The Maximilianmuseum is located in the historic center of Augsburg. The first municipal museum was built in 1855 in the two town palaces of Augsburg's merchant dynasties and was named after the Bavarian King Maximilian II. The Maximilianmuseum offers an unique wealth of outstanding works of goldsmith art, late Renaissance bronze art, scientific instruments, clocks and machines, historical models, city history and arts and crafts objects. They all come from the imperial city period, when Augsburg was the art metropolis of Germany. The house received the Bavarian Museum Prize in 2007.
From 1511 to 1519, Bartholomäus Welser (1484-1561), head of the Welser trading company, lived in the so-called Welserhaus on the Annastrasse. Between 1544 and 1546 Leonhard Beck von Beckenstein, merchant, banker and imperial adviser to Charles V, built the house with its magnificent facade on today's Fuggerplatz. Jakob Herbrot († 1564), furrier, banker and mayor of Augsburg acquired it as early as 1547. As a Protestant, he led the city in the so-called Schmalkaldic War against the Catholic Emperor Charles V. In 1564 Anton Meuting († 1591) bought the building. As a merchant and banker to the Bavarian dukes, he undertook diplomatic missions to the court of King Philip II of Spain. In 1579 the Hainhofer family of merchants bought the house. The art agent and diplomat Philipp Hainhofer (1578-1647), creator of the famous "Pomeranian Art Cabinet", spent his childhood and youth here until 1601. Around 1700 the engraver and publisher Elias Christoph Heiss lived in the Hainhoferhaus. He was one of the first engravers to use the new, painterly mezzotint technique. Heiss had the Tyrolean painter Melchior Steidl decorate the Felicitassaal, the Aeneas gallery and the Luna cabinet with illusionistic ceiling frescoes. From 1706 to 1853 the building complex between Annastraße and Fuggerplatz was a protestant home for the poor. When the latter moved out in 1853, the city of Augsburg acquired the building and opened the first municipal museum here in 1855. The Maximilianmuseum, named after its patron King Maximilian II of Bavaria (1811-1864), is the oldest municipal museum in Bavaria.
A highlight of the Maximilianmuseum is the Viermetzhof with its self-supporting glass roof, which was donated by the Augsburg honorary citizen and patron Kurt F. Viermetz (1939-2016). The restored original sculptures of the famous Augsburg magnificent fountains are displayed here. The figures created around 1600 by the court sculptors Hubert Gerhard and Adriaen de Vries are among the greatest treasures in the house. The richly evocative figure program of Augustus, Mercury and Hercules fountains glorifies Augsburg as a Roman foundation and free imperial city, which at that time could already look back on a history of more than 1600 years.
The works of art in the so-called Aeneas Gallery with Melchior Steidl's ceiling fresco of Virgil's Aeneid come mainly from the private collection of the Munich Hofrat Sigmund Rohrer (1861-1929). His important art collection, which Rohrer sold to the city of Augsburg in 1924, includes baroque "bozzetti", i.e. sculptural designs for large-format works of art. The "Municipal Art Collections" were created in 1932 by combining this exquisite collection with the holdings of the Maximilianmuseum. Most of the sculptures on display were linked to architecture, to the facade, to the interior of a church, to an altarpiece or pulpit basket. In contrast to the presentation in museums, they were less objects of aesthetic than religious viewing and fulfilled certain functions, e.g. as cult or devotional images.
Since the Renaissance, Augsburg has been a center for the manufacture of mathematical, physical and astronomical instruments. Instrument making was an important branch of the imperial city's trade. Sundials were needed up until the 19th century to measure time accurately and to correct mechanical clocks. Because the portable sundials included a compass to orient the clock north along, the makers of sundials were also called compass makers. The works of the Augsburg compass makers were famous and, as desirable export items, contributed to the good reputation of Augsburg's arts and crafts.
Emperor Augustus conquered through his stepsons Tiberius and Drusus the Alps and the foothills of the Alps populated by the Celtic Vindelics in the year 15. BC. Roman soldiers were stationed in Augsburg around the turning point of time. The settlement probably received Roman city rights around the year 122 under Emperor Hadrian. Only in the south around today's cathedral there is a continuity of urban life from late antiquity to the time of Bishop Ulrich (923-973) visible. In the Salian-Staufian period, a market settlement and commercial district developed as a result of the founding of monasteries. The oldest exhibits date from this period. The community was able to break away from the episcopal lord of the city around the middle of the 13th century. The legal collection of the town book of 1276 and the imperial city declaration of King Ludwig of Bavaria of 1316 completed Augsburg's development into a free imperial city. The Augsburg Diets of the 16th century were of world-historical significance. The Augsburg Religious Peace of 1555, which recognized the Evangelical-Lutheran Augsburg Confession under imperial law, stipulated that Catholics and Protestants could live together in the imperial city. Augsburg's cityscape is the work of Elias Holl, who worked from 1602 to 1631 as a municipal builder. Holl's main work is the monumental town hall, for which the historical design models have been preserved. The Thirty Years' War hit Augsburg hard. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 regulated the peaceful coexistence of Catholics and Protestants in the imperial city with the introduction of so-called parity. With the end of the Old Kingdom in 1806, Augsburg became part of the Kingdom of Bavaria.
Since the Renaissance, the city of Augsburg has been collecting design and commemorative models of important building projects. In 1620, municipal works master Elias Holl set up the room above the Golden Hall in the town hall as a model chamber for the city. At his instigation, structural models were also collected. The Council supplemented the collection with masterpieces from Augsburg's carpenters. Finally, the model chamber also contained a large number of mechanical and hydraulic models. The model chamber was given to the Maximilianmuseum in the 20th century. Its inventory, which is significant in terms of urban and cultural history, is unparalleled in the world today. It is a nationally valuable cultural asset.
Augsburg was the most important goldsmith metropolis in Central Europe. From the 16th to the 19th century, Augsburg goldsmiths supplied the secular and spiritual courts of Europe, the Catholic and Protestant churches, the Jewish synagogues, the towns, the citizens and the guilds. No other German city can boast comparable achievements in the field of goldsmithing. The variety of tasks was unique, as shown by the drinking vessels, liturgical implements, ceremonial plates, silver furniture, toiletry cases and table services etc. on display. The special position was based on the ability of the Augsburg goldsmiths and silver dealers to carry out orders of all types and sizes at a high artistic level. Augsburg's reputation and self-image as a city of the arts was based decisively on its brilliant goldsmith's art. Unique examples are displayed in the Felicitassaal, the museum's most magnificent room. It is adorned with a large deck fresco by Melchior Steidl (1657-1727), which shows the ancient heaven of gods and in the corners the four continents known at the time.
The history of Augsburg as a mint begins in the 10th century under Bishop Ulrich (ruled 923-973). For a long time, the right to mint coins lay with the Bishop of Augsburg. In the 13th century, the city gained a say in appointing the mint master. In 1521, Emperor Charles V granted the city the right to mint coins. Important coins, often with the unmistakable city view, were minted in the 17th and 18th centuries. The last Augsburg coin was the copper pfennig of 1805. Augsburg's minting activity ended with the loss of imperial freedom. The coin cabinet also presents valuable Augsburg medals. They are not means of payment, but artistically outstanding commemorative coins on people, institutions, historical and private events.
When Augsburg received the right to mint coins on May 21, 1521, it was a memorable day for the city. The coinage law formed one of the bases for wealth and culture in the imperial city. By 1805, around 770 different coins were minted here, which were valued throughout the empire for their high quality. For the 500th anniversary of the coin law, a multimedia special page with pictures and videos with coin expert Anton Vetterle was created. Here it is explained in a clear way how the minting business took place and what importance the minting law had for our city. There is also an exciting book tip!
Trade and export were Augsburg's lifeline. The city was conveniently located at the crossroads of the trade routes between East and West and became an important trading center. An important basis of their economy was the weaving trade and trade in textiles. In the 16th century, the imperial town became a European financial center thanks to large trading companies such as Fugger and Welser. Prominent were the bill of exchange and bankers who engaged in international trade. In the 17th and 18th centuries, their capital, trade relations and contacts to the courts of Europe were the prerequisites for Augsburg's exceptional status as an art metropolis. The Augsburg handicraft counted more than 60 different art professions. Exhibits include valuable products from the Augsburg clockmakers, cabinet makers, pewter foundries and the so-called house painters who painted porcelain and faience in their workshops at home. Craftsmen, artists, companies and agents worked for art export. The imperial city saw itself as a city of the arts.
In its basement, the Maximilianmuseum has an unique collection of stone testimonies: components and decorative elements of destroyed or demolished buildings, sculptures, inscription plaques, boundary stones and funerary monuments. This collection is of great historical and artistic value. The more than 300 objects convey a multifaceted picture of Augsburg's urban culture from the Middle Ages to the end of the imperial town period. The Lapidarium was created with the support of the Altaugsburg Society, the Friedrich-Prinz-Fonds and the State Office for Non-Governmental Museums.