|County of Kirchberg and Weissenhorn
Grafschaft Kirchberg und Weißenhorn
|State of the Holy Roman Empire|
Coat of arms
Imp. City Augsburg (de facto)
|Historical era||Early modern Europe|
County of Kirchberg and
Lordship of Weißenhorn
|-||Raised to Imperial nobility||1511|
Lordship of Glött
|-||Fugger lands' immediacy||1541|
|-||Joined Swabian Circle||1563|
|-||Mediatised to Bavaria
The Fugger family (German pronunciation: [ˈfʊɡɐ]) is a German family that was a historically prominent group of European bankers, members of the fifteenth and sixteenth-century mercantile patriciate of Augsburg, international mercantile bankers, and venture capitalists. Alongside the Welser family, the family controlled much of the European economy in the 16th century and accumulated enormous wealth. This banking family replaced the de' Medici family, who influenced all of Europe during the Renaissance. The Fuggers took over many of the Medicis' assets and their political power and influence.
The founder of the family was Johann Fugger, a weaver at Graben, near the Swabian Free City of Augsburg. His son, also called Johann (or Hans), settled in Augsburg, and the first reference to the Fugger family in Augsburg is his arrival, recorded in the tax register of 1357. He married Klara Widolf and became an Augsburg citizen. After Klara's death, he married Elizabeth Gfattermann. He joined the weaver's guild, and by 1396 he was ranked high in the list of taxpayers. He added the business of a merchant to that of a weaver.
His eldest son, Andreas Fugger, was a merchant in the weaving trade, and was nicknamed “Fugger the Rich” buying land and other properties. It is also now understood the Fugger family itemized and inventoried a large number of oriental rugs, an unusual undertaking during this time period.
Andreas's son, Lucas Fugger, was granted arms by the Emperor Frederick III, a golden deer on a blue background, and he was soon nicknamed “the Fugger of the Deer”. However, he was too ambitious and went bankrupt.
Hans Fugger's younger son, Jakob the Elder, founded another branch of the family, This branch progressed more steadily and they became known as the “Fuggers of the Lily” after their chosen arms of a flowering lily on a gold and blue background. Jakob was a master weaver, a merchant, and an alderman, and married Barbara Basinger, the daughter of a goldsmith. His fortune progressed, and by 1461, he was the 12th richest man in Augsburg. He died in 1469.
Jakob's eldest son, Ulrich, took over the business on his father's death, and in 1473 he provided new suits of clothes to Frederick, his son Maximilian I, and his suite on their journey to Trier to meet Charles the Bold of Burgundy and the betrothal of the young prince to Charles's daughter Maria. This started the very profitable relationship between the Fugger family and the Habsburgs.
With the help of their brother Markus in Rome Ulrich and his brother George handled remittances to the papal court of monies for the sale of indulgences and the procuring of church benefices. From 1508 to 1515 they leased the Roman mint. Ulrich died in 1510.
When the Fuggers made their first loan to the Archduke Sigismund in 1487, they took as security an interest in silver and copper mines in the Tirol. This was the beginning of an extensive family involvement in mining and precious metals. The Fuggers also participated in mining operations in Silesia. The Fuggers also owned copper mines in Hungary and their trade in spices, wool and silk extended to almost all parts of Europe.
Ulrich's youngest brother Jakob Fugger (illustration, below) was born in 1459, and was to become the most famous member of the dynasty. He married Sibylla Artzt Grand Burgheress to Augsburg in 1498, but they had no children, his wife was the daughter of an eminent Grand Burgher of Augsburg (German Großbürger zu Augsburg). This marriage opened the opportunity for Jakob himself to elevate to Grand Burgher of Augsburg and later entitled him the privilege to also access his aspiration of pursuing a seat on the city council (German Stadtrat) of Augsburg. He was elevated to the nobility of the Holy Roman Empire in May 1511, and in 1519, led a consortium of German and Italian businessmen that loaned Charles V 850,000 florins (about 95,625 oz(t) of gold) to procure his election as Holy Roman Emperor over Francis I of France. The Fuggers' contribution was 543,000 florins.
In 1494 the Fuggers established their first public company. Jakob's aim was to establish a copper monopoly by opening foundries in Hohenkirchen and Fuggerau (named for the family, in Carinthia) and by expanding the sales organization in Europe, especially the Antwerp agency. Jakob leased the copper mines in Neusohl (modern Banská Bystrica, Slovakia) in 1495, eventually making them up into the greatest mining centre of the time.
At the height of his power Jakob Fugger was sharply criticized by his contemporaries, especially by Ulrich von Hutten and Martin Luther, for urging the Pope to rescind or amend the prohibition on the levying of interest and for the sale of indulgences and benefices. The imperial fiscal and governmental authorities in Nuremberg brought action against him and other merchants trying to halt their monopolistic tendencies.
Jakob died in 1525. He is considered to be one of the richest persons of all time, and today he is well known as Jakob Fugger 'the rich'.
Jakob's successor was his nephew Anton Fugger, son of his elder brother Georg. Anton was born in 1493, married Anna Rehlinger, and died in 1560.
In 1525 the Fuggers were granted the revenues from the Spanish orders of knighthood together with the profits from mercury and silver mines. The formerly rich yield of the Tirolean and Hungarian mines decreased but Anton established new trade ties with Peru and Chile and started mining ventures in Sweden and Norway. He was involved in the slave trade from Africa to America but was more successful in the spice trade and the importation of Hungarian cattle. Eventually he was forced to renounce the Maestrazgo lease after 1542 and to give up the silver mines of Guadalcanal.
In 1511, Jakob deposited 15,000 florins as an endowment for some almshouses. In 1514, he bought up part of Augsburg and in 1516 he came to agreement with the city that he would build and provide a number of almshouses for needy citizens. By 1523, 52 houses had been built, and the Fuggerei had come into existence. It is still used today.
Anton's oldest son, Markus, carried on the business successfully and during the period 1563–1641 the Fugger company which was completely dissolved only after the Thirty Years' War, earned some 50,000,000 ducats from the production of mercury at Almadén alone.
- Gablingen (1527)
- Mickhausen (1528)
- Burgwalden (1529; (German) Burgwalden, in Landkreis Augsburg, Bavaria)
- Oberndorf an der Donau (1533)
- Lands in Hungary (1535)
- Pflege Donauwörth (1536)
- Glött (1537)
- Babenhausen und Brandenburg (1539)
- Pleß (1546)
- Rettenbach (1547)
- Lands in Alsace (1551)
- Kirchheim (1551)
- Duttenstein Castle, near Dischingen (1551; (German) Schloß Duttenstein, in Landkreis Heidenheim, Baden-Württemberg)
- Eppishausen (1551)
- Niederalfingen (1551)
- Stettenfels Castle (1551; (German) Burg Stettenfels, in Landkreis Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg)
- Reichau, near Boos (1551)
- Kettershausen und Bebenhausen (1558)
The following historic buildings are still today owned by the Fugger family:
Fuggerei in Augsburg
The castle at Babenhausen, Bavaria
The castle at Kirchheim in Schwaben
Kirchberg Castle at Illerkirchberg
Popular culture references
- In Joseph Heller's book Something Happened, Bob Slocum remarks, "The Fuggers were all right as long as they stayed in Germany; then they sent their mothers here."
- The Fugger family is referenced frequently in Robertson Davies' What's Bred in the Bone (the second volume in "The Cornish Trilogy").
- The Fuggers are mentioned in Mika Waltari's book Mikael Ludenfot. A prominent feature is the Fugger copper monopoly.
- The Fuggers are mentioned in Charles Reade's novel The Cloister and the Hearth, which is partly set in 15th-century Augsburg.
- The Fuggers play a large role in the 1999 novel Q by Luther Blissett
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fugger". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- "Fugger". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.
- Fuggers & textiles
- History of banking.The Fuggers and the Archduke
- Brechin, Gray A. (1999). Imperial San Francisco: urban power, earthly ruin. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22902-9.
- "Jakob Fugger II (1459–1525)". The Wall Street Journal.
- History of banking: The Fuggers and the Archduke
- Esterl, Mike (26 December 2008). "In This Picturesque Village, the Rent Hasn't Been Raised Since 1520". The Wall Street Journal.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fugger.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1906 New International Encyclopedia article Fugger.|
- Fugger family website (multilingual)
- Article in Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911 edition
- Fugger family on History.com
- The Fugger family manuscripts
- The Fugger Newsletters