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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


Bergisel is steeped in history. It is doubtless most famous for the four Battles of Bergisel fought in 1809. More than two hundred years ago, it was the scene of bloody fighting between Tyrolean rebels and a Bavarian army of occupation. In the third Battle of Bergisel on 13 August 1809, the Tyrolean militia managed to repel the Bavarians and force them to withdraw.
In 1809, Europe had been at war almost continuously for seventeen years. The French Revolution and its aftermath had brought radical change. By force of arms, Napoleon was determined to bring Europe under the control of France and its allies, which included Bavaria. In the 1805 Peace of Pressburg, the Princely County of Tyrol had been awarded to the Kingdom of Bavaria. Great resentment was caused by the introduction of compulsory military service, increased taxation and interference in the Catholic religious life of the Tyroleans.

The battles at Bergisel on 29 May 1809 after a painting by Karl von Blaas.

Photo: Tiroler Landesmuseen

Andreas Hofer by Willy Verginer in the museum “Das Tirol Panorama” built in 2011.

Photo: Tiroler Landesmuseen

In the spring of 1809 Austria and England declared war on France, and the Tyroleans rebelled against the hated Bavarians. In Vienna, the leaders of the Tyroleans under Andreas Hofer received imperial approval for an uprising. In the first three battles at Bergisel the Tyrolean militia defeated the occupying Bavarian forces, and Innsbruck was retaken. In the Peace of Schönbrunn signed on 14 October 1809, however, Emperor Francis I renounced his claim to the Tyrol.This was followed, on 1 November 1809, by the fourth and final Battle of Bergisel – without any support for the Tyroleans from Vienna. And so the Tyrolean rebellion was put down.

Bergisel became the site of the TYROL PANORAMA in 2011. The cyclorama created in 1896 is the centrepiece of the museum. It was painted by the Munich artist Michael Zeno Diemer (1867-1939) in just three months. On more than 1,000 square metres of canvas, the painting depicts the fighting at the Third Battle of Bergisel on 13 August 1809.

Detail of the third Bergisel battle in the giant circular painting.

Photo: Tiroler Landesmuseen
Text: Sonia Buchroithner, Tyrolean State Museums
English translation: Christopher Marsh
Huter Michael/ Meighörner Wolfgang, Das Tirol Panorama. Ein Land – Ansichten und Durchblicke, 2012.
Pizzinini Meinrad, Andreas Hofer. Seine Zeit – sein Leben – sein Mythos, 2010.