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The "Fuggerei" neighborhood - the world's oldest social housing complex still in use at the heart of Augsburg



Jakob Fugger, wealthy industrial, patron and founder of the neighborhood named after him in Augsbourg. Source www.fugger.de

Jakob Fugger “The Rich” (1459-1525), as painted by Albrecht Dürer, was the most famous member of the prominent merchants dynasty Fugger, of Augsburg. The Fuggers, who were so rich as to loan money to kings and popes, are usually considered the followers of the De Medici family, in terms of arts patronage and political and economic influence. When visiting Augsburg, one cannot help but stumble upon monuments and signs of the Fuggers at every step: churches, chapels, coat of arms, statues remind visitors of how great the family did for the city during the Renaissance era, a time from which Augsburg earned its reputation as “the northernmost city of Italy”.

Married yet childless, Jakob Fugger “the Rich”, who amassed enormous wealth thanks to his merchant’s, industrial’s, land and forest owner’s and banker’s activities, invested part of his fortune in building almshouses – what one would now call “social housing units” – in the middle of his city, in a walled-up neighborhood that came to be called after him: “die Fuggerei”. 67 houses are gathered around 8 small streets called “Gassen”, and house ca. 150 indigent catholic families for a yearly rent of less than 1 euro. As a counterpart, they are expected to say prayers for their benefactor and his dynasty 3 times a day. The lease conditions are the exact same as 500 years ago – and the gates to the neighborhood are still locked at night.

The "Fuggerei" houses in Augsburg. Source www.fugger.de

The "Fuggerei" houses in Augsburg. Source www.fugger.de

 

The houses are 2 stories high each, with separate entrances to each 500-700 sq ft apartment. The ground floor unit has a small garden and the top unit takes advantage of an attic. Dating back before the installation of street lights, the door bells each have their own unique shape: it was destined to be recognized in the dark by feeling, thus giving the address.

Heavily damaged in February 1944 by American bombings, the Fuggerei and its monuments to honour its founders were restored in their ancient splendor in the years following, and are, to this date, still used as social housing, yet equipped with modern facilities. One ground-floor apartment serves as a museum, where tourists can get an impression of what living in this unique part of the city and of the world may be and must have been like throughout the centuries.

Read more: www.fugger.de