Two Fugger houses and
the “mother of all mines”
In the Mining Town of Schwaz: Three Epitaphs to the the Fuggers and Two Fugger Houses
According to legend, Schwaz became a mining Town in 1409. But copper ore was already mined here in pre-historic times. The mining of copper and silver was first a business operated by local companies - in Schwaz, Hall or Innsbruck. But already in 1487, the Fuggers bought shares in the trading company of a big manufacturer in Kufstein. In 1522 Jakob Fugger “the Rich” was able to buy into the mining industry in Schwaz with mining shares and smelting mills out of the bankruptcy assets of that Kufstein firm. As a result, Schwaz became one of the most important locations for the Fuggers: in 1546, Anton Fugger temporarily re-located the company headquarters from Augsburg, there. Two Fugger houses and three Epitaphs, a monument and the “Knappensteig” remind visitors of the era of the Fuggers, which ended in Schwaz in 1657.
“Mother of all mines” was the name given to the silver mines in Falkenstein in Schwaz. There are an estimated 300 kilometer of mined tunnels and shafts in the mountain above the city on the shores of the Inn river. Visitors can ride into the silvermines in a mine train to the depth of 800 meters. They follow the path of the workers who mined ore 500 years ago. The silver mines in Schwaz are among the most popular attractions in Tyrol. A 360-degree-panorama conveys a first impression of the world underground.
In the first half of the 16th century the mining region of Schwaz and in Röhrerbühl near Kitzbühel were the most important locations in the European mining industry. Between 1506 and 1545 both produced around half of the silver and copper in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Because miners came in waves from far and wide to work in Tyrol, Schwaz was populated with about 20,000 inhabitants in 1510, the second largest settlement inside the borders of present day Austria (city rights were first granted in 1899).
The City Hall, the “Kreuzwegerhaus” and the Knappenkirche Church are Reminders of the Fuggers
The Fuggers first ran their precious and non-ferrous metal business in Tyrol out of an office in Innsbruck, then in 1511 from the office in Hall, and in the 1520’s then rented an office in the so-called Stöcklhaus. The present day door panel in the city hall in Schwaz displays modern Fugger lilies. The second Fugger house soon followed their first: the Fuggers had the “Kreuzwegerhaus” built in 1525. In 1539 it became the central office for the Fugger’s mining activities in Tyrol. On the east corner of this house a copper embossed plaque memorial was made in 1955 for Ulrich Fugger (the younger) ,who died in Schwaz in 1525. The house belonged to the Fugger corporation until 1571, which first pulled out of the mining industry in Tyrol in 1657.
A copper epitaph for Ulrich Fugger the younger is still displayed in the parish church of “Our Lady” in Schwaz (dedicated in 1502). It is the largest gothic hall church in Tyrol. The original much smaller parish church had to be expanded in 1490 due to enormous population growth. This was how the church grew to four naves with two main naves - one for the noble citizens and and the other for the miners, who were separated by a wooden board. Today this massive sacred structure is called “Knappenkirche”. Just like Ulrich Fugger the younger, Hieronymus Fugger in 1633 and Georg Fugger in 1643 were buried in Knappenkirche church, where their stone epithaphs were set into the walls.
In the Kloster of the Franciscan Monastery: the Fuggers and the Treasure Chest that saved the Habsburg Dynasty
Anton Fugger, the nephew and successor of Jakob Fugger “the Rich” founded the “Mountain-Smelting- and Mining” company” (The princes mining company took care of providing for thousands of miners and their families with food as well as tools and tallow for the lamps that the miners needed). In 1546, during the Schmalkaldic war, Anton Fugger even moved the headquarters of the Fugger corporation out of the overwhelmingly protestant city of Augsburg to the safety of Tyrol. From Schwaz, the catholic Augsburg merchant, Banker and mining magnate financed the battles of emperor Charles V against the troups of the protestant German princes. Most probably this is depicted in a painting in the cloister of the Franciscan monestary, which was founded by Maximilian I in 1507: a man with the facial features of Anton Fugger is reaching into a gold filled chest - probably a reference to the time when the Fuggers saved the Habsburg dynasty from demise.
Only a few steps away from the Franciscan monestary is the Orglerhaus where the doctor, alchemist, and astrologist, Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim - known as Paracelus- lived for a time. Paracelsus had dispute with the Fuggers about a paper he had written regarding a syphilis treatment. (The Fuggers imported Guajacum wood from the New World as a cure for syphilis). Over the gothic portal of the Orglerhaus, there is a embedded lump of ore to show that this house once belonged to a mining company. Such pieces of ore - called hand stones- can be seen on numerous doorways in the old city houses in Schwaz. The mining monument in front of the “Kreuzwegerhaus”, the Fugger house on the Fuggergasse street, as well as the educational mining trail, the “Knappensteig” also recall the mining era in Schwaz.
Sights, Current Exhibition and Tips
The silver mines in Schwaz are among the most popular attractions in Tyrol. Around 1500 the most significant silver mines in Europe are an unforgettable experience. Visitors ride with the mining train 800 meters deep and then see the ore mining tunnels, the miners and the water works.
The thematic tours -“The Fuggers”, “The Trades”, and “The Parish Church in Schwaz” - highlight the history of mining in Schwaz. The tours show visitors two Fugger houses, to buildings of wealthy Tradesmen from Tyrol and in the spectacular Knappenkirche Church - where three Fugger epitaphs are found.
Freundsberg Castle is enthroned high above Schwaz - a story book fortress with a fantastic view of the city and the Inn valley. The castle is also a reminder of the business between the Frundsbergers and the Fuggers- and on the marriage which brought the Fuggers Mindelburg and (almost) the city of Mindelheim.
The magnificent Renaissance Castle Tratzberg is one of the most splendid and beautifully situated castles in Tyrol. The original interior decor makes this castle, which belonged to the Fuggers for a time, worth a visit. They especially left their mark in the “Fuggerstube”.