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

Betrayal, capture, interrogation

Franz Raffl, originally from the municipality of Schenna, later farmed the Grubhof at Prantach (a hamlet by St. Leonhard in Passeier): as a neighbour, he knew of Andreas Hofer’s hiding place and reported this to the Judge of Passeier, who sent him to General Huard de Saint-Aubin in Meran: he in turn was able to surprise Hofer with some 600 soldiers at the snow-covered hut on the Pfandler Alm. Captain Renouard and his troops led Andreas Hofer, together with his fifteen-year-old son Johann, his wife Anna and the scribe Kajetan Sweth past onlookers through the Passeier Valley to this inn, where General Huard de Saint-Aubin Hofer was waiting to interrogate him. The interrogation took place in a room that later became known as the “Hofer-Stube”, which still exists on the ground floor of the house. Nothing is known of the questions and answers during the interrogation, merely speculative details. Historians disagree as to whether Hofer was transferred to Bozen that same day or, as shown on a plaque on a house opposite the nearby Capuchin Church (Hilpoldhaus), spent the night in the local jail.

The “Gasthaus Goldener Adler”, later the “Graf von Meran”

The “Goldener Adler”, an inn and tavern, was owned by one Johann Ladurner and had since 1793 been one of Meran’s most popular locales. Around 1850 it possessed “13 prettily furnished rooms, six of which look out onto deserted green fields, ideal for lovers of peace and quiet”. On Sunday, 28 January 1810, General Huard de Saint-Aubin conducted his interrogation here. The room was later renamed the “Hofer-Stube”. The relief above this sign, commemorating the interrogation and duly decorated by the Meran riflemen each year on 20 February, the anniversary of Hofer’s death, was affixed in 1884. The inn changed its name in 1848 and has since been known as the “Gasthof zum Grafen von Meran”. The hotel is currently owned by Petra Zorzi.

The “Gasthof Graf von Meran” on a correspondence card, ca. 1899.

Lithography according to a design by the artist F.C.A.M. Reisch, Meran.
Text: Albin Pixner, MuseumPasseier
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Literature:
Graf Werner, Andreas Hofer und die Passeirer im Jahr 1809. 2009.
Oberhofer Andreas, Der Andere Hofer. Der Mensch hinter dem Mythos. Schlern-Schriften, 2009.
Oberhofer Andreas, Weltbild eines Helden. Andreas Hofers schriftliche Hinterlassenschaft. Schlern-Schriften, 2008.
Pamer Veit, Hotel Graf von Meran. Ein Patrizierhaus stellt sich vor. 2018.
Rohrer Josef, Heroes & Hofer. When Andreas Hofer came in the museum. 2009