Most of the sights in Augsburg are on or near Rathausplatz. The town’s main street, Maximilianstrasse, is especially attractive, lined with shops and old burghers’ houses and studded with fountains by the Renaissance Dutch sculptor Adrien de Vries. Step off the avenue into the courtyard of the Damenhof, or Ladies’ Court, of what was once the Fugger-Stadtpalais (Fugger City Palace), one-time home of the town’s wealthiest Renaissance family.
Meet the Fuggers
By the late 1400s Augsburg had become a center of banking and finance thanks to the efforts of the Fuggers, an incredibly wealthy local family. The aptly named Jakob Fugger the Rich (1459–1529) served as the Holy Roman Empire’s banker and was the financier behind the Hapsburgs, who were in debt to him to the tune of some four million ducats. Jakob was so rich and so powerful that during an exchange with Charles I he had the temerity to say, “It is well known that without my help, Your Majesty would no longer wear the crown of the Holy Roman Empire.” It was this same Jakob who founded the Fuggerei, the world’s first almshouses, in exchange for the daily prayers of its impoverished residents.
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