What was the custodian of Ehrenberg? If today one single person in the Außerfern would have the post of the district gouvernor, court manager and military commander, he would approximately have the post of a custodian of Ehrenberg. That of course is a simple explanation. Among the important and unimportant custodians of Ehrenberg, one person was particularly interesting: Knight Jörg of Grossembrot.
Jörg Gossembrot – the most important custodian of Ehrenberg.
Gossembrot was born the son of a wealthy Augsburgian merchant in 1445. In 1477 he entered the service of archduke Siegmund (dubbed, „der Münzenreiche“) as a custodian and councillor of Ehrenberg, without salary. Gossembrot did not need any salary, as it was him who procured the necessary resources for the ruler anyway. Thus, he soon became the de facto ruler of Ehrenberg, because the duke had to give the castle in pledge to him for 15,000 loaned guilders in 1483.
When Siegmund had to abdicate in 1490 in favour of king Maximilian (emperor, as of 1508), Gossembrot became the financier and nearly omnipotent confidant of the ever needy king. Maximilian pledged all his income to Gossembrot and he in turn provided the necessary resources. So much power brought lots of enemies with it. Gossembrot died an inglorious death in 1502 in Füssen. Word has it that he had been assassinated by enviers with poisoned black pudding. There are also great stories about his bodily strength: It is said that he could bend horseshoes with his bare hands and stop a horse in full gallop. His grave can be found in the St. Mang church in Füssen.
Reutte has to thank Gossembrot for a lot: In 1489, Reutte was raised to a market and in 1500 Gossembrot gifted them the Saint Anna church, which is why the people of Reutte gifted him an „eternal anniversary“. Under Gossembrot, Ehrenberg had been the „secret finance center“ of the empire!
Emperor (King) Maximilian I and Ehrenberg No emperor, nor duke has visited Ehrenberg as often as emperor Maximilan did – about thirty times! Under emperor Maximilian, also dubbed the last knight, elaborate expansion plans came into being – Yet, only plans, out of which nothing spawned due to the lack of money.
Emperor Maximilian also wanted to buy Füssen, which he himself called Klein-Augsburg, due to strategic reasons for Tyrol. In the book of hunting and fishing of the emperor one can find the Plansee, when emperor Maximilian welcomed a turkish envoy at a feast.
There were ten deer hunting regions in the Außerfern: One each could be reached through castle Sigmundsburg and Elbigenalp, three through Lermoos and five through Ehrenberg. Additionally, there were 24 chamois hunting regions, each of which could be reached through Ehrenberg. There is also mention of a bear hunt at the Emperor's Well at the Plansee in 1494. To this, he invited duke Wilhelm of Bavaria. It started at the well at the Plansee – Today called the Emperor's Well – even though not named after emperor Maximilian but after emperor Ludwig IV. For his amusement, the emperor had numerous hunting assistants, for example a forest menial at Ehrenberg, Bichlbach and Lermoos. At the Ehrenberg defile, the emperor had opened a tavern with about 30 feather beds for his hunt.
Here you will experience a depictation of the emperor, that is true to the original.
Shortly after Maximilian's death, there were three chests with 613 hand bows, 29 arrows for shooting chamois, 18 till knives with sheaths, six pair of leg irons and a chest of eight coated and 14 bare hunting shafts. While the hunting of deer had always been regarded as a kingly sport, the chamois hunt in connection to the adventures was one of Maximilian's favourite hobbies. Because the big game hunting in Tyrol were the best, the emperor prefered hunting here to any other place. The hunt was an amusement to him, the hounding in particular. The „Hetz“ thus became a term for something funny. „It hasn't been this funny in a long time“, Maximilian once said, after he had caught seven chavois on the 10th of December 1515 near Ehrenberg.
Religious wars: Schmalkalden and the Thirty Years' War.
You can experience this battle's history daily at 17:00 in the battle for Ehrenberg.
The conquest of Ehrenberg The emperor recruits Landsknechte in Nesselwang in Allgäu. Sebastian Schärtlin of Burtenbach, a renowned warrior, is the commander of the Schmalkalden. He plans to attack and destroy the imperial troups in Nesselwang. Afterwards, he plans to conquer Innsbruck to prevent the reinforcements from spanish and papal troups.
The Schmalkalden had occupied Füssen already without any fight on the 8th of July 1546. The imperial troups fled without any resistance over the Lech, which at that time was the western border of Bavaria. Schwärtlin pushed forward with 24 „Fähnlein“. One „Fähnlein“ was the smallest unit of a troup, similar to a company nowadays, and consisted of roughly 300 men. Hence, there are 7000 warriors standing ready to attack at the gates of the Außerfern. Ehrenberg is scarcely defended: Exactly 71 men – unsuited for war!
At Ehrenberg, nobody sees the danger coming. No scouts had been sent out. Schärtlin, staying in Füssen himself, sent 2000 Landsknechte to march on Ehrenberg at dusk on the 10th of July. Without ever raising suspicion, they were in front of the defile's gates on the 11th of July, shortly before midnight. A surprise attack is all they need to conquer it quickly. The leader of the Schmalkalden demands the custodian of Ehrenberg give up the castle. The garrison refused resistance with the words: „He who shoots against such superiority should be strangled.“
Without a fight, the custodian yields Ehrenberg on the 11th of July at 10 o'clock in the morning. He and his garrison are granted free leave. The Schmalkalden occupy the castle and vote their commander Balthasar Fieger (from an old Tyrolean line) as the castle commander. Schärtlin gives the order to march against Innsbruck with ten Fähnlein (about 3000 men). He plans to follow after with a host of 16 Fähnlein (about 4800 men). On the very same day, the Schmalkalden reach Lermoos. Meanwhile the imperials prepare for a counter-attack and threaten Augsburg. The Schmalkalden are now ordered to cease their Tyrol campaign and turn around. Schärtlin leaves Balthasar Fieger at Ehrenberg, with a strong garrison. The area between Reutte and Lermoos is occupied by 3600 schmalkaldean warriors. They pillage and plunder through the Lech valley and slaughter the livestock.
The recapture of Ehrenberg „Brother's dispute at Ehrenberg“ The imperials send a catholic negotiator to the protestant castle commander Balthasar Fieger: Melchior Fieger. Irony of history: These two are brothers! Two discussions between the two end without any success, whereas at the second discussion 300 guilders were offered for a retreat. Both sides prepare for war now. The schmalkaldean Landsknechte in Reutte and at Ehrenberg have grown into a host of 17 Fähnlein – over 5000 men. The imperials push forward over the Fernpass to Heiterwang with a smaller troup and occupy the rise opposite Ehrenberg which at that time was called „Falkenberg“ and „Hochschanz“ today. At the 24th of August, the imperial main host arrives and prepares the Falkenberg for the offense. Once more Balthasar Fieger was to be urged to retreat.
He grants the imperial negotiators entry into the castle and blackguards them as „Hudler und Pfaffenknechte“. Mockingly, he presents half an ox to them and offers to share it with them, for the imperial troups seemed to lack provisions. On the 30th of August, the imperials come from Heiterwang and take a stand in front of the Ehrenberg defile, to secure the 400 men who worked day and night on building the fortifications. Balthasar Fieger attempts one or the other outage by having the builders shot. On the 3rd of September, the Falkenberg is ready for battle. In the very same night, seven heavy cannons are pulled onto the mountain. Reinforcements arrive on both sides. In the early hours of the 4th of September, a heavy exchange of fire takes place. Melchior Fieger, as word has it, sends a morning salute in form of a bullet over to his brother in the castle. The imperials shoot on their own castle until it's ready for the charge on the 4th and 5th of September, all the while defending the Falkenberg from a counter-attack of the Schmalkalden. Several outer and inner walls break. Suddenly, the schmalkaldean cannons stop shooting. The imperials storm the castle but find it empty. Nothing but the steaming lunch remains.
Balthasar Fieger had retreated to the schmalkaldean troups in Reutte with all his men, and on the very same afternoon leaves for Füssen with all cannons. For a short time, the dangers of war were done for Ehrenberg. In a makeshift manner, the castle is repaired from the damages that the imperial troups have inflicted on it. Emperor Karl V visits the Außerfern on the 6th of April 1552, to reach his troups at the Rhine. However, on the way between Lermoos and Bichlbach, word reaches the emperor that his confidant, the Elector Moritz of Saxony seceded from him and was on the march against him with a protestant host. An assault on the emperor, his capture, and the destruction of the council in Trient were to further the protestant cause. The emperor stays in Bichlbach over night and returns to Innsbruck on the 7th of April.
They arm in haste. Mercanaries are recruited. In the haste, one only finds „lazy, wantonly and poor riffraff“. Soon, Reutte seems like a military camp. Ehrenberg seems well fortified for the upcoming war. Moritz of Saxony occupies Füssen on the 18th of May and sends spies to Reutte. Despite the message about the strong, imperial troups, however, he marches on the Kniepass with a small elite troup on the very same day. 800 soldiers, entanglement and cannons make the pass appear impregnable. He charges, and after very short resistance, the „defendants“ flee to the imperial main host in Reutte. With them, they carry fear and confusion. The Elector follows the fleeing troups and attacks the defenseless host from the front in the plains of Reutte. The cannons of Ehrenberg are too far away and can't interfere. The commander is absent. Confusion takes over the headless host. They suffer a stunning defeat. Only few manage to escape to the fortress. The others are killed, captured or ushered into the Lech. The reports about the dead and captured aren't consistent; the highest guess: 1200 dead and 5200 captured! At Ehrenberg, they are confused. They don't even post guards in close vicinity.
A traitor who was familiar with the area led part of the Elector's troups to the other side of the Ehrenberg defile. (It is unclear whether they took the shortest way over the „Hochschanz“, the way over the Plansee and Heiterwanger See or whether they reached the Heiterwanger See over the „Mäuerlein“) On the morning of the 19th of May, they are behind the Ehrenberg defile. On the other side, the Elector waits for the signal to attack. The defendants concentrate on the Elector, when suddenly they are attacked from behind. By this surprise attack, the defile quickly fell into enemy hands, but they could not conquer the castle.
Ehrenberg, the night before the Thirty Years' War On first glance, the Außerfern seems well secured. There's a fortification at the Stieglberg at Pinswang, yet it could be avoided over Vils. Only if the fortifications in Roßschläg, Kniepass and Lechschanze were penetrated, would Reutte be ripe for the taking. To push forward to Inn Valley, Ehrenberg had to be conquered. Only a powerful enemy could afford to go around Ehrenberg and end up having it in his back. An advance over Bschlabs into the Inn Valley seems too risky without taking Ehrenberg first. Additionally, there's a fortification in the Klausenwald, so the fortress couldn't be bypassed.
The Ehrenberg defile is a strong gate construction that fills the whole valley with huge vaults and wide floors, that can accomodate an outstanding number of people. The side walls are built up the hill and the adjacent area can be easily flooded. The cannons of the castle can reach the opposing high fortification, which at the time is not yet fortified.
The byways over Ehrwald and the Tannheim Valley were bared at the fortification and the Gachtpass. But things are not what they seem! Despite the expansion of the fortifications under Maximilian the Deutschmeister, it is under a desolate condition in 1632. The Innsbruck armoury delivered cannons and ammunition to Ehrenberg throughout the winter, yet not even the fortifications of the castle were all too well maintained. The Sternschanze under the castle is „rotten and desolate and littered with filth.“. The roof of the defile requires urgent repairs and the fortifications by Reutte, at the Gachtpass and at Ehrwald are only actually there in writing.
Despite all that, the negotiations in Innsbruck, about whether the fortifications should be done in stone or wood, took two weeks. As this valuable time had passed, the remaining time only allowed for quick fortifications done in wood at the forts of Roßschläg, Knieschanze and Lechschanze. But only after the varlets from Schwaz and the array had arrived on the 18th of April 1632, the works proceed quickly. On the 21st of April 1632, the archduke orders to close in on the country's borders with 15,000 men. The array of the Ehrenberg court is already on its post. It garrisons the Vilsrain, the Wolfsberg at Reutte, the Ehrenberg defile and the Lech bridge to Aschau. There are six Fahnen – similar to a company – reinforcing Reutte from the upper and lower Inn Valley. The Fahnen of Imst, Hörtenberg (Telfs) and Innsbruck remain at Reutte, at Aschau and in the defile. The Schwazer are accomodated in Lermoos and are to defend the Pass of Ehrwald. The Petersberger (Silz) are ordered to go to Bichlbach, to help with the works on the defile. The Sonnenburger (Wilten) are relocated to Nesselwängle, to defend the Gacht and the Tannheim Valley. All in all, there are about 1500 men defending Ehrenberg's passes in the beginning of May. In April 1632, archduke Leopold personally inspects the defense preparations of Ehrenberg. Meanwhile, the development in Füssen takes a dire turn for Ehrenberg. On the 30th of April 1632, the Swedes urges Füssen to buy itself out of the occupation. On the 8th of May, a swedish trumpeter appears before Füssen and repeats the demand.
On the 14th of May 1632, Tyroleans occupy Füssen in return. On the 20th of May 1632, a counter-attack is carried out by the Swedes. As the threat of war heats up, the tyrolean ruler, archduke Leopold V, orders further war-weathered troups into the Außerfern. They are part of the host of the empire's count of Aldringen, which is why they were called „Aldringer“. They march as reinforcements to the Außerfern and appear in Reutte on the 30th of May with 1400 men. Immediately, they stretch out their demands for provisions. This war-weathered battlehost displays all the disadvantages of a homeless bunch of mercenaries. In Innsbruck, the complaints about their arbitrariness and cruelty pile up. The office of provisions in Reutte can't meet their requirements anymore, as they need 3448 pounds of bread, 1862 pounds of meat, 1904 litres of wine and 600 pounds of oats for the 166 horses. The office of provisions can not shoulder these demands, which is why the troups tried to get their provisions by force – and didn't succeed. For provisions, there are pillage runs into the Allgäu. The swedish counter-attack follows: A humongous swedish host under the lead of duke Bernhard of Weimar marches on Tyrol. On the 21st of June the Swedes are only three hours away from Füssen. Two trumpeters demand that the city gives itself up in the name of king Gustav Adolf. In the evening, the whole swedish force stands on the left shore of the Lech: Three regiments on horse and four on foot, 5000 men in total.
Six heavy cannons – eighteen horses were required to pull even one of them! - trained their barrels on the city. On the 23rd of June 1632, the Swedes stormed the city and conquered Füssen. The Außerfern – and with it all of Tyrol – is in grave danger. Archduke Leopold immediately orders all available troups into the Außerfern. He himself hurries to the threatened border. On the 25th. Here, he witnesses Ehrenberg's hopeless condition. The fortifications that were to defend a whole country, were built in a hurry and only out of wood. A swedish attack from several frontiers – Tannheim, Kniepass, Roßschläg, Ehrwald and Scharnitz – had to have dire consequences, because not even 2000 men were available to defend the Außerfern. The Swedes occupy Füssen and an attack on the Außerfern has to be expected any hour. On the 25th of July 1632, the Swedes invade the Außerfern for the first time and occupy Vils. They send a strong host out to Brandstatt (today called Musau) and scout out the roadway to Roßschläg. Unexpectedly, however, they pull out of Vils on the 27th of June, after destroying it. For the whole night from the 30th of June to the 1st of July, the Tyroleans expected an attack of the Swedes on Ehrenberg. But the Swedes are not coming. They even pull out of Vils without even leaving a garrison. The Swedes now have different goals. Their advance now aims for an imperial host of count Montecuculi, near the Danube. On the 1st of July, no Swede is left on tyrolean soil. Tyrol seems safe, with only Vils being destroyed. The swedish occupation in Füssen, however, might be a sign for them to come back.
On the 28th of July 1632, swedish riders invade the Tannheim Valley. 50 riders reach the fortresses in Weißenbach on the 8th of July, that is only defendet by 24 men of the Außerfern array. They demand the opening of the fortress and promise not to harm anyone. The next minutes show, what swedish promises mean. Before the unskilled farmers could even ponder the demands, they are surrounded by swedish riders. Two Außerfern people are shot, one beaten down and eight captured. The others manage to escape. When the word reaches Ehrenberg, the commander of the Aldringer sends several Dragoner against the Swedes. These were at the moment busy with robbing five wine-laden carriages on the Gachtpass, when imperial forces storm against them and send them running. The riders appared just in time, as the Swedes had threatened to pillage the whole Tannheim valley and set Tannheim on fire. For ten days, from the 17th to the 27th of July 1632, the luck of war seemed to be with the tyrolean ruler, archduke Leopold V. On the 16th of July, soldiers of the archduke's troups advanced to Vils. The troups of the archduke blow great holes into the city walls, but they're lacking in good marksmen. Despite three requests to yield the city and the offer to grant free leave, the swedish occupation stays resolute. On the 19th of July at 8 o'clock in the morning, they set to attack Füssen from all sides and the Swedes have to admit defeat. Now, the imperials pillage Füssen. The dukes Bernhard and Ernst of Weimar, themselves not im possession of lands, are widely feared commanders of the Swedes. Put up by the success of the imperial and tyrolean troups, they march against Swabia with 7000 men. On the 27th of July, the Swedes reach Füssen with 6000 men. On the 28th of July, the Swedes advance onto Vils with superior forces. Surprised with the fightless retreat of the fortifications' garrisons, the Swedes cross the Lech on the 29th of July at midday and march into Reutte without any fight. From the castle of Ehrenberg and the surrounding peaks, the tyrolean troups can only watch the intrusion of their enemies in Reutte. These immediately proceded with pillaging the city, and the most furious of all were the Aldringer turncloaks. They pillaged the ducal salt storage, emptied it and distributed the salt to Füssen. The inkeepers suffered most under the invaders' frenzy. Furnaces, windows and doors were destroyed and the possessions as well.
Meanwhile, colonel Wolkenstein had occupied all the entrances into the Außerfern. His main host was at the castle and at the defile of Ehrenberg. 60 mercenaries and 40 men were posted in the Klausenwald to prevent a bypassing of the castle. Ehrwald was garrisoned with 100 men of the Sonnenburger. The Ammerwald was garrisoned with 50 men. On the 30th of July, 50 mercenaries and 50 men of the array occupied the fortifications at the Rossrücken, dug out the way to the Plansee and destroyed the pier. In the afternoon of the 30th of July, three swedish rider troups marched on the Rossrücken. As they noticed the barage, they unmounted and proceded on foot. Everything was silent, because the Tyroleans wanted them to come into shot's reach. Die Swedes, who happarently had surveyed the area, turned around and returned to Breitenwang.
The dukes Bernhard and Ernst of Weimar appeared, accompanied by a host of riders, on the empty field between Reutte and Breitenwang, and surveyed the surrounding peaks. A Breitenwanger was urged to reveal information about the castle, the defile, the fortifications, the strength of the garrisons and the arrival of the bavarian reinvorcements. A citizen of Füssen, of the swedish party, was with the dukes, and urged them to attack on several fronts at once.
However, the Swedes didn't have time for that. On the evening of the 30th of July, a messenger demanded the immediate retreat and the participation of the duke of Weimar in the decisive battle of Nuremberg. That very evening, the swedish riders retreated to the Kniepass. On the morning of the 31st of July, the trumpeters called to retreat. Within few hours, no Swede was left on tyrolean soil.