Visit Augsburg When in Southern Germany by Bonnie and Bill Neely

Around the world many sports fans are making plans already to attend the World Cup Soccer Games in Stuttgart and other cities in Germany in June 2006. Many of the games will be in Stuttgart, which is a grand old city with many museums, hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions, and your stay there will be rewarding.Stuttgart, Germany Castle However, with the crowds of sports fans there it might be a difficult time just to sightsee within the city. We recommend renting a car or taking a train about an hour’s ride to the wonderful city of Augsburg, where you might even prefer to find accommodations for your entire trip.
Before Munich was chartered Augsburg was a Free Imperial City to which kings came officially to present themselves to court. Augsburg remained a Free Imperial City State throughout Medieval and Renaissance times until the Napoleonic Wars. Bavaria had always helped Napoleon, but Augsburg was part of the Hapsburg Empire of Charles V. The sun never set on his empire, over which double headed eagles looked in both directions. The Hapsburgs moved constantly throughout the area they controlled including today’s Hungary, Austria, and north to Hamburg, Germany. They believed in love, not war, and married into controlling dynasties to extend their empire. At the end of his life Charles V gave the empire to Ferdinand and retired to Spain, but with the Spanish Wars in which everyone wanted part of the control, the powerful Hapsburg empire came to an end.

In Augsburg the Fugger family were bankers for the Hapsburgs under Frederick III, father of Maximilllian I, who died early, passing the empire to his grandson, Charles V. Seven princes had to elect the new emperor, and the opposing candidate was Francis I. At that time, Jacob Fugger was the world’s richest man, and he paid the seven electors to select young Charles, who was already the Fugger banker’s client. Charles V was made Holy Roman Emperor in 1519.

While strolling through Augsburg following suggestions from the local Tourism Office, we discovered The Roman Museum, a marvelous archeology museum, which displays a large collection of Celtic, Roman, and tribal relics back to The Bronze Age. The museum is housed in Gothic Hall Church St. Magdalena, built 1513-15, a marvelous old cathedral, which has not been used as a church since the Reformation. This part of Europe was always important through over 4,000 years of history. Although the museum’s signs are only in German, the ancient artifacts reveal wars and the way of life among the various civilizations here, are well-displayed, and can be appreciated by anyone. Tours are available in several languages.

For your map and suggestions of points of interest, be sure to stop at the Tourism Office, located in the Centrum where buses and trains converge and public transportation is easy. The personnel there speak many languages.
The State Gallery of Art of Old German Masters opened 1835 on the Silver Wedding anniversary of King Ludwig I in the former convent of St. Katharina, which had been built 1251-59. Perhaps the most famous artist represented here is Hans Holbein The Elder, who was born in 1460 in Augsburg and was the most outstanding Augsburg artist of the Renaissance, artist for the Hapsburg family. Durer’s portrait of Jakob Fugger in 1518 also hangs here. Now under renovation, the Gallery will re-open in 2006. It has the largest collection of Holbein paintings from the 15th and 16th Centuries. This rare and exquisite collection of oils framed in dramatic, hand-wrought gold-leaf frames is beautifully displayed on white walls rising to the high Gothic cathedral ceiling.
In many places in Augsburg you can walk into little cobbled courtyards, which are passages to another area and sometimes to another era. We did so and ended up in the artists’ center, where many shops and workshops exist as they have for centuries. If one displays a green sign the public is welcome to enter to watch the artist at work or to purchase from these craftsmen. There is even one tanner who still hand-tans leather. These little shops are all along a canal which, since the 10th Century, has brought water to the crafts people here, creating a lovely street for taking photos today. These ancient houses are beautifully restored.

Anton Fugger (1493-1560) had eleven sons who were bankers in Augsburg. Transporting money in huge hand-carved treasury chests by horse and wagon from one town to another was dangerous business. The younger Fugger son, Jakob, studied in a monastery in Italy and was called back into the family banking business at only 19 years of age. He proved to have an innate genius for the business. He figured out a system of double-entry bookkeeping and then realized that since the family had banks in several major European cities, so why not write notes to send instead of making the dangerous transport of the money itself? Thus the first checks and letters of credit were created. In the Fugger Bank you can see one of the old treasury transport chests.

The Fugger descendents are still bankers here and have two castles in the area. Jakob Fugger built a huge house for his family, which had a copper roof.To prevent paying taxes on the imported copper, he gave the church a copper roof also. Mozart’s father Leopold was born in Augsburg, and young Wolfgang Mozart made his debut concert here at age six in 1777 in the Fugger Mansion. Today you can see the church, and the mansion pictured here has become a shopping mall.
Jakob was a devout Catholic and believed one needed good works and prayers to get into Heaven. He practiced “noblesse oblige” (obligation of the noble class) to assure his way into happy eternity by building a large complex of apartments to house poor people. Fuggerie, augsburg germany
In 1516 Jakob “The Rich” and his two brothers built “The Fuggerei,”the first social settlement in the world to house the innocent poor. Mozart’s great grandfather lived here in the Fuggerei.
This is still home to many poor families today, although renovated and modernized. When you enter to take a tour of the Fuggerie, the money changer in traditional garb (pictured) will collect some coins for the poor. You’ll see one of the original apartments, each of which was large enough for up to ten people to live and keep their animals in winter and have their own summer garden.

There were rules involved in getting to live here. One had to be poor, pray every day to God, pray daily for Jakob, and pay 80 cents a year tax. The Fuggerie is even today a pleasant place to live, clean, well kept, and peaceful. And with all these people praying daily for Jakob, surely he must be in Heaven!
There are many beautiful statues and buildings commemorating historical or religious events throughout this lovely city, but perhaps the most impressive for us was the Jugendstil Synagogue, which was built by non-orthodox Jews in 1914-17 during World War I and is late art nouveau style. It is considered one of the most beautiful synagogues in Europe.

During the pogroms the Jews here were forced to build and work for Hitler because the arms and planes were made here, but the Synagogue was miraculously not destroyed, even though these Jews were eventually sent to the prison camps. Nor was it bombed when the rest of the city was because it had a gas station across the street. The Allies did not bomb this area because of potential explosions. After the War this synagogue was unused because no Jews felt safe living in the area.

Today a over 1,000 Orthodox Jews have moved here. A tour of the synagogue is a poignant and reverent experience. The synagogue has many symbols telling the story of Hebrew history. School groups of German school children, mostly Christians, come here to study to promote understanding, so that the horrors of past prejudices will never be repeated. Four shields each represent three of the twelve tribes of Israel. The peacock means you are in the presence of God. The first Jews lived here in the 12th Century, and a grave from 1136 is in the cemetery.

Your visit to Augsburg will not be complete until you see the amazing Town Hall. Originally built in the 14th Century, the building was burned during World War II and took years to completely restore. Go to the second floor to see the fabulous Hall of State, for entertaining important people and for official ceremonies. The frescoes, beautiful wood work, marble, and gilding have been re-done from photographs of the original.
Augsburg Dom of the Holy Virgin Cathedral is another building which must be on your itinerary. Stonework in this beautiful edifice, which dates to 823 AD, is impressive, but also here are the oldest stained glass windows on earth. The five glass portraits of Old Testament Patriarchs, called the Prophet Windows, are on the South wall of the nave near the ceiling. Dating from about 1140, the German Romanesque period, these miraculously survived the war en tact.
The reformation began in Augsburg 1537. Martin Luther had preached in the Fugger Court in 1518. Because of his theses Martin Luther was examined in Augsburg by Papal Legate Cardinal Cajetan. Luther slipped away in the night, refusing to recant. Otherwise he might have faced execution here.

With so much history and so many places to see here, Augsburg needs to be on your itinerary for Southern Germany. When you are in Germany for the World Cup Soccer Games in Stuttgart or Munich, be sure to take this side trip. Augsburg is about an hour by car and less by train from each city and well worth a half-day to three days to see all the sites. And if hotels in the other two cities are too full, consider this for your stay. Less expensive too!