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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

Having liberated their own valley, the rebels from the Non and Sole valleys also helped drive the French out of the other Trentino valleys. More than a thousand set off on the Molveno road to reach the town of Ranzo from which, on 21 April, they freed the Valle dei Laghi.

Having reached Santa Massenza, the insurgents then divided into two columns, the first of which aimed at the hamlet of Vezzano, while the second called upon the inhabitants of Calavino, Lasino and Cavedine to rise in revolt. Arriving at Vezzano, the first column met Captain Giovanni Lorenzoni’s company from Cles and made contact with the French, who fired on the rebels from the heights to the north-east of the town. The rebels captured the village after hours of house-to-house fighting. The rebels mourned the loss of Marco Angelo Pozzati, 30, from Bresimo, who was shot in the face while reloading his rifle by an olive tree: he was buried in the cemetery of Padergnone. Captain Lorenzoni’s company then pushed the French out of Cadine and the Bus di Vela, reaching Trento on 22 April and continuing along the valley of the River Adige together with the regular army, finally returning to their own valley from Arco on 27 April.

Andreas Hofer too passed through the Valle dei Laghi at that time: in his memoirs, Giuseppe Rizzi, Mayor of Calavino, recorded that Hofer passed by Sarche on 24 April and requested a wagon for his baggage, which was brought to Arco by Giovanni Carlini, who on 27 April travelled once more to Arco to bring Hofer back from the San Giovanni Pass.

10 cent coin of the Kingdom of Italy, minted in 1809; on the reverse is the motto “Napoleon, Emperor and King”. The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Italy in 1805.

Photo: Fondazione Museo storico del Trentino
Girardi Silvia – Tonina Osvaldo, Campane a martello. La difesa territoriale nel Distretto di Vezzano. Vezzano, Schützenkompanie “Major Enrico Tonelli”, 2009.
Leonardi Enzo, Cles capoluogo storico dell’Anaunia. Trento, TEMI, 1982.
Mosca Alberto, Viva la libertà. Moja il Re di Baviera. La vicenda di Gianantonio Braito “amministratore camerale di Cles e Malè” sullo sfondo dell’insurrezione hoferiana del 1809. Cles, Nitida immagine, 2003.