According to present historical knowledge, settlement in the Perchtoldsdorf area started in the 6th millennium B.C.. Impressive archaeological finds are proof of a more or less prolonged presence of settlers as of the early Neolithic Age. Settlement was first concentrated on the Judenacker - Aspetten area (near the southern railway line), and a shift to Hochberg probably only occurred during the Copper Age (3rd millennium B.C.). According to recent research, Roman Perchtoldsdorf was situated in the area of the Aspetten vineyards and thus on exactly the same site as the Neolithic settlement.

Foundation of the town

It is no longer possible today to identify when permanent settlement started at the centre of the town. There are no written records about the foundation of the town, which was first mentioned in documents by the name of Perchtoldsdorf in 1140. The core settlement was in the area between the Castle and Heldenplatz, situated on an ancient route, probably in use since prehistoric times, the so-called “mountain fringe path” (Gebirgsrandweg), running from a ford across the Wien river in Hietzing via Lainz - Speising - Mauer - Rodaun and on to Perchtoldsdorf along today’s Hochstraße, leading further south via Brunn and Maria Enzersdorf. A chain of castles was built along this route, already used by the Romans, when the Ottonian and Salic emperors tried to secure the lands they had conquered against the Magyars, who had been pushed back to the east. The castle of Perchtoldsdorf was one link in this chain.

The first written record mentioning the name "Perchtoldsdorf" dates back to around 1140, about the same time that Vienna was first mentioned in a document. The record is a deed of donation which cannot be precisely dated but was recorded in the Klosterneuburg “book of deeds” and witnessed by a certain Heinrich von Perchtoldsdorf, a Babenberg estate official.

The name Perchtoldsdorf

The person inspiring the name of the “village of Berchtold" is not known to history. While the high-German variants are Berchtoldsdorf or Perchtoldsdorf, the place has long been called Petersdorf in local vernacular.

Under Babenberg rule, the lords of Perchtoldsdorf became one of the most important families of the Ostmark and/or Duchy. They resided at the castle of Perchtoldsdorf. In 1217, Otto I of Perchtoldsdorf persuaded Bishop Ulrich II of Passau to establish a parish of Perchtoldsdorf.

Medieval market town

After the lords of Perchtoldsdorf had died out (1286), the right of dominion passed to the new Austrian sovereign princes, the Habsburgs. At this time, the settlement which centred on Heldenplatz had already expanded to the south after Knappenstraße (today Wiener Gasse) and the market road had been established. In 1308, Perchtoldsdorf was first mentioned as a “market town”.

Initially, the Habsburg princes derived multiple benefits from their ownership and sovereignty rights in Perchtoldsdorf in the form of mortgage payments. Later they started to use the castle, which had been generously expanded by Albrecht II around 1340, as the seat of residence for the dynasty’s widows. Decades of undisturbed development followed. Duchess Beatrix, widow of Albrecht III, was a generous patron and, among other things, founded the local community hospital (Bürgerspital). It was upon her intercession that Perchtoldsdorf was granted the privilege of holding a town fair in 1400. In subsequent years the place was granted a number of further rights. In 1404, it was not only granted a second fair, but also the right to elect judges and council men.

15th / 16th Centuries

During the 15th century, the history of the market town was closely linked to that of the country, since the ruling Habsburgs frequently resided at the castle. It would almost seem as if Perchtoldsdorf was then destined to pay the bill for its decades of untroubled prosperity. The feud between the Habsburg brothers Friedrich III and Albrecht VI resulted in veritable guerrilla warfare by bands of mercenaries who plundered and looted the country as a substitute for the wages they had been promised but not paid. Perchtoldsdorf, which had already been badly devastated in 1446 by the troops of the Hungarian king Johann Hunyadi, suffered greatly. In 1465, the castle was even occupied by 800 soldiers under the command of the Moravian mercenary leader Heinrich Smikousky. Soon after, in 1477, the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus conquered the whole of present-day Lower Austria and Vienna. Perchtoldsdorf was greatly involved in the ensuing confusion and disputes and changed hands several times. It was not until the reign of Emperor Maximilian (1493-1519), who liberated the Vienna basin from Hungarian domination, that Perchtoldsdorf managed to recover from the devastation of past decades. A great construction boom ensued, with the defence lines being extended, all fortifications repaired and improved and construction of the high Peel tower, the town’s landmark, which had been started in 1450, was finally completed. There was also a flurry of private construction activities, and many of the fine old patrician houses with their late-Gothic facades or structures date back to that period.

Invasion of the Turks in 1529 and 1683

Thanks to the sturdy fortifications, the people of Perchtoldsdorf got off fairly lightly in 1529, as they were able to repel the Turkish attacks from behind the strong walls of the church fortress. The rest of the place was devastated, however.

Around 1550, large parts of the population of Perchtoldsdorf were probably Protestants. The second half of the 16th century and the early 17th century were marked by inner tensions ensuing from the Reformation and counter Reformation.

The 17th century represented a period of economic decline for Perchtoldsdorf. Difficulties to sell their wine, high tax levels and continuous billeting of troops resulted in a complete collapse of municipal finances and the town became dilapidated. Just when there were hints of improvement, the disaster of 1683 brought another severe setback. About one sixth or even a fifth of the entire population fell victim to the Turkish attacks. Hardly a house remained undamaged, and the town was completely ransacked. Reconstruction took many years.

18th / 19th Centuries

In the early 18th century, pilgrimages became popular in Perchtoldsdorf as a typical expression of piety in the Baroque era. A chapel on Leonhardiberg, which had been there for a long time, was converted into a pilgrimage church. The reforms introduced by Emperor Josef II put an end to this tradition.

In 1785, a “regulated municipal council” was established in Perchtoldsdorf – as in all small towns of the country. The market judge was replaced by a mayor who headed the municipal council.

With the exception of a printed cotton-goods factory at Knappenhof, the establishment of new industrial production entities in the late 18th century did not have any lasting impact on economic development in the town that continued to be dominated by the wine-making trade.

As of the Vormärz era (the years leading up to the revolution of 1848), renting out summer accommodation provided a new source of income for the people of Perchtoldsdorf. The establishment of the Kaltenleutgeben railway – and above all the Kraussian steam tramway from Hietzing to Perchtoldsdorf (1883) – brought the town that had been always been off the main transport routes nearer to Vienna, which was particularly conducive to the development of tourism.

Perchtoldsdorf was able for a long time to preserve its character of a wine-growing town and summer holiday resort. A blight of vine fretter (1887) severely endangered the livelihood of vintners. In the 1880s and 90s, former agricultural land was increasingly given over to development, and sumptuous villas were built in the exclusive residential area that developed on the slopes of the local heath.

20th century

Around 1860, the population started to grow rapidly. The number of inhabitants, which had been around 1800 in the early 19th century (1814), almost tripled between 1855 (2800) and 1923 (7800).

In 1938, Perchtoldsdorf lost its municipal independence when it was incorporated into Greater Vienna. In April 1945, the town lived through difficult days, although it was largely spared from war damage. On 1 September 1954, Perchtoldsdorf once again became an independent market town and part of the Land of Lower Austria.

Coping with the consistently strong demographic growth was probably one of the most important tasks for the town over the last forty years. The fact that Perchtoldsdorf managed to meet this challenge is mostly due to the far-sightedness of those in charge who – well aware of the popularity of the town as a recreational place and destination for day-trippers – made sure that the townscape shaped by history and the surrounding countryside would be preserved.

“Today, Perchtoldsdorf presents itself as a prosperous municipality with the usual problems arising from the proximity to a large city. These have been mitigated by a process of simultaneously keeping one’s distance and ensuring proximity. Now, the problems no longer seem threatening, but rather provide an incentive for continuous system optimisation which prevents stagnation and presents a constant challenge. To take up this challenge and try to solve the problems for both the coming decade and century constitutes the main objective for the municipal council and the inhabitants of this old-established wine village, which has managed to transform its painful historical experiences into a comfortable and thoroughly agreeable present.”(Günter Treffer, 1982)

Literature (German only):

Silvia Petrin, Die historische Entwicklung von Pfarre und Markt. In: Museum Perchtoldsdorf. Katalog. Herausgegeben von der Marktgemeinde Perchtoldsdorf. Perchtoldsdorf 1973. - Silvia Petrin/Gertrude Ostrawsky, Geschichte des Marktes Perchtoldsdorf. 2 Bände. Perchtoldsdorf 1983. - Ferdinand Opll, Brunn am Gebirge, Perchtoldsdorf, Maria Enzersdorf. Niederösterreichischer Kulturführer. Verlag Jugend & Volk, Wien-München 1984. - Bildband Perchtoldsdorf, Text von Günter Treffer. Edition Christian Brandstätter. Vienna 1982.