Der Hofstetter Frauenwald


A few months ago I quickly photographed a field of grave mounds along the main road from Hofstetten to Pürgen. / Vor ein paar Monaten habe ich schnell ein Feld von Grabhügeln entlang der Hauptstraße von Hofstetten nach Pürgen fotografiert.


The Wikipedia entry for the nearby community of Pürgen mentions a Totenstadt; that there once were said to be 200 grave mounds, and that by 1908 that number was down to 63. / Der Wikipedia-Eintrag für die nahegelegene Gemeinde Pürgen erwähnt eine Totenstadt; dass es einmal um die 200 Grabhügel gewesen sind, und dass  um 1908 diese Zahl auf 63 gesunken war.



Today I took a tour of a large patch of woods, called the Hofstetter Frauenwald, across the road from that field. I don’t know why it’s called a “Ladies’ Forest” but postulate that the land had once belonged to a convent. I suspected that there may be many more grave mounds inside the forest. / Heute habe ich eine Tour durch einen großen des Waldes gemacht, dem so genannten Hofstetter Frauenwald, gerade jenseits der Hauptstraße dieses Felds. Ich weiß nicht, warum es eine “Frauenwald” genannt wird, aber nehme an, dass das Land einst zu einem Kloster gehörte. Ich vermutete, dass viele weitere Grabhügel im Wald sind.

IMG_1583And indeed, from the path alone I counted 28 of them. A visit in the winter, when one can leave the trails (too much thorny underbrush growing there right now) will surely lead to more. With the ten visible in the field across the main road, that’s 38 at least. / Und tatsächlich –  vom Weg aus zählte ich bereits 28 von ihnen. Ein Besuch im Winter, wenn man die Wege verlassen kann, wird sicherlich zu mehr führen (zu viel dornigen Gestrüpp dort wächst dort im Augenblick). Mit den zehn sichtbaren Grabhügeln im Feld gegenüber die Hauptstraße sind es dann mindestens 38.


A dozen photographs of x-thousand-year-old grave mounds eroding in the woods might bring to mind Monty Python’s tree slide show, especially since they all look more or less alike… / Ein Dutzend Fotos von x-tausend Jahre alten Grabhügeln in den Wäldern Erodieren erinnert an Monty Pythons Baum Dia-Show, vor allem da sie alle mehr oder weniger gleich aussehen …

…and so I’ll spare you from any more! Suffice to say that I am very pleased to have found the Bronze Age necropolis in the woods just outside our village. There are no signs at the site and very little information online, but once you know where to look, they are all around you… / Und so erspare ich ihnen mehr davon! Es genügt zu sagen, dass es mich sehr freut, die Bronzezeit-Nekropole in den Wäldern vor den Toren unseres Dorfes gefunden zu haben. Es gibt keine Hinweise auf dem Gelände und sehr wenig Informationen online, aber wenn Sie wissen, wo sie suchen müssen, steht man schon mittendrin.

And While We’re In The 15th Century…

…it’s only a short jump ahead to the time of Emperor Ferdinand II and Philippine Welser, both of whom figure in the local story of the Roßsprung (“horse jump”). Paschberg has a post up about the story and the now-urban stone markers which commemorate it, in German along with my English translation.

Und weil wir gerade im 15. Jahrhundert sind…
… Es ist nur ein kurzer Sprung weiter zu der Zeit des Kaisers Ferdinand II. und Philippine Welser, die beide in der lokalen Überlieferung der Roßsprung (“Pferd springen”) vorkommen. Paschberg hat einen Post über die Geschichte und den heutigen Steinmarkierungen im Stadtgebiet, die daran erinnern.

Seven Views of Maria-Theresien-Strasse

(click on any image to see source in its URL, sorry, no direct links) This was originally titled “Eight View of Maria-Theresien-Strasse” but I found one of the images redundant and therefor it was pulled. Sorry for any confusion.

philographikon.comIn the beginning, street life looked somewhat chaotic. All of these images include the Annasäule (column) so they are all after 1704. However, the first expansion out of the original Altstadt, that is, the Neustadt (which later became Maria-Theresien-Strasse), began in 1281.

photographium.comThe street is still unpaved, but now that it’s cleaned up, it looks a little on the sterile side. It’s probably a Sunday, around the turn of the century.

An undated postcard. The streets are paved, the tram line is in. Dress lengths and the men’s suits suggest sometime after 1916 and before the Roaring Twenties.

yakohl.comThis is from 1939. Still horse carts but now we’ve got jazzy convertibles.

sagen.atThis is also apparently from 1939, although it looks like it may have been taken around Hitler’s first visit in April 1938. Nazi flags galore. Note the Hitler portrait over the door at far left, with the slogan “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer“. The woman at right, in the light-colored jacket with the bundle in her hand, gazing quietly across the street. What is she thinking?

curbsideclassic.comSame street, 1950s.  What a change. After the war, denazification certificates were referred to slangily as Persilschein, Persil being a brand of whitening laundry soap. Here it looks as if the entire street has been washed in Persil.

Priceline.comToday Maria-Theresien-Strasse is a thriving pedestrian shopping zone,  most recently even cycling through is not permitted at the northern end (the part you see here).

The Annasäule has been there since the early eighteenth century, even if its statues have been replaced over time. Despite its name, the figure at the top is actually the Virgin Mary. St. Anne stands below (facing the mountains), along with Sts. George, Cassian and Vigilian. The pillar was erected in commemoration of the expulsion of warring Bavarians on St. Anne’s Day in 1703hence the name.

Remembering the Pogrom 1938

Deutschsprachige Leser kann mehr hier lesen.

In light of reports like here and here, one might start to think that Europe is going under any day. Reading beyond the headlines, one learns

[t]he trend in Europe does not signal the return of fascist demons from the 1930s, except in Greece, where the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has promoted openly racist beliefs, and perhaps in Hungary, where the far-right Jobbik party backs a brand of ethnic nationalism suffused with anti-Semitism.

But the soaring fortunes of groups like the Danish People’s Party, which some popularity polls now rank ahead of the Social Democrats, point to a fundamental political shift toward nativist forces fed by a curious mix of right-wing identity politics and left-wing anxieties about the future of the welfare state.

Yes, the far-right groups are worrisome. No, we are not being taken over or sliding back into the 1930s.

That said, it is still supremely important to remember what happened, and today marks the 75th anniversary of the November pogroms in Germany, known as Kristallnacht. Efforts have been made in the last decades to stop using this latter name and call it what it was, a pogrom, and most formal reference to it uses Novemberpogrome. The old name is still around, though.
Innsbruck has a group of citizens dedicated to keeping the memory of the horrors in the Anschluss years from fading into obscurity. They have toiled for years publishing about many aspects of those years — the schools, the psychiatric system, the ethnic cleansing, the local resistance, and a lot more I can’t even think of right now — if you are looking for literature, this author has been especially prolific (I have read some of his books, and am impressed enough to recommend anything written by him.)
The commemorations this year include a concert featuring the work Concerto funebre by the late Innsbruck composer Bert Breit, dedicated to the Innsbruck victims of Kristallnacht; walking tours of the Altstadt with emphasis on its former Jewish residents; research projects for high school students at the City Archives; commemorative speeches at the entrance to the Jewish cemetery, followed by a silent march to the Pogromnacht memorial menorah near the State Govermnent Building (Landhaus), where a Kaddish will be recited.

I assume that other cities across Austria and Germany will be having similar events tonight.

Yesterday evening I attended a small reading and slide-show presentation of letters to one Erna Krieser, a young woman who left Innsbruck in the late 1930s to take a job with a rich family in Tuscany, from her immediate family. Her mother and twin sister write in ever increasing urgency about their situation — being forced to sell the family business, being told they must leave Innsbruck, eventually settling in the Jewish ghetto in Vienna, all the while hoping to find a way out and being too afraid to make any rash decisions — a reunion in South Tyrol becomes out of the question as the family learns they would not be able to return home. This is difficult for many younger listeners to understand, but without proper travel and residency papers, virtually nothing was possible, especially for a middle-aged couple and their daughter. On the other hand, if they had known what was in store for them (the parents perished in Auschwitz, Erna’s sister Käthe in the Lodz ghetto), would they have risked it? (A good novel on the kafkaesque labyrinth of bureaucracy one faced is “Transit”, by Anna Seghers). Their last letters, right up to the outbreak of the war, and the closing of all the borders, were filled with hoping against hope that someone would come through for them, and with enormous gratitude that their daughter Erna had got out (she was able to emigrate to Palestine.)

The readings were interspersed with selections from an old photo album, many “last photos” of Jewish Innsbruck families in their homes, on holiday, on the way out of Europe. The evening was titled Abschiedsbilder, farewell pictures, and presented by local author and filmmaker Niko Hofinger.

A Special Grave in the Jewish Cemetery

IMG_0811While I was at the Westfriedhof, scouting out an appropriate bench to photograph and include with the story below, I visited the grave of Yury Shklyar, which I do every once in a while. (I know, it’s weird. I like cemeteries.) Yury was a colleague in the theater for a few years. He had the most tremendous voice I had ever heard in that space, it was just so incredibly big. He sang beautifully, and he was a consummate actor as well. But he tended to distance himself from the ensemble and all their dramas, having been 1) a little older, 2) a lot more experienced, having sung in big theaters all over the world, 3) not a good German speaker, and 4) suffering from stomach cancer. This last item was surely the reason he was in Innsbruck at all, because he was way too good for us. We assume that our Intendantin knew full well that he was ill, and brought him here for the health care and so that his family would have some security in the West. He and his wife had two sons, Russia was sending troops to Chechnya, and the older one was nearing conscription age. What I mean to say is, he needed a secure, full-time engagement in a western European opera house, for the benefits and for his family’s sake.

Während ich im Westfriedhof war, eine geeignete Bank zum Photographieren suchte und mich mit der folgenden Geschichte befasste, besuchte ich das Grab von Yuri Shklyar, was ich immer wieder tue (Ich weiß es ist komisch. Ich mag Friedhöfe). Yuri war vor wenigen Jahren ein Kollege im Theater. Er hatte die gewaltigste Stimme, die ich je in diesem Raum erlebt habe, sie war einfach so unbeschreiblich groß. Er sang wunderschön und er war ein ebenso vollendeter Schauspieler. Aber er blieb auf Distanz zum Ensemble und seinen Geschichten, da er 1) etwas älter war, 2) wesentlich mehr Erfahrung hatte, da er weltweit in großen Theatern aufgetreten ist, 3) nicht gut deutsch sprach und 4) an Magenkrebs litt. Letzteres war sicher der Grund, warum er überhaupt in Innsbruck war, denn er war wohl etwas zu gut für uns. Wir nehmen an, das unsere Intendantin wohl wusste, dass er krank war und sie ihn hierher wegen der medizinischen Versorgung brachte und um seinen Familie in den sicheren Westen zu bringen. Er hatte seinen Frau und zwei Söhne, Russland entsandte gerade Truppen nach Tschetschenien und sein älterer Sohn war im Einziehungssalter. Was ich damit sagen möchte: Er brauchte ein sicheres Vollzeitengagement in einem westeuropäischen Opernhaus für das Wohl seiner Familie.

In his last months at work, before the illness kept him away, we shared the stage in a few roles. The very last roles I can remember him singing were Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, and Uncle Bonzo in Madama Butterfly, the latter of which I think he may have viewed as a waste of precious little time. He was even more withdrawn than usual that season. He may very well have known his fate. He used to sit backstage and say nothing between scenes. During one performance I approached his chair and told him how much I loved his acting, because to me it really was a treat to watch his face slide through different emotions and reactions, even when he was not singing. He scowled at this, and said “Acting” while practically rolling his eyes, which implied that acting didn’t mean nearly as much to him as singing did. I explained myself (maybe a little too forcefully) that, to me, the opera stage was full of decent singers who did not act, and that I appreciated much more a singer who did. He paused, sighed, and said “Thank you.”  I am sure, in hindsight, that he said that simply to get me to leave him alone.

In den letzten Monaten seiner Arbeit, bevor seine Krankheit ihn daran hinderte, standen wir in einigen wenigen Rollen gemeinsam auf der Bühne. Die letzten Rollen an die ich mich erinnere, waren, als er den Bartolo in „Figaros Hochzeit“ und Onkel Bonzo in Madama Butterfly sang, letztere, denke ich,  dürfte er als Verschwendung seiner wertvollen noch verbleibenden Zeit betrachtet haben. Er hatte sich in jener Saison noch mehr zurückgezogen. Ich glaube, er ahnte wohl sein Schicksal. Üblicherweise saß er zwischen den Szenen schweigsam hinter der Bühne. Während einer Aufführung ging ich zu seinem Stuhl, und sagte ihm, wie sehr ich sein Schauspiel liebte, da es ein Genuss war, seinen Gesichtsausdruck im Wechsel verschiedenster Emotionen und Reaktionen zu beobachten – auch wenn er nicht sang. Er verfinsterte sich, sagte, „Schauspielen“ und rollte dabei verächtlich mit den Augen, was sagte, dass Schauspiel ihm nicht annähernd soviel bedeutete, wie Gesang. Ich erklärte (möglicherweise etwas zu eindringlich), dass aus meiner Sicht die Opernbühne voll anständiger Sänger ist, die allerdings nicht Schauspielen und dass ich Sänger, die das auch können, bevorzuge. Er hielt inne, seufzte und sagte „Dankeschön“. Ich bin mir rückblickend sicher, er hat das nur gesagt, um wieder seine Ruhe zu haben.

But I’m glad I’d told him, because it was the last interaction to speak of that I had with him, and shortly thereafter he went on sick leave. Two or three months later, he was dead. The death announcement was the first time many of us heard that he was Jewish.

Aber ich bin froh, dass ich ihm das gesagt habe,  denn das war unsere letzte Begegnung bei der wir miteinander sprachen. Kurz darauf ging er in Krankenstand. Zwei oder drei Monate später war er tot. Viele von uns erfuhren erst durch die Todesnachricht, dass er Jude war.

Here is a taping of a full live performance of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia in the Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, with a white-wigged Yury as Bartolo and a very young Anna Netrebko as Rosina. Skip ahead to 1:40:20, the end of Rosina’s “voice lesson” scene for a little of his comic genius.

Hier ist ein Mitschnitt einer vollständigen Aufführung von Rossinis „Der Barbier von Sevilla“ im Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg mit Yuri als Bartolo und der blutjungen Anna Netrebko als Rosina. Ab 1:40:20, das Ende von Rosinas “Gesangsstunde”, kann man Yuris komisches Talent sehen.

We were lucky to have him. May he rest in peace. Maybe he’s premiering Rossini’s latest opera in the Afterlife.

Wir waren froh, dass wir ihn hatten. Er ruhe in Frieden. Vielleicht singt er Rossinis neueste Oper im Jenseits.

Forgotten Innsbruck: The Lake on the Hungerburg

There were so many excursions I wanted to take once the snows melted, and almost none of them were possible in the end for a variety of reasons. But before I leave for summer vacation I wanted to do this one last thing: I had heard years ago that there had once been a small lake on the Hungerburg, but it’s location eluded me until a recent issue of “Tip” came out, with a feature on the Seehof.

So viele Ausflüge wollte ich im Frühling machen, und aus vielen Gründen war fast keiner davon möglich. Aber hier ein letzter Eintrag über Tirol vor der Sommerpause. Vor ein paar Jahren erfuhr ich von einem kleinen Badesee auf der Hungerburg, aber genau wo wusste ich nicht, bis zur diesmonatigen Ausgabe von “Tip”.

hungerburgseeIn 1912 a hotel was built up on the Hungerburg (a high plateau above Innsbruck), at the site of an old quarry. The quarry was flooded with water from the mountain spring, an observation tower was erected above the lake, and the whole thing was planned to be used as a little mountain resort, called the Seehof.

After the First World War and the fall of the Monarchy,  the Seehof fell into the hands of the Social Democratic Workers Party, who used it as a summer school for children from working-class families. Hundreds of local children learned to swim here during those years.  In 1934 the Social Democratic Workers Party was outlawed, and the Seehof came to be owned by another party, the Väterländische Front. Later it was used as housing for Hitler Youth and in 1940 it was sold to the NSDAP. But the lake had disappeared by then — its supply was shut off when water became scarce in the 1930s and had to be rerouted to residential areas.

1912 wurde ein Hotel auf der Hungerburg (ein Hochplateau  am Fuß der Nordkette, über Innsbruck) eröffnet, im ehemaligen Steinbruch. Der Steinbruch wurde geflutet, ein Aussichtsturm errichtet, und das ganze Areal wurde als Kurort geplant, Seehof genannt.
Nach dem ersten Weltkrieg kam der Seehof zur Sozialdemokratischen Arbeiterpartei, und kurz danach wurde er als freie Schule für Kinder aus Arbeiterfamilien verwendet. Laut “Tip” haben im Badesee zu dieser Zeit hunderte Innsbrucker Kinder das Schwimmen gelernt.
In 1934 wurde die SDAP verboten, der Seehof wurde der Väterländischen Front zur Verfügung gestellt. Später war er eine Herberge für die Hitlerjugend, 1940 an die NSDAP verkauft. Der See verschwand aber 1937, da Wasserknappheit herrschte und der Zufluss unterbunden wurde.

SeehofIMG_0646Then and now: from almost the same vantage point. Below: the observation tower is still standing, but of course the area is private property and fenced off from random visitors. One can walk right up to the back of the tower, however.

Damals und heute, vom fast selber Aussichtspunkt. Der Turm steht noch, ist aber abgezäunt.

IMG_0639Since 1951 the property has belonged to the Arbeiterkammer (Austrian Chamber of Labour) and after a few renovations the building is now a thoroughly modern training center with conference rooms and the like. But sadly it seems the lake is gone forever.

Seit 1951 befindet sich das Grundstück in der Hand der Arbeiterkammer, und nach einige Renovierungen ist es jetzt eine ganz moderne Schulungsstätte. Leider ist der See für immer verschwunden.

Upper images found here

Lanser Kopf

The Lanser Kopf (“Lans Peak”)

 is  a rocky outcropping atop a wooded hill called the Paschberg, situated between Innsbruck, Austria, and the village of Lans. It sits just under 300 meters above the city, and a hike to the top can be done in about an hour.  It is one of the few lower hilltops which has not, to my knowledge,  been previously excavated.

Übernommen aus einem kürzlich verfassten Beitrag für einen Archäologie Online Kurs an dem ich teilnehme.
Der Lanser Kopf liegt auf dem Paschberg, zwischen Innsbruck und der Dorfgemeinde Lans, knapp 300 Meter über der Stadt, wovon man in ca. eine Stunde eine gemütliche Wanderung machen kann. Er ist eine der wenigen Mittelgebirgsebenen in der Gegend auf der man, so weit ich weiß, keine archäologischen Ausgrabungen durchgeführt wurden.

970259-51b733d484b3e5.86591292Innsbruck, Paschberg/Lanser Kopf, Patscherkofel (2246 m)

One of the most interesting things about the Lanser Kopf is that there are multiple of evidences of use over time. Schalensteine (rocks with cup markings) can be found on the lower slopes. Unfortunately it is impossible to date them. It is suspected that there may also be markings in the rocks at the peak, but these are partially covered with trees, earth and concrete. The concrete, poured in the middle of the last century, holds park benches and a marble table, and also makes up two WW2 Two flak circles. The circles were abandoned at the end of the war, and now have trees growing inside them.

Eine Besonderheit des Lanser Kopfs liegt in seine vielseitige Nutzung im Laufe der Zeit. Auf dem niedrigeren Hang findet man Schalensteine, die leider nicht datierbar sind.  Man vermutet, dass man oben an der Spitze auch Schälchen finden könnte, wenn die Steine nicht mit Erde, Bäumen und Beton verdeckt worden wären.  Der Beton wurde in der Mitte des vorigen Jahrhunderts am Kopf gebracht, um Parkbänke und eine runden Marmortafel zu befestigen, und wurde auch im zweiten Welzkrieg für die Herstellung von zwei Plattformen für Fliegerabwehrkanonen (FLAK-Kreise) verwendet. Bäume wachsen jetzt in den leer stehenden Kreisen.

970259-51b73492ce0f95.32446165Two WW2- era flak circles at the Lanser Kopf.

The earliest humans artifacts found in this region date back to about 30,000 BCE . Evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been discovered on other nearby hilltops, including stone residential terraces (Hohe Birga, Himmelreich), and sacrificial burning sites (Goldbichl, Bergisel.)

Die älteste prähistorische Artefakte aus dieser Gegend datieren auf 30,000 v. Chr.  Neolithische Siedlungen hat man an naheliegenden Hügeln entdeckt, Steinterrassensiedlungen (Hohe Birga, Himmelrich) und auf Brandopferplätze (Goldbichl, Bergisel).

As far as I know, the Lanser Kopf was not used for anything in the Modern Era — with the exception of the wartime use — other than as a place to rest while hiking. There is no obvious evidence of it having been used for farming or settlement. However, it’s use in the last century as a strategic point for sighting enemy planes and firing missiles at them certainly would have roughed up the area somewhat, since it can been assumed that military jeeps or trucks would have been driven at least to the plateau just below the flak circles, and the construction of the circles themselves would have affected any older formation processes.

So weit ich weiß hatte der Lanser Kopf in der jüngeren Geschichte, außer während der Kriegszeit, nie eine besondere Funktion. Es gibt dort keine offensichtlichen Anzeichen von Siedlung oder Landwirtschaft. Er diente als Rastplatz für Wanderer.  In den Kriegsjahren war die Gegend mutmaßlich von LKWs und Jeeps überrollt, und die Herstellung der FLAK -Kreise hätte ältere Spuren zerstört.

This, however, brings forward another question — which kinds of artifacts does one wish to find? There may well be modern(ish) war artifacts in the vicinity, from either the Second World War or from the battles against Napoleon’s troops in 1809. There may be man-made objects just below the surfaces. 
But could be there also be older signs of human settlement below the flak circles? One would unfortunately have to destroy them in order to see what lies below. And while the concrete flak circles may not be of much interest to people today, I find it important that they remain, as an historical testament to Innsbruck’s war involvement in the 1940s. I find that it would not be worth it to remove them in the search for earlier artifacts. The earth-covered level area just below them, however, would be a worthy site for excavation, indeed if such work hasn’t been done already.

Das alles wirft eine Frage auf:  Welche Artefakte erwartet man zu finden? Es gibt wahrscheinlich schon genug Kriegsartefakte aus dem zweiten Weltkrieg oder, weiter zurück, vom Tiroler Volksaufstand in 1809.  Könnten prähistorische Funde direkt unter den FLAK-Fundamenten liegen? Man müsste diese aber zerstören, wenn man dort richtig graben will. Obwohl sie heutzutage wenige Leute interessieren,  würde ich lieber sehen, dass sie intakt bleiben, als historische Zeitzeugnisse der Kriegsjahre Innsbrucks. Hingegen läge auf der kleinen Ebene etwas unterhalb der kreisförmigen Fundamente eine angemessen Stelle für eine Ausgrabung, wenn nicht solche schon durchgeführt wurden.

From evidence gathered by archaeologists, pre-Roman-era settlers in Tirol greatly preferred the high plateaus and hilltops between the Inn (swampy floodplain) and the mountains (rocky, barren). This middle ground was probably ideal for hunting as well as providing safety. Since the arrival of the Christian missionaries in the Middle Ages, many of those hilltops have been adorned with chapels. It has been speculated  that these  chapels might be sitting atop the remains of pre-christian structures, and often successful excavation work has been done in their immediate vicinity.  If such an excavation were done on the Lanser Kopf, one might look for pre-historic arrowheads, ceramics, stone objects, weapon depots and offerings (of which there are many in the Alps) or sacrificial burning sites, all of which have been found elsewhere in the region.

Aus archäologischen Befunden in der Region wissen wir, dass viele vorrömische Siedlungen in den Mittelgebirgen eingerichtet wurden, wo die Ureinwohner mehr Sicherheit und bessere Lebensqualität vorfanden. Seit der Ankunft christlicher Missionare im Frühmittelalter, sind viele dieser einigermaßen höheren Stelle mit Kapellen geschmückt.  Man könnte vermuten, dass manche dieser Kapellen möglicherweise auf Resten von früheren, vorchristlichen Bauwerke stehen, und tatsächlich hat man neben solchen Kapellen erfolgreiche Ausgrabungen durchgeführt. Wenn man so eine Ausgrabung auf dem Lanser Kopf unternähme, fände man möglicherweise Artefakten wie Pfeilspitze, Keramik, Steinfiguren, Waffendepots oder Brandopferstätte, welche anderswo in der Region, auf höheren Stellen, bereits gefunden wurden.


Kulturblogging: Die Hofkirche


One of Innsbruck’s main attractions for the historically-minded is the Hofkirche, or Imperial Church (but no one calls it that, it’s just always the Hofkirche). As a tourist sight, the plain white exterior is deceiving (I heard it once remarked that the front facade resembles the face of a polar bear, and this pretty much pops into my mind every time I see it.) The interior, however, is impressive.

The Hofkirche was part of Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian’s last will and testament — and a beautiful sarcophagus was made for him there, although actually his remains ended up in the castle that was his childhood home, in Wiener Neustadt.


Keeping watch over this empty sarcophagus (which makes it a cenotaph) are two lines of life-size bronze statues commonly referred to locally as die schwarzen Mander (“the black men”), although they are neither all males nor even black, but more of a beautiful, deep dark chocolate brown.


The English Wikipedia entry for the Hofkirche describes these figures as being of “ancestors, relatives and heroes”, which is the best way of putting it. They are all titled, some go way back into the early Middle Ages (Clovis I, Theodoric), and the existence of one is now questionable (King Arthur, although he was surely assumed to have been an genuine person in Maximilian’s time.)

IMG_0583King Arthur’s statue in the Hofkirche



I always found the large old clock high above the altar in Innsbruck’s St. James Cathedral a nice touch if a little unusual (do you really want your flock to be checking the time during the mass?) but the Hofkirche goes one better with a charming little clock which chimes the hour, as well as each fifteen-minute interval. This morning I had the honor of participating in a special Sacred Heart Sunday mass, which has special meaning in Tirol — in the time of the battles with Napoleon’s troops (see Andreas Hofer), promises were made that, in return for divine intervention on the battlefield, official masses would be celebrated in the province each year. During today’s service, the little clocked chimed throughout, even making the priests stop mid-prayer to wait until the hour was rung.


And speaking of Andreas Hofer, he’s here too. Thirteen years after his execution in Mantua in 1810, his body was brought to Innsbruck and laid to rest in the Hofkirche, where his statue guards the entrance.

A Belated Memorial Day Posting

I realized too late that I had this photograph in my computer, and that it would fit nicely for Memorial Day.


This plaque is recessed into the wall between Franziskanerplatz and the courtyard behind the Hofkirche. In my 13 years’ residence in Innsbruck, I had never noticed it, until one day I did. If you’re having trouble reading the text, it says:

Zum Gedenken an die in den letzten Tagen des 2. Weltkrieges bei der Befreiung Tirols gefallenen Soldaten der U.S.-Armee.

In memory of the soldiers of the U.S. Army killed in action for the liberation of the Tyrol during the last days of World War II.

(I don’t know what the symbols represent, I assume the service organizations who sponsored the plaque. The cactus is particularly charming.)

UPDATE: I found them! The symbols are division insignia of the US Army. Top left, 44th Infantry (a mirrored “four”). Bottom left, 36th Infantry “Arrowhead”. Bottom right, 42nd Infantry, “Rainbow”. Top right, 103rd Infantry, “Cactus”.

“At The Roman Stone”


This post’s title is the translation of Am Römerstein, a street in the Bavarian town of Gilching. It’s a road the Beau takes regularly for business. The name always intrigued me — where is, or was, this Roman stone, anyway?


A look at a map of Gilching shows that Am Römerstein intersects (and for a short stretch follows) the old Roman road Via Julia from Salzburg to Augsburg (through Gilching it is named, appropriately, Römerstrasse. Click on the link above to see a simple map of the entire road. Gilching is on the red line just above the area between those two lakes.) So the street got it’s name from being at or near a milestone on the Roman road. Salzburg, not yet the summer destination of the Euro-chic, was important for it’s salt mines, salt in earlier times being a very valuable commodity. (Worth another blog post at a later time. The names of many places in Germany and Austria come from their importance in the salt trade.) Augsburg was Augusta Vindelicorum, the capital city of Roman province Raetia and all the Roman roads in and around the Alps lead not to Rome, but to there.

Back to my milestone. With the help of Zeitspringer (who blogs chiefly about archaeological outings in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, and who is a great source of information on the subject, his blog is well worth perusing if you read German), I learned that a stone erected in the 1860s and dedicated to the Roman Road is included in a list of monuments on Gilching, including it’s location. A trip over there brought us to Number 15 Am Römerstein, where we found this monument,


Roman Road
Augusta Vindelicorum

This, by the way, is definitely not the same stone mentioned (and shown) in Gilching’s Wikipedia entry (g), a small tube-shaped stone with engraved Latin text, a copy made more recently than the monument at 15 Am Römerstein. So where is the milestone photographed and shown in the Wikipedia entry? Turns out, it’s just a bit further down the road (g), in the center of town.

I assume that the street Am Römerstein, therefor, is named after the 19th-century monument to the Roman road, and not for the site of the Roman milestone (although it’s also entirely possible that the former was erected on the actual site of the original, and the later copy was placed somewhere more convenient and available.) A sign erected near the copy stone gives a very interesting account of the original’s fate. Milestones have been hauled off and used as building stones since the Late Antiquity. This particular stone was taken to Hattenhofen (there are four communities in the area with that name, most likely they mean the one in Fürstenfeldbrück County) in the 16th century, and then used as a cornerstone in Günzlhofen Castle. After the castle fell to ruin it came it Munich, first in the Royal “Antiquarium” and later as part of the Bavarian national collection of prehistoric artifacts, and exhibited with it. Here is where it met it’s ultimate fate, on a date with an Allied bomb in 1944.