The Free City of Augsburg

23/02/2015 19:27

Its name betrays its Roman origin; it was Augusta Vindelicorum in the Rhaetia province founded in the year 15 of our era by Drusus and Tiberius by Emperor Augustus order.  It was free imperial city linked to the Holy Roman Empire for five hundred years. It is the third oldest city in modern Germany after Neuss and Trier and is also the third most populous city in Bavaria after Munich and Nuremberg.

Here the religious Martin Luther schism took shape in the Augustana Confessio, first official exposition of the principles of religious Protestantism and major schism of Christianity presented in writing by the Diet of the city to the Holy Roman Emperor, then, 25 June 1530, Charles V, I in Spain. But beyond religious matters and relating to chrematistic issues, Augsburg, remained along the free city period grew under the business related to the two most powerful families, the Fugger and the Welser, who had interests in banking, mining and commerce on which exercised an almost absolute monopoly. Their ties reached the Republic of Venice and the Vatican. Like their admired Florence prosperity attracted artists seeking patrons. Here was born and worked the family of Holbein painters, Hans the Old and Sigismund in the first generation and Hans the Younger and Ambrosius in the next. 

The Fugger family created the first public housing complex in the world and it’s still in use. Jakob Fugger, his nickname was the Rich, founded in 1516 the so called Fuggerei as a place where anyone in need of shelter could be accommodated. The conditions to access to one of them were to have been in the city for at least the last two years, being Catholic and having reached poverty without leaving debts. The rent was sought was an annual Florin. Today is equivalent to 88 euro cents. The site had its own church and four doors that still are closing at ten in the evening. They are the entry to the eight streets where there are currently 147 apartments spread over 67 houses. The free city ceased in 1806 when the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved and Augsburg became dependent from Bavaria.

Several medieval times channels mainly Äußerer Stadtgraben, surround the path of the old walls, others slip between houses, flower beds and covered verandas that overlook the water.

At the downtown epicentre the Rathausplatz hosts the Renaissance town hall, designed and built in 1624 by the Stadtbaumeister, master architect, Elias Holl. At the top of its facade, between the two hexagonal towers, displays the Reichsadler, emblazoned with the imperial eagle of the Holy Roman Empire. In the same square the Perlachturm, a slender tower 230 feet high which was originally built as a watchtower, is now part of the city hall and beside where Peterskirche church rises. The road that crosses the square is Maximilianstraße, it cross the square and most of the old town from the Sainte Mary Cathedral, here called Marie Dom or Hoher Dom, to the church of St. Ulrich going through Merkurbrunnen, the Mercury fountain and that of Hercules too, this later work of Adrian de Vries, both are monumental.

South of Augsburg, and at the foot of the Alps, Garmisch Partenkirschen is a town famous for its famous skiing jumping contest broadcasted every New Year on TV. In early June it is difficult to recognize among the splendour of the grass the same white slopes seen in television.

© J.L.Nicolas


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