High Middle Ages (907 until approx. 1250): The extinction of the Carolingian dynasty in the German-language area and the Hungarian victory over the Bavarian army at Pressburg on July 5, 907 marked the onset of this era for Austria. Eastern Austria up to the River Enns and probably also Karantania fell under Magyar rule; they established a March in the Danube valley, where Ruediger von Bechelaren is believed to have been a central figure. Contacts between the two rival powers continued; in 928, for example, a bishop of Freising drowned near Grein on his way to visit holdings in eastern Austria. In Bavaria, Berthold, the son of Margrave Liutpold (who was killed in battle) was made duke. Bavarian noble families, who were to play an important role in Carinthia, Styria and Lower Austria later on, also settled in the area west of the River Enns. Continuity prevailed in Salzburg, where the Archbishop also held the office of abbot of St. Peter until 987. In 952 the Langobardic duchy of Friuli was attached to Bavaria.
The victory of Otto the Great over the Magyars near Augsburg on August 10, 955 brought about fundamental changes in the political situation. Bavaria was weakened because Duke Heinrich was under age (until 967) and because of his rebellion against Emperor Otto II in 976. Accordingly, the victory of 955 did not have an immediately noticeable impact on Austria. Karantania (Carinthia) and Friuli were separated from Bavaria and made a separate duchy that founded several Marches (the March on the River Mur, etc.). The Babenbergs received the March of Ostarrichi on the River Danube, where they soon began to extend their rule.
The 11th century was marked by the opening up and colonisation of that area, in the course of which Bavarian dynasties also settled in Austria. Church institutions such as the bishops and dignitaries of Salzburg, Passau, Regensburg and Freising (later also of Bamberg) and several monasteries expanded their territories. Salzburg remained the ecclesiastical centre. Around the year 1000 the existing cathedral was extended to a length of 75 m. The Wels-Lambach dynasty and after them the burgraves of Steyr (the Traungauer) came to Styria. They colonised and ruled the region until 1192. It was only in Carinthia that dukes changed in rapid succession. The particularly favourable development of the areas of Styria and Carinthia was characterised by the relatively early foundation of monasteries (compared to the Danube area): Goess near Leoben around 1000, St. Georgen am Laengsee and Ossiach 1020, Gurk 1043 (from 1072 bishopric), Millstatt 1070-1080.
Almost all the settlements that still exist today were founded in the 11th century, fortresses were established, the manorial estates expanded and the immigrated nobility slowly broke away from its Bavarian roots. Towards the end of the 10th century the population had been half heathen, half Christian; now Christianisation took over and the major part of today´s Austria was Germanised, as can be seen in the place names and archaeological finds from that time.
The Investiture Controversy of 1075 divided the ecclesiastical and the secular rulers into supporters of the Pope and of the Emperor. In Carinthia, the Eppenstein dynasty remained loyal to the Emperor whereas the Sponheim dynasty supported the Pope; in Styria, Margrave Otakar II changed sides around 1081 and henceforth supported the Pope. In Austria, Margrave Leopold II also joined the Pope's side, as a result of which he was continuously attacked by Bohemia until his final defeat in 1082 at Mailberg. During this period the "ministeriales" (administrative household officers) were established, forming a new class of nobility dependent on the sovereign. Even more remote areas such as eastern Styria and the northern Waldviertel region were now colonised. In his diocese, Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg (1060-1088) enforced the church´s right to collect tithes and, against the opposition of the imperialist higher nobility, built the huge and impressive fortresses of Hohensalzburg, Hohenwerfen and Friesach. Bishop Altmann of Passau was also a supporter of the Pope. The most important monasteries, such as St. Florian, St. Poelten and Kremsmuenster, were reformed and Melk Monastery was given to the Benedictines. New monasteries were founded in Admont 1074, Garsten around 1080, Goettweig before 1083, St. Lambrecht 1096-1103 and Mehrerau around 1097.
At the beginning of the 12th century the Austrian March became more important than the other regions because of the marriage of Leopold III with the Emperor´s daughter Agnes. This development found its expression in the foundation of a number of new monasteries: Klosterneuburg 1108, Kleinmariazell 1136, Seitenstetten 1112/16, Heiligenkreuz 1133, Zwettl 1138, Altenburg 1144, Geras around 1153/55, Baumgartenberg 1141, Schotten in Vienna 1155; in Carinthia: Arnoldstein 1107, Eberndorf 1147/49 and Viktring 1143, in Styria: Seckau 1140 and Rein 1128, in the Innviertel region (then part of Bavaria): Reichersberg 1122, Ranshofen 1125 and Suben 1142. In the Tirol, Innichen was transformed from a Benedictine monastery into a collegiate monastery around 1140 and Wilten was transformed from a collegiate monastery into a Premonstratensian monastery in 1130, St. Georgen was taken over by the Benedictines in 1138. Other new foundations were Neustift bei Brixen, Sonnenburg in the Pustertal valley, Au bei Bozen and St. Michael an der Etsch.
On the River Danube and in the Alpine foothills Vienna, Tulln, Krems, Stein, St. Poelten and Neuburg were granted town status. This period also saw the beginnings of a common law. In Styria the rule of Margrave Leopold I der Starke (1122-1129), the period often called the actual "birth" of Styria, was as important as the rule of Leopold III in Austria. He succeeded in acquiring the large Eppenstein estates and separated Styria from Carinthia, but still maintained ties with Bavaria. In 1147 the March on the River Drau, which extended as far as the River Save and comprised what is today eastern Slovenia devolved on the Margrave of Styria
In Carinthia, where in 1090 Istria was put under the rule of its own Margrave and where in 1093 the March of Krain came to Aquileia, the Eppenstein dynasty became extinct in 1122, and the Sponheim dynasty had to assert themselves as the new dukes. However, compared with external powers such as the patriarchs of Aquileia or the bishops of Brixen, Freising and Bamberg, who were very important in Carinthia, their position remained weak. The Archbishop of Salzburg owned large parts of Carinthia and was represented by a suffragan bishop in Gurk. Friesach, which was granted market status and the right to mint coins, was made his stronghold. An enormous castle with a huge keep was built on Petersberg hill. The frescoes in St. Rupert´s Chapel are among the most important works in painting from around 1140.
This phase of the High Middle Ages saw the beginning of a distinct cultural development. In the area around Melk the hermitess Ava (d. 1127) and Heinrich von Melk became prominent figures. An early Marian song dates from this period and in 1123 the first annals were started. Legends of saints were written in Latin and after 1147 the "Vorauer Kaiserchronik" chronicles were created. Otto, Austrian member of the Babenberg dynasty, was made bishop of Freising and wrote a world chronicle and a historical account of the early years of Friedrich Barbarossa. The castle of Ranna and the monastery of Seckau, where an impressive Romanesque basilica was built (completed in 1164), are significant examples of local architecture.
The era of the Hohenstaufen family was particularly important for Austria. The family ties of the Margraves with the Emperor proved very advantageous; members of the Babenberg dynasty were given influential positions and in 1156 Austria was raised to the status of duchy. In 1180 the Styrian Margrave was also made duke. The conflict between Emperor and Pope, this time between the Emperor Friedrich I and Pope Alexander III flared up again. The Archbishop of Salzburg, Eberhard I (1147-1164) and the Babenberg Konrad II (1164-1168) sided with the Pope and, as a result, had to see the town and cathedral destroyed.
In Austria, the 2nd half of the 12th century was characterised by Heinrich II (1141-1177) and his son Leopold V (1177-1194), in Styria by Otakar III (1129-1164), who cleared the woodlands at the rims of the central Mur basin and incorporated them into his margravate.
Archbishop Konrad III (1177-1183) of Salzburg was one of the most important rulers of the Middle Ages. During his short reign he commissioned the construction of a new cathedral, a basilica with 5 naves, an eastern transept and an octagonal central tower. This was the largest Romanesque church of the whole empire, comparable only to contemporary buildings in Burgundy. Konrad also commissioned the construction of town houses around the Getreidegasse.
But Salzburg was not the only place where such magnificent Romanesque buildings were erected during that time. Others were Tulln, Moedling, Zwettl, Heiligenkreuz, Klosterneuburg, Admont, Puergg and Gurk and in Vienna (particularly the "Schotten" Irish monks). Movable works of art, however, were still being imported. Their most important example is the casement of an ambo in the collegiate church of Klosterneuburg, now known as the Verdun Altar; other objects came from Sicily.
Towards the end of the 12th century a number of fortified towns were erected in the border areas of Austria and Styria. The earliest among them usually featured a triangular square, in the 13th century the rectangular square became more popular. Impressive castles were built on heights, their chapels decorated with frescoes (e.g. Ottenstein).
Around 1180 the region experienced new political upheaval. The Bavarian duke Heinrich der Loewe (Henry the Lion), a Guelph, was overthrown and Bavaria was once more split up. Styria was made a duchy and separated from Bavaria.
After Austria and Styria had been united under Babenberg rule as a result of the "Georgenberger Handfeste" contract of succession in 1192, a new territory developed. In the first half of the 13th century it extended from the regions north of the River Danube to the Murtal valley, to Slovenia, to Friuli (Pordenone) up to the Adriatic. During the reign of Duke Leopold VI (1194/98-1230) new towns developed all over central Europe and in Austria, not only fortified towns in border regions (Freistadt, Zwettl, Waidhofen an der Thaya, Eggenburg, Laa, Bruck an der Leitha, Friedberg) but also places like Linz, Enns, Steyr, Wels and Eferding west of the River Enns. Leopold VI functioned as arbitrator between the Emperor Friedrich II and the Pope in Apulia and died in 1230 in San Germano. Duke Bernhard (1202-1256) of Carinthia was also an exceptionally active ruler. Villach, St. Veit, Klagenfurt, Wolfsberg and Voelkermarkt were given town status, though they were administered by different sovereigns. In the western areas (Tirol and Vorarlberg) as well, settlements such as Innsbruck, Bolzano, Bludenz, Feldkirch and Bregenz received town status. A number of other towns, e.g. Waidhofen an der Ybbs, Hainburg, Tulln, St. Poelten, and especially Vienna, were expanded. These towns became important centres of commerce and legislation. They were also equipped with modest communal facilities. The rudimentary welfare system was in the hands of the church. New monasteries were mostly founded in the towns. People lived in simple wooden houses; from around 1200, houses in towns also started to be built in stone. The architecture of churches and castles was influenced by the crusades; oriental styles were imitated to a limited extent but architecture was still dominated by the style of the Hohenstaufen ministerial castles. One of the most important religious buildings is the church of Schoengrabern. The architecture of the Lilienfeld Monastery demonstrates the development from Romanesque to early Gothic style. In literature the minnesong had its heyday at the turn of the 12th to the 13th century; the minnesong was subsequently replaced by the epic ( Nibelungenlied and Kudrun).
Under the reign of Duke Leopold VI Austrian common law (Landrecht) was laid down to express the region´s sovereignty after its separation from Bavaria.
When the Counts of Peilstein, until then Stewards of the arch-bishopric of Salzburg, died out in 1218, Archbishop Eberhard II (1200-1246) abolished the stewardship and expanded the sovereignty of the land to include the Lungau region. All the other estates, located in different duchies, had to submit to their sovereigns. In Salzburg the mining industry thrived, particularly the mining of salt near Hallein, of copper near Muehlbach and of gold near Rauris. The archbishop founded 3 new suffragan bishoprics.
Developments in Tirol took a different course. The three dynasties, raised to the rank of stewards of the bishoprics of Trent and Brixen, shared the rule of the region. When the Counts of Eppan died out and the Andechs-Meran dynasty was overthrown and died out in 1248, Count Albert of Tirol (1248-1253) held all the offices. After his death his two sons-in-law shared the rule, but Meinhard III of Goerz (1253-1258) succeeded in the end, while the Hirschberg dynasty was soon overthrown. Thus the consolidation of the Tirol as a realm in its own right was completed during the period under review.
The end of the High Middle Ages (around 1250) was marked by fundamental political changes in all the lands of present-day Austria. In the arts, this period saw the transition from the Romanesque to Gothic style.