The home of the Fugger family
In the time of Charles V Augsburg was one of the richest cities of the Holy Roman Empire, home to the wealthy and influential Fugger family, birthplace of Hans Holbein, court painter to Henry VIII, and a leading city in the German Renaissance. This pre-eminence did not endure, but it lasted long enough for the city to be host to some of the most significant events of the 16th century Reformation. Now with a population of 270,000 it is the third largest city in Bavaria (after Munich and Nuremberg), home to many modern engineering, electronics and technological businesses, with a fascinating heritage to explore.
Places to visit in Augsburg
The Fuggerei in Jacoberstrasse, to the east of the city centre (Rathausplatz), provides a fascinating link with the past and the opportunity to study the history of the Fugger family (Link to Finances in ‘Charles’ World). It was set up as housing for the Catholic ‘deserving poor’, the criteria consisting of being of good character, a citizen of Augsburg, able to demonstrate need, and Catholic.
They would live and work in one of the houses in return for one Rhenish gulden annual rent, plus three different prayers daily for Jacob Fugger and his family. It is still run in the same way for 150 persons, with minimal rent (88 cents p.a.) and prayers, although residents now have to pay a service charge and their energy costs. Set out in the early 1520’s it was a model of order and organisation, with wide streets, good water supply, eventually having a church, a school and its own medical facility. Mozart’s great-grandfather, Franz, lived in the upstairs apartment at No. 14 Mittlere Gasse.
On the ground floor you enter the museum which has a living room (and workshop), kitchen and bedroom preserved in the original style and also a very informative exhibition, set up in 2006, using film, text and picture boards about the Fugger family and the Fuggerei. Also on display at 51 Ochsengasse is an unoccupied modernised apartment. The courtyard, accessed from Ochsengasse, has a World War Two air raid shelter, built in 1943, with a thought provoking display (2008) which documents the era of National Socialism, the allied bombing of February 1944, and the later reconstruction of the Fuggerei and the city (See more information in the ‘History’ section below).
On the other side of the city centre is St Anna’s church (Lutheran) with its fascinating history. Initially a monastic church (1321) with cloisters intact, the Goldsmith’s chapel, added in the 1420’s, still has numerous original wall paintings, on the theme of pilgrimage. Between 1508 and 1518 the Fuggerkapelle, a memorial chapel funded by Jacob Fugger, was constructed in the western chancel. This was the first Renaissance sacred building north of the Alps, and several famous artists are believed to have been involved in its design, including Durer and Burgkmair, with Hans Daucher provided marble carvings. Jacob’s coffin, the remains of his brothers Ulrich and Georg in a pewter chest, and the coffins of his nephews Raimund and Hieronymous, are in the crypt.
It was at St Anna’s that Martin Luther stayed in 1518. He had travelled from Wittenberg having been summoned to be questioned on his beliefs by Cardinal Cajedan, on orders of the Pope. From the cloister is a plain wooden staircase, the Lutherstiege, which leads to an exhibition with much documentary material about Luther’s life, his visit to Augsburg and later developments during the Reformation. The church became Lutheran early on, something which must have horrified the Fugger with their commitment to the Catholic faith. During the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648) while Augsburg was in Catholic hands the church was given to the Jesuits in 1629, only to be handed back to the Protestants in 1632 when the city was captured by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. With the return of the Catholics in 1635 the Protestants were again forced out, only to be confirmed in their control of the church in 1649 after the Treaty of Westphalia.
The other building most closely associated with Charles V and the Fugger family is the Fuggerpalast (Fugger Palace), built for Jacob Fugger as his residential and business house in the city, between 1512 and 1515 (reconstructed 1949 -51). It is located near the Hercules fountain at No. 36-38 Maximilianstrasse, the impressively wide boulevard running south from the Rathausplatz. It was one of the first secular examples of the Italian Renaissance style in Germany and had a significant impact on German architecture. Near to the entrance there is a plaque commemorating the interrogation of Martin Luther by Cardinal Cajetan in October 1518. It was here that Charles V stayed for many months in 1547-48 (see Chapters 25 and 26 in 'Charles V: Duty and Dynasty - The Emperor and his Changing World') . It is possible to enter the Damenhof, the Ladies Courtyard, with its pillars, covered walkway, central pool, musicians balcony and frescos; a delightful place to have a meal in a summer evening, when it is used as a restaurant.
Nearby on the corner of Katherinengasse, is the Schaezler Palace. Built in 1765 for Liebert von Liebenhofen, a wealthy banker and silver merchant, it contains a spectacular rococo ballroom / banqueting hall, with its mirrors, crystal chandeliers, and ceiling painting. It is said that Marie-Antoinette visited the grand opening ball on her way from Austria to marry Louis XVI in Paris. The palace contains the German Baroque Gallery which focuses on German Baroque and Rococo paintings (1600-1800) and the Karl and Magdalene Haberstock Foundation, which has works by Cranach the elder, van Dyke, and the Venetians Canaletto, Veronese, and Tiepolo. Behind the palace, in the deconsecrated church of the former nunnery of St. Katharina (access through the palace) is the Staatsgalerie (Bavarian State Gallery) of old German masters, with works by Durer (the famous painting of Jacob Fugger), Holbein the elder and Hans Burgkmair (1471 – 1531).
North of the Rathausplatz, on Holerweg, is the Dom (Cathedral). On the site of earlier churches, this was started in 1060 by Bishop Heinrich II, with a Romanesque structure at its core, but it has a wide range of styles, a result of numerous additions and reconstructions, particularly in the 14th and 15th centuries. The best known features are: the southern portal of Mary with its bronzes (c. 1356); the five 12th century stained glass ‘Prophet Windows’, the oldest stained glass cycle in the world (c. 1140); the cycle of paintings by Hans Holbein the elder (c. 1460 – 1524) showing scenes from the life of Mary; the Romanesque crypt; the picture gallery of all Augsburg’s bishops; the 1962 high alter and numerous frescos.
At the centre of Augsburg is the large Rathausplatz (Town Hall Square), with its cafes and bars, is dominated by the early 17th century Rathaus, built by Elias Holl (1573 – 1646). He wished to use the new ideas that he had developed on a trip to Italy, and by 1615 had the go ahead from the council for the construction of a new Rathaus in Renaissance style, to replace the old gothic one. This was to be a symbol of the importance of the city. Completed by 1620, the triangular pediment facing the square reaches a height of 44m., flanked by the peaks of the onion domed towers. Over the portal is the inscription ‘Publico Consilio / Publico Saluti / MDCXX’ – ‘To the public council, to the public welfare, 1620’). Much damaged by the allied bombing in February 1944, the facade was completely restored by 1955.
Inside, on the ground floor, there is a display of Augsburg’s history in bronze casts and a memorial to the Jews of Augsburg. Two floors above is the Goldener Saal (Golden Room) and four ‘princes’ rooms’. The Goldener Saal 32m. long, 17m. wide and 14m. high, full of light from its numerous windows, with its wooden panelling and coffered ceiling, is a profusion of paintings and gild. Not to everyone’s taste, but impressive. The ideas behind the murals are those of Empire and Morality. The massive central oval ceiling panel represents Wisdom, with its motto ‘Through me, the rulers reign’ (Per Me Regis Regnant).
Outside the Rathaus on the edge of the Rathausplatz is the Perlachturm (City Hall Tower), originally a watch tower, which has 11th century foundations and was raised in height on a number of occasions, lastly by Elias Holl, who topped it with the onion dome and the council bell. In the early 1980’s, when much of the Rathaus and Perlachturm were renovated ready for the 2000th anniversary of the founding of the city, a 35 bell glockenspiel was added which plays old folk tunes and music by Mozart. A visit to the top provides a fine view of the city. The square also holds the marble and bronze Augustusbrunnen (Augustus fountain), completed in 1594. The statue of the Emperor is full of symbols of Imperial power and honour, and the four figures on the edge of the basin represent the four local rivers - Lech, Brunnenbach, Singold and Wertach - and together show the sources of wealth of the city, shipping, commerce, fish, forest, and agriculture.
Other places of interest include: the Church of St Ulrich-und-Afra, the Maximilian Museum, the Roman museum, the MAN Museum (Rudolph Diesel), the Mozarthaus, the Holbeinhaus, and the Brechthaus.
At the far end of Maximilianstrasse is the church of St Ulrich-und-Afra, with its distinctive tower and onion dome. Originally a monastery, the present church was built in the late 15th century under the patronage of Emperor Maximilian. Most of the monastery later became military barracks and was destroyed in the Second World War. St Afra is believed to have been the daughter of the Queen of Cyprus, converted to Christianity in Augsburg and martyred by the Romans. St Ulrich was the bishop of Augsburg for 50 years in the 10th century who defended the city against the Hungarians. Much decorated in baroque style, the church contains the tombs of its patron saints, as well as the tombs of many of the Fugger family, as in the Andreas chapel with its Fugger coat of arms, the lily. One of the former monastic buildings became a Lutheran church – Ulrichskircke - at the time of the Reformation and is well known for its fine stucco ceiling (1710).
The Maximilian museum, housed in two Renaissance buildings, has displays about Augsburg’s history, including a collection of local gold and silver work. The covered courtyard, the Viermetzhof, holds the original bronzes of the monumental fountains in Rathausplatz and Maximilianstrasse, by Andiaen de Vries and Hubert Gerhard.
The Roman museum provides a presentation of local Roman history with many remains from southern Germany. It is housed in the former church of St Magdalena, which was the site of the burial of many members of the city’s leading families. This also has four memorial tablets in red marble from about 1520, which commemorate members of the Habsburg dynasty: Emperor Maximilian, his son Philip, and his sons Charles V and Ferdinand.
There are several sites commemorating Rudolph Diesel, including the MAN (Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg) museum on the development of the diesel engine, the Rudolph Diesel memorial grove in Wittelsbacher Park with its plaque, the Holbein-Gymnasium (his school), the Rudolph-Diesel-Gymnasium, named after him where an original engine is displayed in the courtyard.
Various houses associated with illustrious inhabitants can be visited including the Mozarthaus, the Holbeinhaus (mainly contemporary exhibitions), and the Brechthaus (Bertolt Brecht born in Augsburg 1898– died in Berlin 1956). Augsburg also has a famous puppet threat, a planetarium, a nature museum, botanical gardens and a zoo.
Augsburg is the second oldest city in Germany (after Trier), founded by Tiberius (later Emperor from 14 A.D. - 37 A.D.) in 15 B.C. and named after his step-father, Emperor Augustus. In about 120 A.D. it became the capital of the Roman province of Raetia. As the Roman Empire declined it was sacked by the Huns in 5th century, a victim of the general westward movement of tribes at the time. Much destruction was also caused by Charlemagne in the late 8th century, and Bavarian rulers in the 11th century. However, the city’s location on the River Lech with good access to the Alpine passes to Italy, and its position on east-west trade routes, meant that it recovered after each setback. Cloth production and the textiles trade thrived while commercial links with Venice (and its contacts in the Middle East) furthered its prosperity. By the 13th century (1276) it was an Imperial Free City with its own council, a status it was to retain until the end of the Holy Roman Empire at the start of the 19th century.
Massive fortunes were accumulated by the Fugger, Welser and other merchant families, first in textiles and then in metal businesses and banking. For a short time in the early 16th century Augsburg became one of the major financial centres of Europe (Link to Finances in ‘Charles’ World). These years saw the introduction of Italian Renaissance architecture by Jacob Fugger and others in both secular and religious buildings. Fugger was responsible for the construction of the Fuggerei, believed to be the earliest social housing scheme in Europe. Hans Holbein the elder (c. 1460 – 1524) lived and worked in the city and his son (c.1498 – 1543), who went on to become the most celebrated portrait artist of his day, was born here, though most of his work was completed in Basle and England (1526-28; 1532-43).Read More +
During this period Augsburg was host to the Imperial Diet on a number of occasions. In 1518 Emperor Maximilian held the last Diet before his death here, where he unsuccessfully attempted to secure Charles’ formal recognition as his successor. It was at this time (October 1518) that Martin Luther (Link to Religious Divisions in ‘Charles’ World’) was summoned to the city, staying in the monastery of St. Anna, to be interrogated in the Fugger residence by Cardinal Cajetan, the papal representative, who demanded but did not receive a full capitulation. An exhibition of documents and other materials relating to this meeting can be seen in St Anna’s.
Charles V, fresh from his coronation by the Pope earlier in the year, attended his first Imperial Diet since Worms (1521) in Augsburg in 1530. The Emperor had every intention of resolving the religious schism, which had become deeper and more widespread during the previous decade, so that the Turkish threat could be met with unity. In 1529 German Lutherans had issued a ‘letter of protestation’ against the condemnation of Luther’s teachings – hence they became ‘Protestants’. After initially encouraging discussions the failure of the two sides to agree came as a disappointment to Charles. It resulted in the issuing of the Augsburg Confession, a clear statement of the Lutherans’ arguments, and the Augsburg Confutation in which the Catholics put forward their objections to these beliefs. When the Catholic majority reiterated the condemnation of the Protestants at the end of the Diet, the Protestant princes formed a military alliance (the Schmalkaldic League) early in the following year. Attitudes and positions had hardened.
During 1547 and 1548, following Charles’ military success against the Schmalkaldic League at Muhlberg, the Diet met again in Augsburg. The ‘Augsburg Interim’, issued during the Diet, was another well-intentioned but doomed attempt to achieve a religious settlement. Charles lived for the best part of a year in the residence of the Fugger family, then headed by Anton Fugger. It was here that two famous portraits of him were completed by Titian (c.1488 – 1576), one mounted on his horse in full armour, and one seated in an armchair. Monarchs were increasingly using portraits as a means of conveying a message (Holbein’s paintings of Henry VIII are well known examples) and Charles was no different. ‘Charles V at the Battle of Muhlberg’ (now in the Prada Museum, Madrid) represents the Emperor, now aged 47, as the victorious, conquering, ‘soldier of Christ’. Using as a model an equestrian statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, his determined expression refers to his ability to control his emotions as well as his enemies. In reality Charles was by this time finding it increasingly difficult to ride and suffered from frequent, painful attacks of gout. The ‘Portrait of Charles V: Seated’ (now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich) shows Charles as the confident, mature statesman.
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The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 achieved a temporary solution to the religious divisions. In this it was recognised that Imperial power was not going to achieve a reunification of the church so desired by Charles. Rulers within the Holy Roman Empire could decide the religion in their own territories. As a commemoration of this peace, Augsburg has an additional annual holiday on August 8th each year, enjoyed by no other region of Germany.
The peace lasted until the outbreak of the 30 Years War (1618–1648) (from the ‘defenestration of Prague’ until the Peace of Westphalia), when once again Catholic and Protestant princes, along with their external allies, fought for power and influence within the Empire. In 1632 Augsburg was captured by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, shortly before his death at the battle of Lutzen (November 1632). The Swedes and their Protestant allies were defeated in 1634 at the battle of Nordlingen, north of Augsburg and the city was subjected to a siege in the winter of 1634-35 during which 1000’s died through hunger and disease. Augsburg’s decline, already under way with the opening of new sea routes east to the Indies and west across the Atlantic, was now accelerated. The population of the city declined from 70,000 in its heyday to little more than 16,000 after the siege.
The city next figures in European history with the League of Augsburg formed against Louis XIV of France in 1686 by the Emperor Leopold I along with Bavaria, Brandenburg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Provinces (Netherlands) and later joined by England in 1689. This ‘Grand Alliance’ fought the Nine Years War against the French (1688 – 1697). During the 18th century the city became associated with the rococo or late baroque style of architecture, sculpture, furniture and painting. This ornate and highly decorated approach became known as the ‘Augsburg’ style in Germany. Leopold Mozart, father of Wolfgang Amaedus Mozart, was born and studied in Augsburg until moving to Salzburg.
With the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 Augsburg lost its status as a free city and became part of the kingdom of Bavaria. As the industrial revolution got underway the textiles industry again flourished. Machinery production and associated engineering developed from this. Rudolph Diesel developed the first diesel engine here in the 1890’s at the works of MAN AG (Macschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg).
Its location meant that Augsburg always had significance as a military base. With its engineering works it contributed to German rearmament prior to the Second World War, had a major Messerschmitt factory, and during the war was headquarters for several regiments. It was thus a target for Bomber Command. On 17th April 1942 the MAN U-boat diesel engine factory was targeted to test the new Avro Lancaster bomber. As part of ‘Big Week’ (Operation ‘Argument’ – 19th Feb. to 25th Feb. 1944) on 25th February one hundred and ninety-six B-17’s from U.S. 8th Air Force based at High Wycombe bombed the Messerschmitt plant; they were followed during the night of 25/26th February by five hundred and ninety-four planes from the RAF Bomber Command. This largely destroyed the city centre. Most buildings in modern central Augsburg have been rebuilt since that time, though mainly in their original style.
After the war it was part of U.S. sector of Germany. Augsburg now has the feel of a modern, prosperous city with wide streets and large squares, but one in which there is a strong sense of the history that surrounds you.