The inscription on the Goldenes Dachl ( Golden Roof) in Innsbruck, Austria, is one of the oldest unsolved crypto mysteries known to exist. According to press reports, the cipher has now been broken.

Innsbruck, Austria, is a beautiful city I had the pleasure to visit several times.

Source: Schmeh

Surrounded by the mountains of the Alps, Innsbruck is the home of a famous zoo, a university, a few castles, several museums, and a ski jump.

Source: Schmeh

Perhaps the most popular sight in Innsbruck and the most interesting one for me is the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof).

Source: Schmeh

The Goldenes Dachl is balcony located in the city center of Innsbruck. Completed in 1500, it was decorated with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian I to mark his wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza. The Emperor and his wife used the structure to observe festivals, tournaments, and other events that took place in the square below.

Source: Schmeh

The Goldenes Dachl bears an inscription composed of non-standard letters. It’s hard to see from the street below, but it is visible from the balcony.

Source: Schmeh

For centuries, it has been a mystery what this inscripted message means. I blogged about this cryptogram in 2014, and I inclued the Goldenes Dachl into my and Christian Baumann’s Cryptologic Travel Guide.

The Goldenes Dachl inscription is difficult to analyze, as the symbols it consists of almost all look different. Frequency analysis is useless here. This might be one of the reasons why this cryptogram never played a role in the crypto history literature, although it is one of the oldest unsolved cryptograms known to exist.


Is the mystery solved now?

UIrich Berger and John Haas have informed me that an Austrian historian claims to have recently deciphered the Goldenes Dachl inscription. This is reported by several Austrian newspapers. Does this mean that this 520-year old mystery is now solved?

The historian in question is named Erhard Maroschek. According to him, the Golden Dachl inscription is written in Latin. To read it, it has to be put upside-down. This is because the reader is assumed to stand on the balcony above the inscription.

Maroschek believes that some of the words in the message are anagrammed and that the order of the words is not always correct. Some of the letters are not immediatly recognizable. Maroschek provided an image that explains his deciphering. Here’s the plaintext he derived:


This is a quote from the Gospel of John (Chapter 8,12).

Does this decipherment make sense? For me, this question is hard to answer, as I’m an encryption specialist, not an expert for medieval writing systems. At least, the solution doesn’t look like complete nonsense to me.

Perhaps, my readers can say more about this potential solution.

Further reading: The Langelsheim inscription: an unsolved cryptogram on a baroque altar


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Kommentare (7)

  1. #1 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    12. September 2020

    This doesn’t look like a valid solution.

    To test it, I went to an online generator for death-metal lyrics. It works like Mad Libs.

    I named my band Rabid Skunk Protocol (from a headline in my local newspaper) and filled in the requested random nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.

    The site produced five verses for me. I then selected as my plaintext the first 69 letters of the song (the same number as in Maroschek’s decryption notes, which fail to account for the last two words of the Latin quote). The generated text string was: “Faster than a train/Terrifying zombie/Enraged and like an airplane/He’s half man and——–” (cut off at 69 letters).

    I then used about the same degrees of freedom that Maroschek did, as far as arranging words slightly out of order, anagramming as needed, and allowing a modest number of mapping inconsistencies. And my nonsense “solution” fit just as well as his did.

    This simple test isn’t conclusive, but it does show that the method he used is easily capable of producing multiple answers.

  2. #2 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    12. September 2020

    And now it seems that Maroschek explained/defended his solution attempt in this 13-slide PowerPoint presentation, way back in 2014.

  3. #3 Gert Brantner
    12. September 2020

    I’m not an expert either. But to me this looks alike the many Voynich MS non-solutions out there. The most irritating point is that it should be upside down. Logically it should be mirrored? I tend to the public opinion that it is just decorative.

  4. #4 Ronald Kyrmse
    São Paulo - Brasil
    12. September 2020

    Fake or Pseudo-Hebrew? Not unknown from several Renaissance works of art.

  5. #5 x3Ray
    13. September 2020

    Here is an article with some more detailed pictures:

    It seems to me that this is just pseudo Hebrew.

    The only way to read the text is from below (which one would expect, as it should be intended for the people on the street), so I see no need to turn around/mirror/flip the text or do anything else with it.

    Maroschek recognizes the letters OGE, which is no Latin word, and therefore he mirrors and flips them to get EGO. With another word (LUX) he thinks of John 8, 12 and the he has the “solution” by just fantasizing what signs on the inscription could fit (including swapping letters – LUX in his text is ULX).
    Last but not least, there seem to be nearly no identical signs in the text, all of them are a little bit different; just the Y appears several times – and Maroschek uses in each case another transcription). In another case the Latin ME consists of four or even five signs

  6. #6 Ronald Kyrmse
    São Paulo - Brasil
    14. September 2020
  7. #7 Metal wall art
    2. Oktober 2020

    The only way to read the text is from below (which one would expect, as it should be intended for the people on the street), so I see no need to turn around/mirror/flip the text or do anything else with it.