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

The sanctuary of San Romedio

The first days of July 1809 found Andreas Hofer in the Val di Non, aiming to organise the defence of that part of the Tyrol. On 6 July, in Revò, the commanders of the companies from the Noce valleys met to discuss matters at a congress with delegates from Lavis, Rendena and Giudicarie. On the same day Hofer was in Cles, where he was enthusiastically welcomed. On 7 July Hofer made a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of San Romedio, accompanied by 600 men. The prior, Filippo Giacomo de Betta of Castel Malgolo, noted the event in the local records and had a commemorative plaque installed: it can be seen to this day at the entrance to the sanctuary. The next day Hofer, after spending the night in Coredo at the house of the Pastorelli family, left the Val di Non and headed for Mezzolombardo. Andreas Hofer must have visited the sanctuary of San Romedio at a young age, when he was living in Cles as a servant of the de Miller family. He was deeply religious, as were all Tyroleans at the time. It may be no coincidence that, in the critical days of July 1809, Hofer would invoke divine protection from Romedio, the Tyrolean saint originally from Thaur near Innsbruck, who around AD 1000 lived there as a hermit in the Val di Non. The Tyroleans were however unaware that the Habsburg army had just been decisively defeated by Napoleon at Wagram and forced to sign the armistice of Znaim, which required the rapid withdrawal of Imperial troops from the region. Thus began the second phase of the 1809 uprising, which saw Tyroleans fighting alone for the freedom of their land.

Text: Marco Ischia, Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Bibliography:
Mosca, Alberto: Andreas Hofer nelle Valli del Noce. 2009.
Various authors: Andreas Hofer 1809–2009, Anno XVII, no. 109. 2010.