Station: [310] Mining Towns in the High Middle Ages

There are certainly reasons to shout about something sometimes. And a „Berggeschrey“ or castle cry for example is a good reason to found a town. And this is just what happened at the time around 1169/70, as busy settlers stumbled upon sliver ore near today’s Freiberg. The roar of cheers was loud and the events that followed happened so fast, it was hard to distinguish one from the next.

Miners, craftsmen and merchants, came, settled, dug through the soil and founded Freiberg, the first mountain town in today’s Erzgebirge, or ore mountains. When Margrave Otto of Meißen announced to the land soon afterwards: Wo eyn man ercz suchen will, das meg her thun mit rechte“ meaning, if any man be in search of ore, he has every right to do so here,“ and proclaimed the freedom to build mines, the mining boom of the High Middle Ages erupted.

Mountain towns were founded on the basis mineral deposits and often grew faster than other towns, but were partly abandoned after the pits were closed. While mountain towns such as Freiberg or Dippoldiswalde still exist today, the rich mountain town of Bleiberg disappeared after the pit was closed.

This, what used to be a town, has now become an archaeological monument. Traces of settlement and mining relics such as flat depressions that suggest cellars or ovens and deeper sinkholes above possible collapsed mines surrounded by deeper depressions, known as Pingen in German, are still easy to make out.  

In the meantime the mountain has revealed a great deal that tells us about life and work in this town. Mining tools such as mallets and iron were just as much everyday objects as crockery or toys.