Schwaz in Tirol & Stans - Part I
Schwaz is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tyrol and has been a power-hub ever since the Middle Ages. Both these circumstances have common grounds: Silver mines near Schwaz helped the Habsburg Maximilian I to establish his empire, made the burghers of the town wealthy people and today, attract the crowds of tourists. The mines, now show mines, alongside with the ancient city centre and the scenic setting in the heart of the Tyrolian Alps are the main sights.
The old town or "Altstadt" of Schwaz follows the course of the River Inn. This is not only where you will find most of the town′s attractions, but also where you can dive into the history of Schwaz. The first settlement can be traced back to Neolithic times, when settlers followed the Inn River valley, and these settlements were an instant success.
Once mining developed, the rich deposits proved to be sufficient to feed a substantial number of Bronze Age miners and their families. Real significance was added much later, when silver deposits were discovered around 1409 - at a time when Tyrol was already part of the growing Habsburg Empire.
Renaissance Peak of Schwaz & its Mines
The Habsburg immediately set up a professional mining industry and within a few years, Schwaz became the economic powerhouse of the dynasty. Around 1500 - the time when the Habsburg′s empire had become a super-power of global significance and Maximilian I was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation - Schwaz had become an important centre for trade and business, particularly on the town′s main rich, the silver ore.
I guess a bit like an early Modern London - and not dissimilar to the rich counties of Northern Italy at around the same time. The rich and beautiful of the 1500s got properties and consulates in Schwaz, including the Fugger family of Augsburg. The medical outlaw Paracelsus spent time here, doing "research" in pharmacology, alchemy and the illnesses of the local miners (he is buried in Salzburg).
Habsburg′s Cash Cow in Tyrol
This glorious time ended quite abruptly around 1550: Once silver mines from the Americas had screwed up the market, the mining industry of Schwaz was no longer competitive enough, businessmen left and the town lost its prominent position within the empire. However, Schwaz remained to be perceived as the "mother of all mines", popular images of medieval mining and even fairy-tale settings of dwarfs crawling around in the mountains are strongly influenced by the appearance of the late medieval Schwaz.
In terms of sightseeing, Schwaz offers a general prettiness that is best explored by walking around in the town centre. However, there are some particular attractions that you should look for. For example the parish church, famous for its elaborate Gothic appearance with quite a unique architecture. It was built during the peak of Schwaz′ economic boom period between 1460 (initial construction) and 1502 (extension and decoration).
It is one of the biggest churches in Tyrol and there are two things particularly worth noting about it: One of the two towers was built in 1911 in order to "replace" and support the other. This became necessary after an examination revealed that the old tower was in danger to fall apart and was closed down. Rumour has it that it would fall if the bells were to be rung again.
Continue with "Schwaz in Tirol & Stans - Part II"
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