Station: [313] Mining - The Cradle of Saxonian Wealth

When another large silver deposit was found near Schneeberg about three hundred years after the first cheers of joy went up, it was a blessing and curse in one. This second „Berggeschrey“ brought the land financial and intellectual wealth and changed the lifestyle and the Ore Mountain landscape forever.

Humans penetrated deeper and deeper into the mountain, pits and shafts had to be constructed and water transport and ore processing improved, because only then was the unreachable or inferior stone usable.

Montane science developed from the research of new technological processes and the brain behind this, the „father,“ of it, was the polymath Georg Agricola. His main work „De re metallica“, 12 books about mining and metallurgy, were regarded as the technological standard work until into the 19th century.

Agricola studied the work and life of miners and metallurgists on location for more than twenty years. He compiled the results of his studies in a unique reference book illustrated with woodcuts. It documented the highest level of knowledge in the field of mining and metallurgy in the 16th century.

Agricola also reported on women and child labour in his treatise, but wrote nothing about the dangerous and fatal illnesses miners and metallurgists suffered. 

Paracelsus, Agricola’s contemporary, did write about them however, and he travelled across half of Europe and through the Erzgebirge region of course in order to do so. His research took ten years and in his manuscript entitled „Von der Bergsucht“ he describes the most common recurring miners’ ailments. Something known as pulmonary consumption, a form of lung cancer was just as prevalent as furnace men’s cataract, which was a clouding of the lens caused by the high radiation energy.

The cause of these and other typical miner and metallurgist illnesses were radioactive decomposition products from ore mining and rising lead vapours from melting the ore.

Our mining landscape takes you through 8 of Agricola’s 12 mining and metallurgy books. Come down with us into the shafts and crevices of the mountain and look over the miner’s shoulder while he’s doing his heavy work below ground. Find out how the methods and technology changed and what effects this second mining boom had on society and Saxony’s countryside.

In the following supplementary text you’ll be able to find out how mining also affected everyday culture and what role it played for education and the landscape in the Saxony of the time.