Mining in upper franconia

Mining in Upper Franconia

The Upper Franconian mining districts were partly in the Fichtelgebirge, which was under the rule of the Hohenzollerns until around 1800, and partly in the Franconian Forest, which was mostly in the former prince-bishopric of Bamberg. Mining underground is from the middle of the 14. Century proves. It reached its peak in the 15., 16. and 17. Century. Partially revived, individual deposits were still mined until the middle of the 20. Exploited at the end of the nineteenth century. Only in exceptional cases does mining continue to the present day. Important mining centers were Arzberg, Goldkronach, Kupferberg, Weibenstadt, Wunsiedel, Lichtenberg, Fichtelberg and Naila. Gold, silver, copper, iron ore and tin were mined, from the 18. In the nineteenth century also lignite and hard coal.

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Mining in Upper Franconia

Mining for precious metals, iron, tin, copper and minerals was already carried out in the Fichtelgebirge and Franconian Forest in the Middle Ages. The sovereigns in the eastern part of Upper Franconia were the Nuremberg burgraves as heirs of the Andechs-Meranians since 1248/1260 and in the western part the high diocese of Bamberg. The mining industry, especially in the Fichtelgebirge, promoted the acquisition and expansion of the two Franconian territories of the Burgraves. The Hochstift was active in the Franconian Forest; however, the economic focus of Hochstift mining was in its possessions in Carinthia.

Mining law in Brandenburg-Kulmbach and in the high diocese of Bamberg

Because of its outstanding economic importance, mining was regulated by law as early as the late Middle Ages. In the course of the 14. In the middle of the 16th century, the regional rulers succeeded in obtaining the mining regal as a royal right over the mineral resources. As a rule, they transferred their now exclusive right to third parties in exchange for levies. With "Bergfreiheiten they released mining in general or for certain areas. To prevent overexploitation and promote mining, the sovereigns enacted mining ordinances, usually by way of taking over the mining rights of a mining suburb.

Already Emperor Louis IV. the Bavarian (reg. 1314-1347, from 1328 emperor) granted the Burgrave Friedrich IV in 1323. (reg. 1297-1332) with the Bergregal, but more significant was the 1363 elevation of Burgrave Friedrich V. (reg. 1357-1398) to the status of a princely count by Emperor Charles IV. (reg. 1346-1378, from 1355 emperor). Thereby also the enfeoffment with the big mining regal for all ores took place. Shortly after the conferment, Frederick V. 1365 a mining freedom for Goldkronach to mine for gold according to the Iglau mining law of 1248. The first mining code of 1539 for the Margraviate is an almost verbatim reproduction of the Annaberg Mining Code of Duke George of Saxony (reg. 1500-1539) from 1509. The most comprehensive regulation of mining law was contained in the Mining Ordinance of 1619. It remained in force until the Bavarian Mining Law of 1869.

In the diocese of Bamberg, only the monastery of Langheim can be proved to have been formally granted the mining rights by Ludwig the Bavarian. However, in the course of the 14th century, the prince-bishops issued a number of mining ordinances./15. Repeated rights and freedoms for mining at the beginning of the sixteenth century. A mining freedom was issued by Bishop Weigand von Redwitz (reg. 1522-1556) with detailed regulations of the privileges and freedoms of the mining entrepreneurs and miners. The most important mining law of 1575, based on the mining law of the Electorate of Saxony, was issued by Bishop Veit II. of Wurzburg (reg. 1561-1577). For the Kupferberg mines, a detailed "Instruction" was issued in 1707.

Content of the mining regulations

The development of mining legislation in the Old Kingdom, which was of particular importance for the early modern expansion of the sovereignty of the country, led to a general German mining law. Since the latter mining ordinances of the Margraviate and the High Chapter were modeled on the mining laws of Electoral Saxony, it is reasonable to make similar remarks for both territories. The content of the mining regulations concerns the conditions and procedure for the acquisition of mine ownership by the cooperative unions. They regulate their internal organization, the implementation of mining, the compensation of landowners, the distribution of profits or losses (allowances) and the taxation of mining, all of this under the supervision and cooperation of officials of the (mining) sovereigns with mining experience in the local mining offices and in the princely chancelleries. The smelting of the extracted ore is also regulated. The privileges and prerogatives of the miners, the tradesmen and miners, are described in the mining regulations, as is the establishment and financing of the miners’ guild as a support fund for miners. (In summary: Heinritz, Bergrecht Furstentum and Vetter, Bergrecht Hochstift).

Main focus of mining in Upper Franconia

The question of when mining began in Upper Franconia and when it ended cannot be answered in general terms. The beginning of mining in the individual mining towns may be documented or result from other circumstances, such as early town elevations. It must be assumed, however, that even before the first records, proprietors were already washing and mining ore in the streams and rivers. The peak of mining may be considered to be the period from 15. Century until the middle of the 17. The mining industry can be assumed to have ceased at the end of the sixteenth century with the caesura of the Thirty Years’ War, even though attempts at revival were made again and again until the beginning of the modern era. Mining beyond this period is – with exceptions – no longer mentioned in this article. Also, not all places in the Fichtelgebirge and Frankenwald can be considered in the following overview, in which mining was practiced in any form from the late Middle Ages onwards.

In the early period, mining was limited to the exploitation of ore placers (ore deposits in sand or gravel) in watercourses or via terraced ponds. Tin was still frequently extracted in tin placers later on, since, for example, the tin veins in the granite base of the Schneeberg massif were difficult to develop by mine construction. Also the first gold discoveries at Goldkronach took place in Seifen. The invention of "water art (drainage system) created the preconditions for underground mining.

Iron ore

The greatest economic importance was attached to iron ore mining. The oldest and most productive hunting ground – the first reliable evidence can be attributed to the year 1323 – was located in the southern limestone range of the Fichtelgebirge in Arzberg/Rothenbach, i.e. in Burggraftum/Markgraftum. In the Trostau and Wunsiedl-Holenbrunn mining districts, tin was mined from the 14th century onwards. In the 14th century, iron ore was mined in economic connection with the tin deposits and also in the continuation of the northern lime train in Gopfersgrun (probably since 1135), Thiersheim (1421), Kothigenbiebersbach, Hohenberg and Schirnding. Further mines were located in the catchment area of the Steinach in the areas around Warmensteinach to Weidenberg/Sophienthal from the second half of the 14th century. Iron ore was mined with interruptions in the middle of the 16th century and from the 16th century onwards. Century.

Already in the 15. The iron ore district of Fichtelberg in the Gleibinger Fels, which was developed in the middle of the 16th century, with its continuation in the catchment areas of the Naab and the Kosseine as far as Neusorg, Pullenreuth/Schindellohe and Waldershof, was subordinate to the Electoral Palatinate (Upper Palatinate Mining Ordinance of 1548) and, from 1628, to the Bavarian mining and metallurgical office of Fichtelberg. In the Fichtelgebirge, many place names refer to the former operation of hammer mills for bar iron and sheet metal and thus to the widespread iron ore deposits.

In the Franconian Forest, which also belonged to the Margraviate, the focus of the long and profitable mining of iron ore was from 1471 in Naila (pit "Wilder Mann"), Steben (no evidence from 1222, but secured in the 14th century), Naila and Steben. century) and in Lichtenberg ("Friedrich-Wilhelm-Stollen"), town charter since 1357).

In the high diocese of Bamberg, the main focus of iron ore mining and smelting since the 14th century was on the tin mines. century in the Stadtsteinach mining district. Iron ore was already mined in the Franconian Alps in early times.

A special position had the quite successfully operated iron ore mining in Pegnitz and environment in the southernmost part of Upper Franconia. More exact knowledge about the earlier mining is only available from the 19th century. century before. The modern and profitable mining lasted from 1908 to 1968.

The mining of tin ore was of particular importance, as tin was needed above all for the tinning of black plate into tinplate, but also for tin tableware of all kinds. The main tin mining sites were Weibenstadt with Schonlind and Weibenhaid (enfeoffments at the beginning of the 15th century). The town is not documented as having been founded in 1360). Tin was also mined in Trostau, Leupoldsdorf, Schonbrunn and in the Wunsiedel area (town elevation in 1326, enfeoffments at the beginning of the 15th century). century, tin mining probably already in 1282). Particularly important in Wunsiedel for the production and trade of tinplate was the major merchant Wann with his Spital- und Bruderhaus foundation of 1451. Further tin deposits existed between the Schneeberg and the Rudolfstein (today’s accommodation house Seehaus of the Fichtelgebirgsverein was the former mine house). Tin was also mined in connection with iron mining in the Franconian Forest in the areas of Naila, Steben and Lichtenberg.

The rich mining of gold and silver in Goldkronach after the mining freedom and the town elevation by Burgrave Friedrich IV. in the year 1365 already went around the middle of the 15th century. The mining industry was nearing its end at the beginning of the 15th century, although there were repeated attempts to revive it up to modern times.

Silver and lead mining

Silver and lead were mined in the Margraviate in the 15. The copper was mined in the area around Lichtenberg in the 19th century. More successful was the mining of silver in Durrenwaid/Silberstein, which began in 1477, and small amounts of lead were also mined. Mining was finally stopped around 1600.

In the High Diocese of Bamberg, silver and lead were also found in the Franconian Forest at the Silberberg (junction of the two Rodach rivers). The mines near Wallenfels and Steinwiesen can be traced back to as early as 1400.


Copper mining in the Franconian Forest was concentrated in the Naila, Lichtenberg and Steben districts, all of which were located in the Margraviate. The mining of ore in the "Rich King Solomon" mine was of particular importance from 1467 onwards in Naila to.

The most important copper deposits in the Hochstift Bamberg were located in Kupferberg. As early as 1300 to 1430 (reference in the older bishop’s urbar of 1331 to the mining center Kupferberg) copper mining was carried out in open pits and shafts with 500-1200 miners. A second successful resumption of copper mining took place in the middle of the 16th century. The mining industry lasted from the mid-nineteenth century until the first half of the eighteenth century. Century. Problems were caused again and again by the large water inrushes in the pits. After several interruptions and resumptions of mining operations, the last extraction took place in the period 1936-1940 for the same reasons as the resumption of the comparably old iron ore mining in Arzberg in the years 1939-1941.

Hard coal

The pit "Zur Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit von Reitsch near Stockheim in the diocese of Bamberg was first mentioned in a document in 1582. 1756 the discovery of a coal seam took place. With various interruptions, coal was mined in Stockheim until the colliery was closed down in 1968.


Lignite mining had no importance in the late Middle Ages, because the forest wealth of the Fichtelgebirge and the Franconian Forest ensured the supply of the smelters with charcoal. Only from the middle of the 18. In the mid-nineteenth century, lignite was mined in the margraviate in the Hohenberg/Schirnding/Marktredwitz area. The importance of Czech lignite mining in the neighboring Cheb Basin near Sokolov (Falkenau) was not even approached. (For focal points of mining in Upper Franconia, see Schmidt, Einstiger Erzbergbau and Kohl, Geschichte des Bergbaus.)


The already from the 14. The town elevations of mining towns such as Arzberg, Goldkronach, Kupferberg, Lichtenberg, Weibenstadt and Wunsiedel in the 19th century underline the socio-economic importance of mining, which provided work and bread for almost all the professions of the time in its vicinity. The mining industry in Upper Franconia experienced a major collapse during the Thirty Years’ War. Various later attempts – especially by the margraves – to revive mining on a sustained basis through generous mining freedoms despite increased competition, Franconian mining was unable to regain its former importance. Finally, in this context, the so-called. General exploration reports of the Prussian senior mining councilor Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) for the Franconian mines particularly worth mentioning.

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