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
Literature:
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 Park

It was the morning of 20 February 1810 when Andreas Hofer was taken from the Vase Tower and led to the place of execution. Two six-shot salvoes were discharged, which were not enough to make him fall; the platoon commander was, in fact, forced to put an end to his life with a last close shot in the presence of a silent and moved crowd. The body was then taken to the nearby parish church of San Michele, which has now disappeared following the Allied bombings of the Second World War, and in the presence of a large number of people, the archpriest Don Alessandro Borghi celebrated the obsequies. The corpse was buried in the small cemetery adjacent to the church and moved to the Court Church in Innsbruck in 1823.
In the following years, two commemorative plaques were placed on the site of the shooting on the initiative of some Austrian officers: the first in 1850, the second in 1860. In 1891 the Italian State sponsored the construction of a new memorial stone which was blown up in 1961 in a moment of particular political tension but was immediately restored thanks to the prompt initiative of the municipal administration of Mantova. In the seventies, with the aim of creating a new monument, a competition was launched which was won by the Tyrolean artist Elmar von Ottenthal; the expected costs for the construction of the work were however considered excessive and the initiative was temporarily shelved. It was the preparations for the celebrations of the 175th anniversary of the Tyrolean liberation risings (1809), scheduled for 1984, that put the idea of creating a new and more appropriate monument in Mantova at the centre of the initiatives. The Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen-South Tyrol, the Tyrolean Diet and the Municipality of Mantova therefore committed themselves not only to the construction of a new memorial stone but also to the general arrangement of the surrounding garden. The intention to create a park of memory led, together with the choice of new and significant plantings, to the widening of the driveway and the creation of a square, where a three-step plinth was placed and on it the new monumental stele on which the name and date of death of Andreas Hofer were engraved.
The park and monument were inaugurated on 18 February 1984.

Text: Claudia Bonora Previdi
Translation: Joint Office of the European Region
Bibliography:
Sarzi Roberto, Andreas Hofer in Mantua in chains… Popular sympathy for the victim of Napoleonic despotism. The trial and conviction of the Tyrolean hero, 2006.
Gozzi Giancarlo, For God, for the Emperor, for the Fatherland. The historical fact of Andreas Hofer in national publications and in the Mantuan tradition, 2009.