The Fuggerei in Augsburg


by Christian Schaller

The Fuggerei in Augsburg is the oldest social settlement in the world that is continuously in use.

It was built between 1514 and 1523 by order of the brothers Ulrich, Georg and above all Jakob Fugger (the rich) under the direction of the master builder Thomas Krebs.

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

To get on the long waiting list for one of the social housing units, however, various conditions must be met. Potential tenants must have got into financial difficulties through no fault of their own, must have no criminal record, must be registered as resident in the Augsburg city area and must 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 to this day the Fugger Foundation administers the settlement.

Due to its size, the clear structure of the straight-lined alleys and two-storey 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. The shell of the building was already completed in 1948 and in 1955 the historic Fuggerei was rebuilt without any state or municipal subsidies. On the destroyed area most of the wooden interior walls and roof trusses were burnt, the outer walls and partition walls were largely preserved.

Fugger Monument, © bboellinger

The conditions for a reconstruction were considered favourable, 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 administration of the Fugger Foundation insisted on a say in financial and also aesthetic questions – the preservation of the traditional image was expressly desired, a “conservative reconstruction” in the literal sense of the word was aimed for.

The typified terraced houses showed minimal irregularities; in addition to multiple conversions, there were over a hundred different window and door dimensions and eaves edges. These were all meticulously preserved by Doblhoff. At the same time, the houses were also modernised – electricity, heating, sewerage, water pipes and insulation were installed, but the pipes were hidden. The division into three rooms, hallway and kitchen was maintained, bathrooms were branched off from the chambers, the toilet installations of the 19th century and the obsolete smoke kitchens were removed. The interior walls were made of bricks instead of wood, the bedrooms were given wooden ceilings, the living rooms stucco ceilings.

At the same time, the area was extended, the land purchases were to be provided with green areas, among other things, and the lighting and ventilation were to be improved. In addition, by 1971 new residential rows had been built on Neue Gasse, Gartengasse and Gasse am Sparrenlech, so that the number of residential units rose from 106 to 140. The new buildings cannot be distinguished from the reconstructed rows.

On Jakoberstrasse, the senior citizens’ building was constructed in two stages from 1953 to 1963, which contained administration, archives, conference rooms, a restaurant and an administrator’s apartment. Doblhoff also skilfully connected this new wing with the existing buildings, the Markuskapelle, the Markusplätzle and the Holesischer Hof, and integrated spolia from war-damaged buildings.

From the Fuggerhaus on the Rindermarkt he used a ribbed net vault, tracery door panels and a heraldic stone from the bay window of the Goldene Schreibstube. From Kirchheim Castle he integrated coffered wooden ceilings and a carved door frame with flanking columns. The vaulting of the Leonhard Chapel from the Welserhaus on Kesselmarkt and the Höchstetter bay window with Gothic tracery followed.

Fuggerei Augsburg, © massimasonti

The Leonhardskapelle was originally built by the Ilsung family around 1241 on today’s Karolinenstraße and was rebuilt in the middle of the 14th century. The Gothic, six-part star vault with its decorated keystones and capitals dates from this period. After its destruction in the Second World War, it was removed in 1958 as a rescue measure and in 1962 it was installed in the seniorate building of the Fuggerei.

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

Doblhoff wanted to restore St. Mark’s Church to its pre-war Baroque state, but the foundation administration forced a return to a Renaissance state faked by the architect Franz Zell, which was considered more suitable for the Fuggerei. Götz Freiherr von Pölnitz proved himself here not only as Doblhoff’s controller, but also demanded participation in aesthetic questions.

A brochure published by the Fugger Foundations not only conveys the history of the social settlement, but also dedicates a single paragraph to each building, its significance and construction history. The details are also dealt with, for example the donor plaques, Gothic house numbers, bell pulls or stepped 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, school, sacristan’s house and infirmary as well as the individual houses inhabited by private individuals are supplemented by the Fuggerei Museum in the last original preserved house of the Fuggerei, a modernly furnished show apartment and 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 region are dedicated to the Fuggers. Both in the brochure “The Fuggers in Augsburg. Sights of the Fugger City” as well as in “The Fuggers and Welser. Their Sights in Augsburg”, in addition to the Fugger and Welser Adventure Museum, the Fuggerei in particular is given a place as a central memorial to the merchant family and the “Golden Augsburg” in general.

Literature used
  • 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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