After minting coins for the Vatican and making a name for himself as one of Europe’s greatest early entrepreneurs, Jakob Fugger (aka “Jakob the Rich”) turned his eye toward those in need. What emerged from this vision has persisted as the world’s oldest charitable social housing complex.
In the year 1517, construction began on Fugger’s vision for what would become the golden-walled enclave of Fuggerei, which he created as a way of providing affordable homes for day laborers, artisans and their families. Though it sustained heavy damage during a bombing raid in WWII, the community was restored to its pre-raid condition, where it has remained uninterruptedly inhabited since its founding in 1520. The city-within-a-city consists of private residences including 67 houses, 147 apartments, St. Mark’s Church, and an administrative building.
In the half-millennia since Fuggerei’s inception, the community has become one of Augsburg’s most popular destinations. For just €4, visitors are given a tour behind the walls, including a glimpse inside one single apartment left intentionally uninhabited for voyeuristic purposes. All this access feels like a bargain price until a simple calculation reveals one’s admission ticket costs more than four times the annual rent of Fuggerei’s residents.
Yes, that’s right: Rent here costs just 88 euro cents for an entire year.
There is a catch, of course. Since day one, Fuggerei has been a community exclusively for Augsburg’s Roman Catholic locals. Individuals interested in taking up residence there must prove their faith and have become indigent without any outstanding debt, all while having called the greater Bavarian city home for a minimum of two years prior their application to live within Fuggerei’s walls. Through this selection process, the devout Fugger was able to ensure a constant supply of upstanding citizens proliferated within his beloved church and extended throughout Bavaria at large.
Know Before You Go
Though it isn't difficult to locate, precise directions for visitors arriving by bicycle, tram, car, or on foot are readily available on Fuggerei's official website at: http://www.fugger.de/en/fuggerei/directions.html.