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Augsburg’s Fuggerei turns 500 in 2021

December 22, 2020 Visit Europe 1 Comment

Augsburg’s Fuggerei turns 500 in 2021

World’s oldest social housing complex will celebrate its major milestone with a series of events and exhibitions

In 2021, the Bavarian city of Augsburg, a member of the Historic Highlights of Germany, will focus on its most prominent family, the Fuggers, and their lasting legacy ­- the Fuggerei where the rent hasn’t been raised in centuries and which is still going strong.

In 1516, Jakob Fugger the Rich, who minted coins for the Vatican and made a name for himself as one of Europe’s greatest early entrepreneurs, had a charitable idea. He wanted to create a place for Augburg’s poor Catholic workers, where they could live together debt-free, without struggling to pay rent on a salary too low to make ends meet.

Construction began immediately on the so-called Fuggerei, where for just one Rheinish florin per year (16th century currency, equivalent to .88 Euro/ $1 today, and around one month’s salary for laborers at the time) residents would get an apartment. There were conditions attached though. Applicants had to be Catholic, impoverished through no fault of their own, debt free, and a respectable member of society. They also had to say three prayers a day for the Fugger family and needed to obey curfew at 10 p.m., when the gates surrounding the Fuggerei were locked. Ancestry, age and family status have never been deciding factors, but candidates must have been a resident of Augsburg for at least two years.

The Fuggerei, generally acknowledged as the world’s oldest social housing complex, was designed to maximize the use of its property. Identical red-roofed buildings, all two storeys with an apartment on each floor, were built along eight straight lanes with seven gates in the walls. Fugger donated the estate to the city of Augsburg in 1521, with the understanding that the Fugger family would continue to own and run it and that there would never be any changes to the rent, rules and regulations.

By 1523, 52 houses were built, and the complex continued to expand with more homes, a town square, an administrative building, and St. Markus church. Today, sixty-seven houses, split into 147 apartments mostly consisting of two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, make up the Fuggerei. All of them are occupied by citizens in need except one, which serves as a museum and is managed by the Fugger Foundation.

Visitors are welcome to tour the Fuggerei, though charged the 21st-century-appropriate fee of €6.50 ($7.70). And there are plenty of fascinating details making it worthy of a visit. Each apartment, for example, was fitted with a uniquely shaped iron doorbell pull; a design feature which enabled residents to find their homes in the dark in the days before streetlights.

Other places to follow the footsteps of the Fugger family in Augsburg include the Fugger Chapel in St Anna’s Church, the Fugger City Palace in Maximilianstrasse and the Fuggerhäuser with their inner courtyards and bathing rooms. A multitude of guided walks are on offer.

Highlights in 2021 include: Heart of Gold – the Fugger Musical at the Staatstheater Augsburg;
Exhibition “Stiften gehen! Aus Not eine Tugend Machen”, Aug 28 – Nov 28 at Maximilian-museum Augsburg and “1521” – a special exhibition highlighting events in Augsburg in the year 1521, Aug 28 – Nov 28 at the Diözesanmuseum St. Afra.

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Chrissy G says:

    I was in Germany for the 3rd time and on the last trip in 2017, my partner at the time, who is from Augsburg, took me to see this amazing housing project. What a delight to see that the lower class have been looked after in all these centuries. I was in awe of the place. I wish all countries could have housing projects like this. Well done! I’m from.Australia and loved my road trips through Germany

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