.2 (1989) 875–974 und 1652–1655

I. Lazar, Celeia. An Archaeological Image of the Town (2001)

H. v. Petrikovits, Vorläufiger Bericht über die Ausgrabungen bei Hohenstein im Glantal, Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Instituts 28, 1933, Beibl. Sp. 145–160

G. Piccottini, Die Römer in Kärnten (1989)

M. Šašel Kos — P. Scherrer (eds.), The Autonomous Towns in Noricum and Pannonia – Die autonomen Städte in Noricum und Pannonien, I: Noricum, Situla 40 (Ljubljana 2002)

P. Scherrer, Noreia – Prähistorisch-gallorömische Muttergottheit oder Provinzpersonifikation, in: M. Hainzmann (ed.), Auf den Spuren keltischer Götterverehrung, Akten des 5. Internat. F.E.R.C.AN.-Workshops in Graz – Oktober 2003, Mitteilungen der Prähistorischen Kommission der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (2007, in press)

K. Strobel, Die Noreia-Frage. Neue Aspekte und Überlegungen zu einem alten Problem der historischen Geographie Kärntens, Carinthia 193, 2003, 25–71

M. Trunk, Römische Tempel in den Rhein- und westlichen Donauprovinzen, Forschungen in Augst 14 (1991)

J. Zajac, Die keltischen Elemente in der Religion Noricums in der Zeit des frühen Römischen Kaiserreiches (1.–3. Jh.), Acta Univ. Torun, Historia 13, 1979, 59–93