500-Year-Old Village Only Costs One Dollar Per Year To Live In, But It Comes With Some Strange Rules

500-Year-Old Village Only Costs One Dollar Per Year To Live In, But It Comes With Some Strange Rules

If you’ve ever rented a home, you’ll understand that the one thing rent will never do is remain constant for long. There is, however, an exception to this rule. How about living somewhere that’s had the same rate for 500 years? Try the Fuggerei, the world’s oldest housing complex! This German community is still taking in new tenants, but living there may not be worth the price.

Fugger Himself

The Fuggerei wouldn’t exist today if not for Jakob Fugger. In 1516, the wealthy member of the royal court decided to build something to house the Catholic workers who were flooding into Augsburg, Germany. Jakob wanted somewhere they could live affordably since he knew they were sustaining themselves on meager salaries.

augsburgtourismus / YouTube

City-ception

The Fuggerei became a walled city within another city. When it was complete, residents paid one Rheinischer Gulden, which was equivalent to one month’s pay, to reside in the Fuggerei. One Rheinischer Gulden converts to about $1.07 today. “The Fuggerei is unique in the world,” Astrid Gabler, PR manager for the Fugger Foundation, said. A look inside shows why.

Fuggerei / Facebook

Fugger Family History

“A visit enables a view on a special community and its values,” Astrid said. “This is an important part of the history in Augsburg and the Fugger family, and the Fuggerei shows their development. Even more, our visitors can experience peace and spirituality.” Of course, some might call that an overly optimistic view.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

From Neighborhood to Settlement

The complex has duplicate red-roofed structures that are two floors, with an apartment on each, and by 1523 it reached 52 buildings. The Fuggerei eventually gained its own town square and a Catholic church, becoming a true settlement, instead of a walled-in neighborhood. Soon, local officials had to look to the future.

Fuggerei / Facebook

New Era

Jakob donated his project to Augsburg in 1521 under the condition that subsequent Fuggers would care for the community and enforce its rules, which he believed would only lengthen the Fuggerei’s life in the city. The 16th-century town government agreed to Jakob’s terms, and the historical complex exchanged hands. Granted, Fugger’s policies were pretty intense.

Thoughty2 / YouTube

How to be Fuggerei

To live in the Fuggerei, the applicant must be of Catholic faith, low income, zero debt, and be “upstanding” in the community (whatever that meant). Besides these requirements, you had to promise to say three daily prayers for the Fugger family. Then there was the matter of the curfew.

Goethe-Institut New Zealand / Facebook

Donating with a Deal

If you were caught outside of the walls after 10 p.m., you had to pay admission to reenter the Fuggerei. Though the policies were harsh, Fugger’s community took off. In many ways, the town is much like Jakob left it, though it would inevitably evolve over the years.

Gerd Eichmann / Wikimedia Commons

Creative Solution

The Fuggerei is still standing in Augsburg and housing residents. Because of its age, there are still some odd features floating around, such as its doorbell pulls. With each apartment being identical, residents would accidentally go into each other’s homes. To resolve this, the construction team built unique iron pulls for every door.  

Gerd Eichmann / Wikimedia Commons

Historical Touches

Besides the iron pulls, there are still hand-pump wells scattered across the grounds. There’s also a cast-iron fountain from 1744, a few buildings with their original 16-century address numbers, and an ancient school, hospital, restaurant, beer garden, and church are still functional.

Björn Golda / Flickr

Current Stats

About 150 people now live in the Fuggerei’s 67 buildings and 147 apartments between 500 and 700 square feet. They still pay $1.07, and regardless of age or marital status, as long as they’ve lived in Augsburg for two years, and are of need, they can apply for residency. Once you’re in, you’re still responsible for some demanding duties.

Germany1900 / tumblr

Caring for Their Community

The people of the Fuggerei must still say the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed for the Fuggers, and now, they also have to work a part-time job for the complex. Some residents are landscapers or a part of the night watch crew. It’s definitely not your typical lifestyle, but the Fuggerei has attracted some high-profile residents.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Famous Names

During its 500 years of renters, there have been a few interesting people who came and left the Fuggerei. Frank Mozart moved into House 14 on Mittlere Gasse in 1681. Though he has a famous last name, his great-grandson would be the one with a legacy: composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Hunted for Witchcraft

Another notable resident was 48-year-old Dorothea Braun, who fell prey to Augsburg’s witch hunts in the 1600s. Before being accused of witchcraft, she rented the upper level of the gatehouse at Ochsengasse 52 and worked as a caregiver in the Fuggerei hospital. Her ending was rather tragic.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Terrible Punishment

The person who questioned Dorothea’s devotion to Christianity was her 11-year-old daughter. Under torture, Dorothea confessed to fake crimes. On September 26, 1625, she was beheaded and then burned to keep her spirit from returning to her body. There’s no record of what her daughter’s reaction was after her mother’s execution. 

waterman75 / flickr

Mostly Clean History

With 500 years of war and other dark historical periods, of course the Fuggerei was tainted by scandal now and again. Even so, the Fuggers have managed to keep things quiet inside of the town. The Fugger Foundation maintains that keeping a comfortable environment is integral to its mission.

Hayling Billy / flickr

Safe and Secure Home

“The Fuggerei would like to be a home for its residents, where all can feel safe and secure. But the Fuggerei is more than just a cheap roof over one’s head,” Astrid explained. “Above all, the residents should lead successful lives despite being in need.” These tenants do often undergo drastic transformations.

Mostly Tim / flickr

Peace from Their Problems

“Residents very often mention that they have at last found peace from their cares and problems here,” Astrid said. “Some move into the Fuggerei under extreme circumstances, recoup their strength, and can move out again after a certain time.” Sometimes people stay for a few years, and others remain there for life, never paying more than a Euro per year.

Nicoleta Wagner / flickr

Is it Worth it?

The foundation has plenty of reasons to paint a beautiful image of residential life. What about someone who actually rents in the Fuggerei? Ilona Barber has lived in the complex for five years and chooses to work part-time at the complex’s tour admissions desk.

Martin Kluger / Wikimedia Commons

An Easier Time

“Living here has given me peace of mind,” Ilona said. “Before coming here, you don’t have enough money and you have to try to survive paying rent and life’s expenses. But here, you have peace of mind. You can afford things you couldn’t buy before. It’s relaxing.”

kyolshin / Getty Images

They Like it

While some of the rules are restrictive, this kind of society seems to work for the people living in the Fuggerei. The complex is willing to make some timely changes too: they’ve lifted the 10 p.m. curfew, for instance. Despite being located in a modern country, the past will be seemingly always be preserved in the Fuggerei. But not a few hundred kilometers away, there’s another, more sinister link to Germany’s past.

Martin Kluger / Wikimedia Commons

In 2006, a gang of road workers were digging at Schöneck-Kilianstädten, about 12 miles from the city of Frankfurt. Then, out of the blue, their tools turned up something from the earth that came as a complete shock. There, strewn in a ditch, the workers found a collection of human bones; and at that stage, of course, the age of the bones was impossible to know.

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/modules.php?op=modload&name=a312&file=index&do=showpic&pid=166482

Understandably disturbed by this unexpected discovery of human remains, then, the workers downed tools and informed the authorities. So, the bones were subsequently removed from the ground, packaged in newspaper and sent to the University of Mainz; and there, a team led by bio-archaeologist Christian Meyer examined them.

https://www.livescience.com/51884-neolithic-massacre-mass-grave.html

Meyer and his team eventually established that the bones were some 7,000 years old, from the linear pottery culture era we’ve already heard about. Furthermore, despite the fact that the human remains were in an advanced state of decay, it was nevertheless clear that they had originally been thrown into a ditch and then covered with soil.

https://www.livescience.com/51884-neolithic-massacre-mass-grave.html

More specifically, the bones from 26 skeletons of both adults and children had been dumped into a V-shaped ditch just over 20 feet long. But this was no normal linear pottery culture burial. Usually, the people of the time buried their dead in individual graves in cemeteries, often leaving pottery and other goods with the departed. These bodies, however, appeared to have been carelessly tossed into their last resting place.

http://www.marres.education/G-PF3147.htm

What’s more, the 26 individuals had clearly not died peacefully in their beds. Fractured skulls exhibited telltale signs of having been smashed in with rudimentary stone age weapons. Animal bone arrowheads were also found embedded in some of the remains. These people, perhaps an entire village, had been violently murdered.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:N%C3%A9olithique_0001.jpg

Just as horrifically, there were also signs that these unfortunate people may have been tortured. Many of them had had their shin bones brutally smashed, although it’s impossible to ascertain whether this had been done before or after death. Yet if it did occur when the victims were alive, then this would be evidence of previously unknown levels of barbarity from this era.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

University of Illinois anthropologist Lawrence Keeley is skeptical of the torture theory, however. Talking to The Guardian, he said, “Torture focuses on the parts of the body with the most nerve cells: the feet, pubis, hands and head. I can’t think of anywhere that torture involved breaking the tibia.”

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Deutschordensmuseum,_Jungsteinzeit_im_Taubertal._Steinwerkzeuge.jpg

Meanwhile, Meyer himself said, “Such mutilations were done to prevent enemy spirits from following home, haunting or doing mischief to the killers. These motives seem most likely to me. Or perhaps it was done to further revenge by crippling the enemy’s spirits in the afterlife.” Whatever the explanation, though, this was evidence of shocking brutality.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pobull_Fhinn_20090608_from_the_east.jpg

One other noticeable thing about the human bones found in the ditch was that there were no remains of young women among them. Potentially shedding light on this, the archaeologists told The Guardian that while everyone else from the village was killed, the young women might have been abducted. The researchers added that the women may have been valued as potential child bearers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

Keeley also expanded upon this theory about the fate of the women. “The only reasonable interpretation of these cases, as here, is that a whole typically-sized linear pottery culture hamlet or small village was wiped out by killing the majority of its inhabitants and kidnapping the young women,” he said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

And there is other evidence that this was an organized raid conducted with the intention of wiping out a small community. You see, the location of the village and the massacre was near to a boundary that formed a dividing line between two tribes. This could, therefore, have made conflict all the more likely.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NBAM_Neolithikum_-_Knochenhammer.jpg

The linear pottery culture people had spread westwards from the Middle East in this period of the Neolithic era. Farmers were clearing the land for cultivation and creating settled communities. This in turn meant that in some locations land would have been at a premium, intensifying competition for resources. And this competition could have potentially led to open warfare.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neolithic_expansion.svg

Evidence of conflicts does in fact exist from other linear pottery culture sites where mass graves have been discovered. One example, also in modern Germany – and known as the Talheim death pit – came to light in 1983. The grave at Talheim had 34 sets of human remains, including those of 16 children.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

Furthermore, some of the skeletons at Talheim exhibited clear signs of old wounds that had healed, which could suggest that violent conflicts were not uncommon. That said, the bones also showed signs of traumas that certainly must have been the causes of death. Many of the skulls had suffered wounds indicating blows with stone adzes; some also appeared to have been hit by arrows.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

Another mass grave was also uncovered at Schletz-Asparn in modern-day Austria, some 20 miles north of Vienna. The number of bodies disinterred there was 67, but only part of the site has been excavated, and the burial pit may contain as many as 300. The 67 that have been examined all showed clear signs of violent death, however.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

Just as at the Schöneck-Kilianstädten site, the Schletz-Asparn grave contained a disproportionate number of men; this again indicates that women may have been abducted rather than slaughtered. Archaeologists also uncovered evidence that this site had been fortified. And this would suggest that people lived in a state where they felt the need to protect themselves – perhaps from violent raids by neighboring communities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

So, what does all of this compelling evidence of violence, mayhem and murder tell us? Archaeologist Christian Meyer told The Guardian, “On one hand you are curious about finding out more about this, but also shocked to see what people can do to each other.” He believes that the people who committed the massacre wanted to demonstrate their power by slaughtering an entire community.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s

And Lawrence Keeley says these massacres show that the idea of ancient communities living together in peace is a fantasy. Speaking to The Guardian, he said, “This represents yet another nail in the coffin of those who have claimed that war was rare or ritualized or less awful in prehistory or, in this instance, the early Neolithic.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNyDCh5E21s