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       european routes of the industrial heritage
  the Iron Road in Central Europe  
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In February 2007, the Route of Iron in Central Europe was recognised as a ‘‘Cultural Route of the Council of Europe’’. It falls within the scope of the theme of industrial heritage and is the second route to represent this theme, the first being the Route of Iron in the Pyrenees (2004).

In October 2003, during a meeting on industrial heritage in Bourglingster (organised by the European Institute of Cultural Routes and attended by representatives of those countries affected by the theme of industrial heritage, such as Portugal, Andorra, Romania, Luxembourg and the Greater Region), it was decided to approach this heritage by production type and geographical zone (large areas of industry and employment).

Photo: IEIC

The European Route of Iron, originating in Austria in 1978 with the creation of the "Steirische Eisenstrasse", aims to retrace the history of iron in Europe, from pre-history to the present day.

This route involves the creation of a network of sites linked to the history of iron, encompassing geological, technological, social and cultural aspects. The network is to be created on a European level, starting in Central and Western Europe.

The culture of iron and ironwork has left a technical, artistic and religious heritage. The processes of extraction, transportation and industrial production in wood, melting and forge furnaces have also left an indelible mark on Europe’s landscape.

For nearly 2,500 years iron has been the most commonly used metal in agriculture, construction, jewellery and armoury. The history of its extraction and of the various technical processes used over the centuries to forge iron form an essential part of European history.

The earliest iron object found in Europe, made from iron ore, dates back to the Bronze Age. Little is known of this heritage, however, as although archaeological evidence of iron production has been found, such evidence has rarely been preserved.

Evidence of iron-producing cultures can be found across a variety of heritages and periods of history. For example, the structures of bloomeries and blast furnaces or metalworkers’ workshops, from the Etruscans to contemporary industrial complexes.

As well as such material heritage, there exists an immaterial dimension made up of industrial and artisan expertise. This can be found in the religious activities of metalwork centres, often symbolised in paintings and sculptures as the patron saints of miners and metalworkers, and represented in songs, legends and many other traditional and folkloric ideas linked to the heritage of iron and its exploitation.

The countryside surrounding historic iron centres (affected by the predominant use of hydraulic energy until a hundred years ago), links nature and industry.

The project of organising the ‘‘European Route of Iron’’ began in Austria in 1978 with various initiatives, the first being ‘‘Steirische Eisenstraße’’, with similar projects following throughout the whole of Austria (which are gathered within the working group “Österreichische Eisenstraße”) and its neighbouring countries. The cooperation between the ancient European iron zones was then discussed in 1988 in Valcamonica (I/BS). It met with big responses in the new EU-countries where the iron history and culture were in danger of disappearing but where their protection could contribute to the development of a positive image of those areas, of the tourism as well as the formation of a regional common identity. In 1990 the “Montanhistorischer Verein Österreichs“ (Austrian association for the history of mining and metallurgy) started a working group called “European Iron Trail” planned as roof for the organization of an European cooperation. It was possible to establish a network of institutions from the new EU-countries and their neighbours thanks to contacts with the « Országos Magyar Bányászati és Kohászati Egyesület » (Hungarian society of mining and metallurgy), Budapest.

Located in Central-Europe, the Iron Route is particularly significant as the classical zone of iron production, situated to the north of the historic source of alpine iron, the Erzberg (‘mountain of iron ore’), which has been a working mine for a thousand years. The “Erzberg Region” itself has been the centre of European ironwork since the Middle Ages. This route brings together numerous partners from Europe such as the « Bayerische Eisenstraße » (Bavarian Iron Route), Amberg (Germany) ; the « Slovenska železná cesta » (Slowak Iron Route), Košice (Slovakia); the « Steirische Eisenstraße » (Styrian Iron Route) Eisenerz (Austria); the « Műszaki és Természettudományi Egyesületek Szövetsége » (MTESZ – technical and scientist federation), Budapest (Hungary); the « Stowarzyszenie Inżynierów i Techników Przemysłu Hutniczego » (SITPH, federation of the Polish engineers and technicians of the metallurgy), Katowice (Poland); the « Erdélyi Magyar Műszaki Tudományos Társaság » (EMT - « Societatea Tehnico-Ştiinţifică Maghiară din Transilvania » – Hungarian Society of sciences and technology in Transylvania), Cluj-Napoca (Romania); the « Technické muzeum » (technical museum), Brně (Czech Republic) or the “Museum Ravne na Koroskem” (museum of Ravne), Ravne na Koroskem (Slovenia).

Photo: IEIC

After the recognition of the projet of an Iron Route on the European level by the Council of Europe as a “cultural route of the Council of Europe” called: “Central-European Iron Trail” (“Mitteleuropäische Eisenstraße”; “Route du Fer en Europe Centrale”), the austrian association “Mitteleuropäische Eisenstraße » was created in April 2008 in Eisenstadt (Austrian). The association combines local iron routes with institutions as well as places that represent important parts of the European iron cultural heritage. Its seat is in Leoben-Donawitz (Austria). Aims of the association is to let the “Central-European Iron Trail” become the international ambassador of the history, the culture and the traditions of the Central-European iron areas.

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 more infos ...
 other web sites
 Iron Route in Central Europe
 Iron in Central Europe Le Jeudi
 Kosice. Iron Route. Sperl
 Route of Iron in Central Europe
  Presentation in french.
 media library
 Steirische Eisenstraße
 The Styrian Iron Trail
 Mythos Erz & Eisen


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