The road over the Radstädter Tauern was known and used by the Romans who occupied parts of
Austria for over 500 years and it ranks among the most well-known Roman mountain routes of
Europe. The Radstädter Tauern mountain pass is bordered by the Taurach stream and Enns River.
There were numerous Roman settlements and military bases here and this required a relatively
complex road system in such rugged country. Juvavum (Salzburg) and Virunum were connected by
a Roman road which dates back to the emperor Septimus Severus in the 3rd century AD. and
follows the route of today's awe inspiring Radstädter Tauern highway.
Today's road runs from Radstadt in Ennstal Valley via the Radstädter Tauern Pass to Mauterndorf in
the Lungau. On the road leading to Radtsadt, over the Radstaedter Tauern in the Lungau, marble is
still visible which was quarried in Roman times. "Schaidberger marble" is found in 24 ancient Roman
milestones. These were set in the distance derived from Roman road miles, a Roman road mile, or
millia passum, equaling approximately 1,470 to 1,480 meters.
In the Middle Ages, revenue from tolls along major trade routes, which were largely narrow
mountain trails, provided the Salzburg archbishops with a major source of income, and they wanted
to encourage an increase in goods traffic and a longer trade season over the alpine passes such as the
Radstadt Tauern. With this in mind, they designated several homes and farms in many higher
elevation valleys as hospices or "service stations". In exchange for their services, the Tauernhaus
hosts received contributions such as grain and other benefits from Salzburg.
Among the duties of a Tauernhaus host, foremost was the preservation of the roads in bad weather.
He also had to built stone pyramids and set up winter snow poles. Furthermore, the houses provided
accommodation for the traveler, with poor travelers fed and housed free. If a traveler got lost or had
an accident on his way, it was the duty of the Tauern hosts to search for and rescue the passengers,
plus care for the injured. The dead had to be transported to the nearest cemetery.
After the Brenner Pass, the Radstadt Tauern pass, with its relatively low altitude of 1738 meters, was
the second most important crossing of the eastern Alps. It acted as the only Tauernweg crossing of
the Radstadt Tauern which the Salzburg archbishops were able to pass with their carts. A document
from 1517 first reported that a clear path to the Tauernweg must be kept, however, it was poorly
cleared, which led to multiple lawsuits. It was not until the years 1519/20, when the road
maintenance was transferred directly to the Salzburg cathedral, that a real rode was developed.
Two Tauern houses on the Radstadt Tauern were first mentioned in 1522, one, the Tauern
Wisenegg on the pass Obertauern, and the other, the Tauernhaus Schaidberg on the Lungau side of
the pass. Tauernhaus Schaidberg and Tauern Wisenegg were subject to the rule of the archbishopric.
By 1550, the Tauernhaus Schaidberg is referred to as "Not Taferne" in a document, and not only
frequented in summer, but in winter. The assumption is that this house was originally a working
farm, and only gradually took over the function of a Tauernhaus.
The owners could have been the Radstädter family Schaidberg. Since 1489, Conrad Schaidberger
was a Mayor of Radstadt and historians suspect that the Tauernhaus Schaidberg was the home of the
family Schaidberger. By 1541, the property was owned by Georgius Aschauer, followed by
Unterberger and Ehrystanus Prembstaller.
On the highest stop of the Tauernpass lies the Tauernfriedhof, in which the former inhabitants of the
Tauern kept houses as well the burial grounds of the victims of mountain accidents. Friedhof der
Namenlosen or Cemetery of the Nameless Ones, traces to 1515 with the first tombs were built
between 1534 and 1545 . It is in this cemetery one of the most beautiful and rarest alpine flowers can
be found. It is the blue Binse or Wulfen, Lomatogonium Carinthiacum, which is almost extinct. Also
here, Roman coins, weapons and tools are found. But as beautiful as the Tauern is in the summer, it
is just as terrible and dangerous in the winter, with wild snowstorms and fierce avalanches, which
even in the old times posed a mortal threat since the Tauern lay completely isolated, and this
cemetery on the height of the Tauern well attests to its victims.
It is below the Tauernhoehe, nearby the Schaidberg mountain, that many misfortunes occurred. In
the year 1807, and again in 1862, terrible avalanches took numerous victims. It was on a stormy
winter day long ago when one Paul Perner drove over the Tauern and came upon group of people
driving oxen over the mountain when a sudden avalanche buried them, oxen and all. Miraculously,
only one of the group was killed, and only 10 of the 26 oxen were lost. A dangerous avalanche
location is also the area underneath Schaid mountain itself, as it has an expansion of nearly a
kilometer, and here the snow masses before rushing across the high mountain walls and down upon
everything below, carrying with it trees, sticks and rocks, even roots of trees.
Napoleon's imperial officers once traveled under the strongest avalanche danger over the Tauern,
bringing messages over this historic roadway. An old Tauern keeper and mail deliverer, Josef Gruber,
related that during his 36 years on the Lungauer side of the Tauern from 1810 to 1846, 14 people
had lived through avalanches, including himself after being buried for three hours. Even after autos
carried mail across the Tauern, if the snow was too high, the mail was sent by skiers.
Even in the 19th Century, the two tauernhaus hosts still received funds for the care of poor travelers
in the amount of 60 guilders. The Tauernhaus Schaidberg was a center for the care of destitute
traveler until the first half of the 19th Century. A devastating fire in 1932 completely destroyed the
original building. A new one was built and is today a youth hostel.
The planning for today's modern Tauern Highway Project dates back to 1938, but the key
passageway of the Tauern Highway was not opened to traffic until June 21, 1975.