Lauffen was first documented as louppa in the Mondsee traditions in 807. In 1117, a curtis Loufin sita appears among the possessions of the Nonnenberg monastery in Salzburg. The name refers to the Middle High German word loufe, which means rapids. Duke Albrecht II (1298-1358) confirmed a document from King Rudolf I of Habsburg (1218-1291) around the year 1275 in which the latter granted them the same rights as the citizens of Gmunden already held. Lauffen is thus the oldest market in the inner Salzkammergut, as Hallstatt was not elevated to market status until 1311. The reason for founding the market was probably the increase in the salt trade in the second half of the 13th century; two towers were erected in the town of Lauffen to protect the market town. Lauffen is thus the oldest market in the inner Salzkammergut, as Hallstatt was not elevated to market status until 1311. Between 1311 and 1313, Duchess Elisabeth (1262-1313), the later Roman-German queen, granted five citizens of Lauffen salt trading rights. Previously, the tensions that had arisen from the salt trade with the Salzburg archbishop reached their peak in the Salt War, which lasted from 1295 to 1297. The end of the war guaranteed King Albrecht I of Austria (1255-1308) a dominant position in the salt trade.
The official profession of salt trader has been in existence since 1311 and is therefore a unique guild worldwide. Salt traders were granted various privileges, despite the fact that they were not state employees. As a whole, salt working proved to be a hard, but also lucrative activity, offering many a living.
The salt traders in Lauffen took the salt, which they got from the Hallstätter saltworks in small containers on narrow boats, packed it into large wooden containers called “Küfeln” and shipped it to the larger salt ships, which transported it downstream via the River Traun. In return, they brought food to Hallstadt with the returning salt ships, mainly supplies for the workers in the salt mines. Even shipyards for the salt ships, the salt-stores along the long salt shipping routes along the Traun, the wine trade and numerous other monopolies within the Salzkammergut fell within the scope of duties and responsibilities of the salt traders.
For this trade they had the privilege of Niederlegung (laying down). Only privileged salt traders were allowed to participate. A salt trader had an army of employees working for him: he was a salt producer:
From workmen such as sawyers for the floorboards, stave-rod workers, to master craftsmen such as shipbuilders, to the Traun farmers who were responsible for the Gegenzug as well as the water seers and Traun riders. Salt traders had extensive responsibilities, which is why they were held in high esteem.
The parish church is mentioned for the first time in 1344 as vnser Vrowen chürchen, for which the citizens of Lauffen were allowed to collect a salt pfennig from every passing barge, a traditional flat-bottomed small ship. However, Lauffen did not become an independent parish until the second half of the 16th century. Until then Lauffen was under the control of the priest von Goisern. A rope winch, the Wynde am Lawfenstain, has been in use since around 1390 and was used to pull barges upstream over the rapids.
The ships that returned upstream were pulled by the Traun horses. The small barges, which needed to return to Hallstadt, were pulled over the rapids by a winch on the “Windensteg” (winch footbridge), as the horses could no longer cope with this.
The people of Lauffen benefited from the Traunschnellen (Traun Rapids), a special geographical feature. These were not navigable for normal shipping traffic, so that the salt, after it had been daringly shipped in small barges over the rapids of Wilde Lauffen, was transported in Lauffen to the salt trader’s storerooms, where it was later transported downstream after being transferred to larger barges.
Lauffen has had road and bridge tolls since the 15th century. At that time a school was built in the village. In the 16th century, the market had already reached its present size. In 1511, the shipping route was improved by the construction of the Hallstätter Seeklause as well as a new winch. The still existing water pipe, the Fluder, was built in 1531. In 1537, the passage through the Wilden Lauffen was made easier by blasting large rocks in the river to create a raft route.
The next century was marked by an economic decline, which, however, was at least partially compensated by the heyday of pilgrimages after the Counter-Reformation. In 1626, after a severe famine, the inhabitants of the salt market were struck by the plague and almost completely wiped out. However, Lauffen was completely spared the next epidemic in 1634, which led to a rapid increase in the number of pilgrims who visited the statue of Our Lady in the Church of Mary in the Shadow. Another pilgrimage probably originated at that time, which is why the chapel of the Holy Trinity in Lauffen was built.
By the 18th century the salt trade was already declining rapidly. In 1740, for example, there were only five salt traders left, who employed a total of 88 people in addition to sailors. Lauffen experienced a drastic cut in its economic basis in 1849, when a new decree abolished salt production. The ultimate cessation of the entire salt production had a strong impact on the citizens of Lauffen. With the loss of their jobs and no alternative in sight, impoverishment and, consequently, emigration increased.
In 1849, Lauffen with its 399 inhabitants and 71 houses was to be incorporated into the municipality of Goisern. At the request of the inhabitants, however, the market town was finally annexed to Ischl. Nevertheless, in around 1850, the market town was still named as the main town of the Salzkammergut along with Ischl and the Salzbergamt zu Gmunden.
Salt shipping finally ended completely with the opening of the state railway from Attnang-Puchheim to Stainach-Irdning in October 1877.
A ray of hope for Lauffen came a little later with the blossoming of the health resort of Ischl. Lauffen became a popular day trip destination for spa guests. The ships travelled between the inn “Weisses Rössl” – on which the operetta of the same name by Ralph Benatzky (1884-1957) (who later settled at the Wolfgangsee) from the year 1930 was based – and returned to Lauffen on horse-drawn carriages on the Traun and the Ischler Esplanade. After the flood of 1899, however, this traffic was stopped completely.
Lauffen in the Topographia Provinciarum Austriacarum by Matthäus Merian (1679)
Archiducatus Austriae Superioris Geographica Descriptio facta Anno 1667 by G. M. Vischer
Map “Archbishop of Salzburg and Duke of Carinthia. World Theater or Atlas of all Regions edited by Joan Blaeu, 1645