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 Sandhof Inn

Its current appearance dates back to the 17th century, when the inn came into the possession of the Hofer family. Parts of the cellar walls date from the 13th century.
In the Middle Ages the Sandhof was known as the “Auflegerhof”, the last stopping place for wagons coming up from Meran. From this point on pack animals and porters would take goods over the Jaufenpass to Sterzing. Andreas Hofer too was active in the pack-animal business. At his time the Sandhof was the best-known inn in the entire valley and was known as the “Golden Crown”.
The name Sandhof comes from the floods caused by the nearby River Passer. The torrent often devastated the valley floor, leaving behind large quantities of sand and gravel; for example in 1774, when the Kummersee Lake below the Timmelsjoch Pass burst its banks, destroying many houses and nearly every bridge as far away as Meran.
When Andreas Hofer died, the Sandhof was heavily in debt. However, with the help of certain creditors, his widow Anna managed to retain possession. In 1838, two years after her death, the Emperor Ferdinand I bought the Sandhof, which had already become a tourist attraction. The innumerable guest books filled since then contain many illustrious names: the highest-ranking guest was the Emperor Francis Joseph I, whose visit in 1899 on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Tyrolean rebellion then turned into the largest ever folk festival in the Passeier Valley. The Andreas Hofer memorial chapel was consecrated on that occasion; it stands directly next to today’s open-air exhibition and contains a picture cycle from the life of Hofer. Since 1982 the Sandhof has had the status of a protected monument.

The Sandhof, Andreas Hofer’s birthplace and living space, circa 1920.

Photo: MuseumPasseier
Text: Josef Rohrer, 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