In 1977 the Austrian government decided to create an institution that would be responsible for canonisation (in the sense of the term Heiligsprechung as used by the Catholic Church). After thorough investigation, exceptional people would be offered the opportunity to receive a great deal of public attention and to enter the canon of folk and national heroes.

The actual reason, however, for creating the institution was to generate high revenues, supplied voluntarily by the Austrian people: the careful consideration of every application, expert reports, witness' expenses, the provision of documentation, printing costs and room decoration during ceremonies and well as various other fees and taxes was calculated to cost at least 80,000 Austrian shillings. Nonetheless, the authority received over 1,000 applications in its first year. In many places, associations were formed to support less well-off applicants so that "local" heroes could become official folk heroes.

However, as it transpired, none of the people who applied in the first year were of a high enough quality to be canonised. Over the next four years, the institution only approved three people for canonisation. In fact, during its investigations of applicants, the institution discovered that the majority were not only not folk heroes, they had also committed small- or large-scale crimes. All applicants had to disclose personal information and allow the institution to investigate every aspect of their lives.

This was the perfect government institution: citizens pay large sums of money of their own free will into state coffers while simultaneously reporting their own crimes to the police.

However when the consequences of an application became known to the public, the number of applications decreased so rapidly that the institution was shut down in April 1981. A total of 8,625 applications had been received; these are still stored in a warehouse in Alserbachstrasse in Vienna.