The Fuggerei in Augsburg






von Christian Schaller

The Fuggerei in Augsburg is the oldest social settlement in the world in continuous use.
It was built from 1514 to 1523 by order of the brothers Ulrich, Georg and especially Jakob Fugger (the rich) under the direction of the master builder Thomas Krebs.

(Translation: DeepL)

The more than five hundred year old “city within the city” with its own wall and several entrance gates currently offers accommodation to around 150 residents in 67 houses with 142 apartments on a total area of 15,000 square meters. The annual rent has remained the same since its founding: one Rhenish guilder – the equivalent of 0.88 euros.

However, in order to get on the long waiting list for one of the social housing units, various requirements must be met. Potential tenants must be in financial need through no fault of their own, have no criminal record, be registered as living in the city of Augsburg and also belong to the Catholic faith.

To this day, the residents commit themselves to three prayers a day for their founder Jakob Fugger and his family and descendants, because the Fugger Foundation still administers the estate.

Due to its size, the clear structure of the straight-lined alleys and two-story houses, probably inspired by the ideal and planned city concept, as well as its uninterrupted use to this day, the Fuggerei can be considered an outstanding ensemble.

After the destruction of the night of bombing in February 1944, 20% of the apartments could continue to be used. By 1948, the shell of the building had been completed, and by 1955 the historic Fuggerei had been completely rebuilt without state or municipal subsidies. On the destroyed site, most of the wooden interior walls and roof trusses had burned, while the exterior walls and partitions had been largely preserved.

Büste Jakob Fugger, ©bboellinger

The conditions for a reconstruction were considered favorable, which is why the head of the family Joseph Ernst Fugger von Glött commissioned the architect Raimund von Doblhoff, for whom the Fugger family name was in turn a door opener to high-quality building materials. The Fugger foundation administration insisted on having a say in financial, but also aesthetic matters – the preservation of the traditional image was expressly desired, a “conservative reconstruction” in the literal sense of the word was strived for.

The typified row houses exhibited minimal irregularities; in addition to multiple alterations, there were over a hundred different window and door dimensions as well as eaves edges. These were all meticulously preserved by Doblhoff. At the same time, however, the houses were modernized – electricity, heating, sewer connection, water pipes and insulation were installed, but the pipes were hidden. The three-room, hallway and kitchen layout was retained, bathrooms were branched off from the chambers, and the 19th century toilet fixtures and outdated smokehouses were removed. The interior walls were made of brick instead of wood, the bedrooms were given wooden ceilings, and the living rooms were given stucco ceilings.

At the same time, an expansion of the area took place; among other things, the land acquisitions were to provide green areas and improve lighting and ventilation. In addition, by 1971 new rows of apartments were built on Neue Gasse, Gartengasse and Gasse am Sparrenlech, so that the number of residential units increased from 106 to 140. The new buildings are indistinguishable from the reconstructed rows.

On Jakoberstraße, the Seniorat building was erected in two stages from 1953 to 1963, containing administration, archives, conference rooms, a pub and an administrator’s apartment. Doblhoff also cleverly connected this new wing with the existing buildings, the Markuskapelle, the Markusplätzle and the Holesischer Hof, and integrated spolia from buildings destroyed during the war.

From the Fuggerhaus on the Rindermarkt, he incorporated a reticulated ribbed vault, tracery door jambs and a coat-of-arms stone from the oriel of the Goldener Schreibstube. From Kirchheim Palace, he integrated wooden coffered ceilings and a carved door frame with flanking columns. The screen vault of the Leonhardskapelle from the Welserhaus at Kesselmarkt and the Höchstetter bay window with Gothic tracery followed.

Fuggerei Augsburg, ©yorgy67

Leonhard’s Chapel was originally built by the Ilsung family around 1241 on today’s Karolinenstraße and rebuilt in the middle of the 14th century. The Gothic, six-part star vault, complete with ornate keystones and capitals, dates from this period. It was removed as a salvage measure in 1958 after being destroyed in the Second World War, and installed in the Fuggerei’s senior building in 1962.

The cross-ribbed vaults adjoining to the north and south are for the most part replicas. On the outside, Doblhoff seamlessly adapted the building to its surroundings; on the inside, he chose a thoroughly hybrid formal language, for example, a curved flight of stairs in the style of the time around 1960. The largely seamless fitting in resulted in an “architectural pastiche” that nevertheless shows irritations and thus provides indications of the former destruction – among other things, the Höchstetter coat of arms can still be found on the bay window.

Doblhoff wanted to restore St. Mark’s Church to its pre-war baroque state, but the foundation administration pushed for a return to a Renaissance state faked by architect Franz Zell, which was felt to be more appropriate for the Fuggerei. Götz Freiherr von Pölnitz proved himself here not only as Doblhoff’s controller, but also demanded involvement in aesthetic issues.

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A brochure published by the Fugger Foundations not only conveys the history of the social settlement, but also devotes a single paragraph to each building, its significance and building history. The details are also covered, for example the donor plaques, Gothic house numbers, bell pulls or staircase gables.

The Fuggerei currently forms a museum-like building complex and – as in the early modern period – a city within the city. The senior citizens’ building, the administration, St. Mark’s Church, the school, the sacristan’s house and the infirmary as well as the individual houses inhabited by private individuals are supplemented by the Fuggerei Museum in the last originally preserved house of the Fuggerei, a modernly furnished show apartment as well as the permanent exhibition “The Fuggerei in the Second World War – Destruction and Reconstruction” in the air-raid shelter built shortly after the beginning of the war.

In addition, two brochures of the Regio are dedicated to the Fuggers. Both in the brochure “The Fuggers in Augsburg. Sights of the Fugger City” and “The Fuggers and Welsers. Their Sights in Augsburg” – in addition to the Fugger and Welser Adventure Museum – the Fuggerei in particular is given a place as a central place of remembrance of the merchant family as well as the “Golden Augsburg” in general.

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Used literature
  • Kluger, Martin: Die Fugger im goldenen Augsburg der Renaissance. Denkmäler erzählen Geschichte. Augsburg 2017.
  • Nagler, Gregor: „Das Wegwerfen ist ja ein Irrglaube“. Raimund von Doblhoff und der Wiederaufbau der Fuggerei, der Fuggerhäuser und des Neuen Bauens in Augsburg. In: Nerdinger, Winfried (Hg.): Raimund von Doblhoff, 1914-1993. Architekt zwischen Rekonstruktion und Innovation. (= Schriften des Architekturmuseums Schwaben, Bd. 8). Berlin 2009, S. 53-84.
  • Nagler, Gregor: „Das Wegwerfen ist ja ein Irrglaube“. Raimund von Doblhoff und der Wiederaufbau der Fuggerei, der Fuggerhäuser und des Neuen Bauens in Augsburg. In: Nerdinger, Winfried (Hg.): Raimund von Doblhoff, 1914-1993. Architekt zwischen Rekonstruktion und Innovation. (= Schriften des Architekturmuseums Schwaben, Bd. 8). Berlin 2009, S. 53-84.
  • Nagler, Gregor: Fuggerei, Augsburg. In: Nerdinger, Winfried (Hg.): Geschichte der Rekonstruktion – Konstruktion der Geschichte. Kat.Ausst. München (TU München in der Pinakothek der Moderne) 2010. München 2010, S. 346-348.
  • Trepesch, Christof: Fuggerei. In: Schülke, Yvonne (Hg.): artguide Augsburg. Kunst-, Kultur- und Stadtführer. Augsburg 2008, S. 180-183.

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