It was our last day of vacation and we woke up under a heavy rain….no problem. We took our time over breakfast, and then a bus to a nearby village.
Hall in Tirol is a town located at an altitude of 574 m, about 5 km from the state’s capital Innsbruck.
Hall in the County of Tyrol was first mentioned as a salina (saltern) near Thaur castle in a 1232 deed. The current name dates back to 1256, and similarly to Halle, Hallein, Schwäbisch Hall or Hallstatt is derived from the Celtic word for salt. Since the 13th century the salt mine at Absam in the Hall Valley north of the town formed the main industry of the town and its surroundings. The first adit was laid out in 1272 at the behest of Count Meinhard II of Tyrol, with the brine channeled by a 10 km long pipeline to the evaporation pond at Hall. The importance of the salt industry, which exported goods as far as Switzerland, the Black Forest, and the Rhine valley, is reflected in Hall’s coat of arms, which shows two lions holding a cask of salt.
In 1303 Hall became a town. The rights that came with this, as well as the business associated with trading from Hall downriver on Inn and Danube, turned it into the leading market and trading place in the northern parts of Tyrol. Its development suffered a serious setback in 1447, when large parts of the upper town area were razed by a fire. In 1477 it got the right of coinage, when the Tyrolian mint was moved from Meran to Hall. It was here, in 1486, that the first high-grade silver Taler, the precursor of the dollar, was coined. In the 16th century the mint in Hall also introduced the world’s first automated coining machine. Today a reconstruction of this revolutionary machine can be seen in the Hall Mint Museum in the Burg Hasegg. In the 15th and 16th century, Hall was one of the most important towns in the Habsburg Empire. This period saw the construction of many of the churches, monasteries and convents that still shape the appearance of the town. Today Hall has the biggest intact old town in the western part of Austria. During the Habsburg Monarchy a military garrison was established in Hall. This, along with the large freight train station, became a target of heavy bombardment during World War II, which destroyed the train station but left the old town almost unscathed. From 1938 to 1974 the town was called Solbad Hall – Solbad was dropped from the town name a few years after the salt mining was closed in 1967.
Salvatorgasse ends by a crossing of several streets among whi. At their intersection can be found a small square with the Sisigmund, Archduke of Austria, fountain . In 1477 Arciduke Sisigmund,also known as “Sisigmund the Rich” moved the royal mint from Meran in South Tirol to Hall. His decision to have the first thaler, the Haller gulden, that was minted in 1486 was a real stroke of genius. By introducing the coin, Sisigmund no longer depended on the expensive inport of gold.
The Haller Damenstift was built in its current form in 1567 by Ferdinand II for his two unmarried sisters Archduchess Magdalena and Helena. The two women moved into the monastery in 1569 with 40 nuns. The monastery and the Collegiate Church (now Sacred Heart Basilica) were consacrated in 1570. The complex, built by Giovanni Luchese, was adorned in 1611 and again in 1691 with substantial, impressive stucco. In 1783 the monastery was dissolved and a majority of the art treasures destroyed. The former convent was re-opened in 1912 and is now a sanctuary for the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
The church is well worth seeing inside. There is a lot of stucco work which is painted in grey and white. Good size paintings line the side walls. The Main Altar is beautiful and is set under the dome, it can only be viewed from a distance as wrought iron gates stop visitors from going any further.
Below, the Roman Catholic parish church of St. Nicholas. In any town of this size in 1281, the parish church would be smaller. It turns out, this church was much smaller too, that was until salt was found and brought work to Hall in Tirol. There were too many parishoners for the church, so in 1352, it was rebuilt and enlarged. Still people came here to settle and work, so in the 15th century, the Church was enlarged again in the gothic style that it is today. In the second half of the 17th century re-styling of the church in Baroque began, then in 1875, a fire destroyed the roof. The 67 metre tower with the onion dome was rebuilt and a new figure of St. Nicholas was added then.
At the choir vault, the main image is of city hall in the protection of the Virgin Mary and numerous saints. Surrounding this representation are images of the four Western Church Fathers ( Gregory , Jerome , Augustine and Ambrose ). The painting of the Baroque high altar, created in 1657, shows the seated Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus surrounded by angels, the martyrs Stephen and Lawrence, St.. Kassian and the patron Saint Nicholas. The nave has more ceiling paintings, these are depicting scenes from the life of the saint of the Church of St. Nicholas. Some of the inside can only be viewed from behind lovely decorative wrought iron gates. There are several Altars in the church. The northern cross altar shows a plastic Crucifixion group in front of a Sacred Heart image. Under the organ loft are stations of the cross (1742) and next to the main entrance stands the baptismal font from the 14th century, to the left the stoup (1506).
Another must see, is the Waldauf Chapel in the Parish Church of St. Nicholas.The Chapel was established in 1281 and was initially Gothic in style but through changes over the centuries, it is now of baroque appearance. The Waldauf Chapel, located in the northern part of the nave in St. Nicholas Parish church, is named after Florian Waldauf zu Waldenstein, an Austrian knight who bequeathed his collection of relics to the church upon his death in 1501. He was a private assistant to Emperor Maximilian I. Over time, he became a wealthy and powerful man who had a very unusual hobby. He chose to collect relics of grade-B saints from all over Europe. In 1501, his collection was opened to the general public. I didn’t know these were in the Church, so it was quite a surprise to see a large collection of skulls and an assortment of bones carefully arranged on red velvet cushions. Each skull is veiled with a gauzy fabric, blurring its features, and each is crowned with a golden halo.
Lunch time was at a cozy little gasthof. Outside it was raining like hell, but we didn’t care for the moment….when we finished lunch rain has stopped too…
Out again in Oberen Stadtplatz….
…the Marienbrunnen is a quiet an unusual fountain with the water coming out of long swan’s necks attached to the face of a man.
The next interesting building we came across is the Rathaus (City Hall) and it used to be the city Castle, no wonder it looked such a strong defensive building. Count Henry of Gorizia-Tyrol (1295-1335), who was also King of Bohemia for a short time called the Castle home. In 1406, he gave Duke Leopold IV of Habsburg the building which is now used as the Town Hall. During the great fire in 1447, quite a bit of the building was destroyed, but it was rebuilt not long after. The former town fortress is distinguished by its huge hipped roof. It also has a crenellated wall and is made up of two parts: the eastern section has a great Renaissance stone doorway, while the western section boasts the Königshaus, with a fine council chamber and its beamed ceiling from 1451.
A Jesuit college was founded in 1571 to minister to the spiritual needs of the convent. The Order also ran a grammar school from 1573. The church, consecrated in 1610 (stucco from 1653), was “Baroquised” in the second half of the 17th century. The monastery was dissolved in 1773. Nowadays, the regional courts of justice forms part of the spacious complex, which boasts one of the Tyrol’s finest Baroque inner courtyards.
Hasegg Castle is located on the other side of the road to the old historic centre. It is worth going over to see the Castle that dates to the early 1300s. The building was originally erected to protect the salt mines, the shipping industry, the bridge across the river Inn and the old Roman Road. Then in 1477, Sigismund, Archduke of Austria established the Castle’s Mint. The first dollar-size silver coin was struck in 1486, the Guldengroschen. Between 1748 and 1768, Hasegg Castle became famous for its minting of silver Thalers of which it produced over 17 million specimens. The mint in Hasegg Castle is a museum where demonstrations of historical minting techniques are given from time to time.
It was a very interesting visit and it really was like going backward in time….too bad it was the last chapter of our stay in Austria. But the country has so many other beautiful places and treasures to discover….