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Who was Andreas Hofer?

Andreas Hofer is still revered by many in Tyrol as a hero today, more than 250 years after his death.

In any case, he is – alongside Ötzi and Reinhold Messner – one of the most famous Tyroleans.
He was born on 22 November 1767 at the Sandhof Inn in St. Leonhard in Passeier and, after a difficult childhood, became captain of a militia company in the Passeier Valley. He rose to the command of the Tyroleans in the battles against the Bavarians, who had occupied the land in 1806, as well as against Napoleon’s troops. In the main battles on the Bergisel mountain near Innsbruck (in part supported by Austrian troops) he three times succeeded in repelling superior enemy forces. On 15 August 1809 he established himself in the Hofburg Palace in Innsbruck, where he acted as Regent for two and a half months. On 14 October, in an unexpected turn, Austria was compelled to cede the now re-annexed Tyrol to Bavaria under the Treaty of Schönbrunn. Unable to comprehend this act, Hofer lost the fourth Battle of Bergisel on All Saints’ Day, 1809. In the weeks that followed he paid excessive heed to radical fellow fighters, issuing pointless orders to continue the fighting. The French revenged themselves with terrible retaliatory measures on the local population. At the end of November Hofer fled to a mountain hut, the “Pfandleralm”. Betrayed by a compatriot, he was captured there on 27 January 1810 and first taken to Meran with his son Johann, wife Anna and scribe Kajetan Sweth: he was subsequently brought in several stages to Mantua where, on the orders of Napoleon, he was shot on 20 February 1810 following a mock trial. He did not attempt to flee as he was wedded to the belief that he would have to pay for his actions.

Text: Albin Pixner, MuseumPasseier
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Oberhofer Andreas, Der Andere Hofer. Der Mensch hinter dem Mythos. Schlern-Schriften, 2009.
Rohrer Josef, Heroes & Hofer. When Andreas Hofer came in the museum. 2009.

Andreas Hofer, coloured etching of Johann Georg Schedler, 1809.

Photo: MuseumPasseier

Andreas Hofer Place

After his experience as a servant with the de Miller family in Cles, in 1785 the young Andreas Hofer moved to Ballino, to the Armani Inn, to continue learning Italian – which would aid his business relationships with the whole region – and the trades of innkeeper and merchant. At the time, the inn, owned by the noble Armani family of Tenno, was run by the Zanini family. Hofer remained in Ballino for three years, until 1788, when he returned to the Passiria Valley to run the family inn. Here, just as in Cles, Hofer established close friendships and acquaintances, in particular with Marco, the firstborn son of the Zanini family, who would command a company of rebels during the uprising of 1809. He too had participated in the defence of the region during the campaigns of 1796 and 1797. Having fallen into poverty, Marco Zanini, now sixty, was in 1810 described in the proceedings relating to the Royal Administrative Commission of the Department of South Tyrol: “Fanatical in regard to his Hoffer [sic], but not of a bad nature; was the captain of a company, now has a quiet bearing, current place of residence Fiavé, not dangerous”.

Text: Marco Ischia, Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Riccadonna Graziano, Andreas Hofer “trentino” nel secondo centenario dell’Anno Nove. 2009.