The Fuggerei is the world’s oldest social housing complex still in use. It is a walled enclave within the city ofAugsburg, Bavaria. It takes it name from the Fugger family and was founded in 1516 by Jakob Fugger the Younger (known as “Jakob Fugger the Rich”) as a place where the needy citizens of Augsburg could be housed. By 1523, 52 houses had been built, and in the coming years the area expanded with various streets, small squares and a church. The gates were locked at night, so the Fuggerei was, in its own right, very similar to a small independent medieval town. It is still inhabited today, affording it the status of being the oldest social housing project in the world.
The rent was and is still one Rheinischer Gulden per year (equivalent to 0.88 euros), as well as three daily prayers for the current owners of the Fuggerei — the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed. The conditions to live there remain the same as they were 480 years ago: one must have lived at least two years in Augsburg, be of the Catholic faith and have become indigent without debt. The five gates are still locked every day at 10 PM.
Housing units in the area consist of 45 to 65 square meter (500–700 square foot) apartments, but because each unit has its own street entrance it simulates living in a house. There is no shared accommodation; each family has its own apartment, which includes a kitchen, a parlour, a bedroom and a tiny spare room, altogether totaling about 60 square metres. Ground-floor apartments all have a small garden and garden shed, while upper-floor apartments have an attic. All apartments have modern conveniences such as television and running water. One ground-floor apartment is uninhabited, serving as a museum open to the public. The doorbells have elaborate shapes, each being unique, dating back to before the installation of streetlights when residents could identify their unit by feeling the handle in the dark.
The Fugger family initially established their wealth in weaving and merchandising. Jakob the Rich expanded their interests into silver mining and trading with Venice. Additionally he was a financier and counted the Vatican as a notable client. The family became financial backers of the Habsburg family and he financed the successful election of Charles V as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519.
The Fuggerei was first built between 1514 and 1523 under the supervision of the architect Thomas Krebs, and in 1582 Hans Holl added St. Mark’s Church to the settlement. Expanded further in 1880 and 1938, the Fuggerei today comprises 67 houses with 147 apartments, a well, and an administrative building.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s great-grandfather, the mason Franz Mozart, lived in the Fuggerei between 1681 and 1694, and is commemorated today by a stone plaque.
The Fuggerei was heavily damaged by the bombings of Augsburg during World War II, but has been rebuilt in its original style.
The Fuggerei is supported by a charitable trust established in 1520 which Jakob Fugger funded with an initial deposit of 10,000 guilders.[1 According to the Wall Street Journal the trust has been carefully managed with most of its income coming from forestry holdings, which the Fugger family favored since the 17th century after losing money on higher yielding investments. The annual return on the trust has ranged from an after inflation rate of 0.5% to 2%. Currently the trust is administered by Wolf-Dietrich Graf von Hundt.
As of 2011, the fee for a tour into the Fuggerei is 4.00 euro — over four times the annual rent.
- All the above is taken from Wikipedia! This story about the Fuggerei reminds me of our visit to Augsburg.
In 1977 Peter and I visited my cousin Renate and her family in Munich. From Munich we did a day trip to visit my uncle Edmund and his wife Flora in Augsburg. Among other things we visited with them the Augsburg Fuggerei. For lunch they invited us to the close by FUGGEREI STUBE.
14 thoughts on “The Fuggerei is the world’s oldest social housing complex still in use.”
Fascinating! I’ve always wanted to visit Augsburg properly (I changed trains a few times there but never got beyond the station) – maybe one day I’ll make it.
It is a great place. The main street has buildings reflecting the wealth of the former trading post.
We have some lovely memories of the place, Cat, spending the day with Uncle and Flora. Gee, this goes back to 1977!
How about it, Cat, did you make it in the meantime?
Not yet – but who knows! It isn’t so very far away!
If you go, Cat, let me know what the Fuggerei looks like now! 🙂
I remember the day well. Flora, a Berliner speaking with the out of place accent, was a retired GP who did some work for the Army checking up new recruits. She was a no-nonsense person who liked to be in charge. In the restaurant, she was the queen.
She had ordered a huge platter laden with cheeses and cold cuts. We could not eat all and she ordered all the left-overs being packed up to take home.
The building in the main street seemed to be covered in gold and great churches could be seen. The Fuggers of the 16th century financed half of the known world.
It is quite impressive how rich the Fuggers were. Their housing project is a good example of what can be done for needy people.
Yes, Flora was quite a character. Both she and Uncle were marvellous hosts to us. They walked with us showing us very interesting places around the city centre. After lunch it was back to their luxurious apartment for coffee and yummy cakes.
Uncle was overjoyed when he could hand us a minuscule grandfather clock to take home as a gift. We loved this little clock because it was given with so much joy and reminded us of that beautiful day we had spent in Augsburg. Alas, sadly in Australia it soon broke to pieces! 🙂
Yes, the idea of ‘owning’ own place is fairly new. We had no idea of that concept before we came to Australia. We always rented in Holland and it was as secure as owning.
Social housing has a lot going for it. Just look at what the Fuggerei achieved and it is still going.
Something like that in Australia would now be a shopping mall or a McDonalds.
This uncle Edmund and his wife lived in a patrician. very spacious apartment. And I am sure they did not own it but paid rent, which they presumably could very well afford. I assume each one would have had a very good pension. As Peter mentioned, Flora substituted her income by doing some casual medical work.
Edmund as well as Flora were widowed when they decided to get married. Edmund seemed to be quite content to have resolute Flora for company in his old age.
Very interesting background. Excellent example of German determination to retain the commons. As I understand, resistance to enclosure was strongest in Germany. It was only under the Third Reich that customary rights were abolished in many regions. It’s good to see this institution survived the Nazi regime.
Yes, it is quite amazing, Stuart, that the institution survived over such a long time. However it says In the Wikipedia that the Fuggerei was heavily damaged by the bombings of Augsburg during World War II, but has been rebuilt in its original style. I am glad that it was rebuilt in its original style! 🙂