Salzburg's Silberhandel" and silver mining
A historical survey
The federal country of Salzburg, in the 16th century an autonomous state under the rule of Archbishops, attained remarkable wealth from two sources. Whereas the first, salt, has already been extensively treated in elaborate papers, the second, gold and silver, had been neglected till recent times. A research-project by LUDWIG and GRUBER which was carried out in the 70ies and 80ies made clear that the production of noble metals was at least as important as that of salt.
The main deposits were situated in the Gastein- and Rauris Valleys, some minor ones also in the Schellgaden area in the Lungau. Particularly in the Gastein-Rauris area mining, dressing and smelting always comprised both gold and silver, the latter quantitatively dominating by a ration of 4 to 1. The best" year was 1557 when the production culminated in quantities of 830 kg of gold and 2723 kg of silver.
Both gold and silver had to be handed in obligatorily to the archbishop's
Silberhandel" in the city of Salzburg. There the separation of göldisch silber" (gold-containing silver) into pure gold and pure silver was carried out. All these procedures were also accompanied by minute fixation of quantities in writing, and these documents, the Silberhandels Rait Püecher", have been preserved to our time and statistically investigated by GRUBER and LUDWIG. The results are most interesting as they also allow a close look into taxation of noble metals. The so-called Wechsel" (difference between real trade-value and the lower price paid to the Gewerken", minig-entrepreneurs )and the frone" (tithe) amounted to 23% of the trade-value. In the year 1557 these 23 % equalled an amount of 127751 Gulden rheinisch which were put to the hands of the Archbishop who did not hesitate to spledidly spend it on representative buildings in the city of Salzburg.
In our time the Montanmuseum Altböckstein" reminds of times long gone bye. Two museums, one with living" ore-dressing machines, visualize the situation in the 18th century when the whole plant was designed and actually built as a unit comprising houses for work (or-dressing), adminsitration and living. So, from the point of view of industrial archaeology, Altböckstein certainly is unique.
The mining tradition on gold and silver in the Tauern valleys of Gastein and Rauris, Federal Country of Salzburg, Austria, goes far back in history and there are convincing indications (Haider 1993) of mining activities already in Roman times.
Approximately a thousand years later there was a new beginning when in the year 1342 Archbishop Heinrich of Pirnbrunn, the then sovereign of the Province of Salzburg, announced his constitutiones" (Ludwig-Gruber, 1987, in full detail; Gruber-Ludwig, 1982; Reissacher, 1863, outdated) a corpus of mining laws fixing rules not only for everyday's work-procedures, but also for taxation (. For a century or so the production of silver and gold amounted to a few kilograms and was called negligible" by a contemporarian writer.
Towards the end of the 15th century the production of silver and gold rose rapidly due both to technical innovations on the one hand and the influx of capital from the Tyrol and Southern Germany on the other hand. The most prominent representatives of mining entrepreneurship certainly were the Fuggers from Augsburg and Anthony de Caballo, who at his time was well renowned as the leading expert in matters of mining and minting, and even more so as an influentional favourite of Archduke Sigmund of the Tyrol.
His bankrupcy in the year 1489 and the withdrawal of the Fuggers in the
year 1511 opened up the way to a new form of mining entrepreneurship, that