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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

Church of the Madonna of Loreto

Between the end of September and the beginning of October 1809 the French managed to suppress the Tyrolean popular uprising in Trentino. A first contingent of 4,000 soldiers, led by General Peyri, advanced on 26 September into Vallagarina, reaching Trento two days later. Their entry into the city, like the occupation of the town of Vezzano to secure their western flank, was accompanied by cruel and criminal acts. On 2 October the line of resistance established by the rebels along the Avisio River was assaulted by the French troops: 300 Tyroleans died in the clashes at Lavis, while another sixty, taken prisoner, were brutally shot by the Church of the Madonna of Loreto. Only Cristiano Mittempergher di Serrada, who served in Captain Rensi’s company, could save himself from the massacre: wounded by a ball in the chest, he hid among the corpses and played dead: escaping during the night, he took refuge in a cave. He stayed there for two days, then reached the town of Verla, where he was welcomed by his fellow soldiers and treated by the local doctor Luigi Bevilacqua.
On 6 October the Tyroleans, led by their commander Josef Eisenstecken and sent specifically by Andreas Hofer to shore up the now desperate situation, had a brief success when they forced the French to retreat south of Trento. The latter, however, received further reinforcements and returned to the attack, overcoming all resistance. On 14 October, General Peyri, culpable of excessive brutality, was transferred and replaced by General Vial, who crushed the last vestiges of the rebellion.

Text: Marco Ischia, Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Andreis, Girolamo: Andrea Hoffer o la sollevazione del Tirolo del 1809. 1856.
Casna, Andrea und Davide Allegri: Lavis nel vortice delle guerre napoleoniche. 2010.
Dalponte, Lorenzo: Uomini e genti trentine durante le invasioni napoleoniche 1796–1810. 1984.
Girardi, Silvia und Osvaldo Tonina: Campane a martello. La difesa territoriale nel Distretto di Vezzano, Schützenkompanie „Major Enrico Tonelli“ Vezzano. 2009.
Zieger, Antonio: Andrea Hofer. Ricordi dell’insurrezione del 1809. 1960.