The HEIDENTOR(Heathen’s Gate)
The Heidentor, Austria’s best-known Roman monument and landmark of the Archaeological Park Carnuntum, is situated about 2 km from the Open Air Museum Petronell. You can also easily reach the Heidentor by car.
After your inspiring journey back to the everyday life of Carnuntum citizens, you will be impressed by this imposing monument to Imperial might. This massive building was situated outside the city walls over the Imperial statue of Emperor Constantius II, and visibly demonstrated to all travellers the splendour and might of the Roman imperator.
All that remains now of the former splendid edifice is the famous archway. Latest scientific investigations clearly prove that it was originally erected as a quadrifrons (Greek tetrapylon), a monument with pillars and four archways, which was built from 354 to 361 AD as a triumphal arch in honour of Emperor Constantius II and which rose protectively over the statue of the Emperor.
The name ‘Heidentor’ dates from the Middle Ages when the archway was thought to have been erected by non-Christians and was therefore called ‘heydnisch Tor’ (heathen gate). A misconception as we now know: the Heidentor was erected in a period when Christianity had been a recognised religion for decades and when it had become increasingly important in Carnuntum.
Guido Karl Anton List, better known as Guido von List (October 5, 1848 – May 17, 1919) was an Austrian/German (Viennese) poet, journalist, writer, businessman and dealer of leather goods, mountaineer, hiker, dramatist, playwright, and rower, but was most notable as an occultist and völkisch author who is seen as one of the most important figures in Germanic revivalism, Germanic mysticism, Runic Revivalism and Runosophy in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and continues to be so today.
List called his doctrine “Armanism” (after the Armanen, supposedly the heirs of the sun-king, a body of priest-kings in the ancient Ario-Germanic nation). Armanism was concerned with the esoteric doctrines of the gnosis (distinct from the exoteric doctrine intended for the lower social classes, Wotanism).
List also engaged in active celebratory ritual work. He would perform various rituals that sometimes seemed quite impromptu. The most famous depiction of such an event is his celebration of the summer solstice on 24 June 1875 at the ruins of the Roman City of Carnuntum. For this - as for so much else - we are dependent on List’s own somewhat fictionalised account, first published in Vienna in 1881. Basically, the ritual elements of this outing included the arduous task of gaining access to the so-called Heidentor (“Heathen Gate”) of the city (which List mystically identified as the gate from which a German army set out to conquer Rome in 375 C.E.), the drinking of ritual toasts to the memory of the local spirit ( genius loci ) and the heroes of the past, the lighting of a solstice fire, and the laying of eight wine bottles in the shape of the “fyrfos” (Swastika) in the glowing embers of the fire. List and his company then awaited the dawn.
These early experiences were sometimes later more completely fictionalised, as, for example, in his visionary tale “Eine Zaubernacht” (A Night of Magic). In this account, the persona (List) succeeds in invoking from the great mound a divine seeress ( Hechsa ) who reveals to him that he is not to be the liberator of the Germans - but that despite this “the German folk has need of the skald.”
Picture: An ‘Armanist pilgrimage’ to the Heidentor , Carnuntum, June 1911 from the book by Guido von List called Deutsch-Mythologische Landschaftsbilder. List is third from left.