Liechtenstein Under the Counts of Hohenems

1613 to 1712

The Counts of Hohenems ruled Liechtenstein for 99 years - amongst the saddest in its history. In 1621 the Austrians and Grey League (Graubünden) again declare war on one another, and despite remaining neutral, Vaduz lay in the path of the two warring sides.

Soldiers looted and burned the people almost to extinction. Even after the truce of 1622, the misery and poverty continued - inflation raged, crops failed and finally the Plague broke out. The remaining population fled to the mountains.

Rudolf II of Bohemia, one of the leaders of the 30 years warAnother war was raging in Europe at this time though - the Thirty Years' War - in which Vaduz and Schellenberg were finally forced to side with the Austrian. A contingent of undisciplined Swedish soldiers stormed into the valley at this time demanding huge sums of money and looting and destroying whatever was left. Peace came in 1648, but the country was shattered with a seventh of the population dead, and the land in ruins. It was of little consolation that the men of the country had fought bravely alongside their leader, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, and had been richly rewarded.

Morals and behaviour declined causing the priests to press the Government to call on all men to stop swearing and to observe the hours of prayer. In spite of this misery, Count Franz Maria von Hohenems celebrated an extravagant wedding in his castle in Vaduz in 1642. Despite the war raging all around him, he even beautified the castle and gardens, including small summer houses that can still be seen today. You could say that it served him right as he died within months of his marriage!

Years of war and cruelty combined with the religious fervour of the war increased the superstition of the era and led to witch hunting throughout Europe, Liechtenstein being no exception. Any misfortune could be attributed to witches, and the county of Vaduz show very little mercy towards those accused. At first the judges dealt with the cases carefully and mildly, but with a great deal of anger in the population towards the witches, they soon changed, beheading and burning witches and their families - because, of course as everyone knows, witchcraft is hereditary! 14 people were put to death in the village of Vaduz alone in August 1644.

A group called the Brenner or burners made it their business to draw up lists of witches. The centres of this evil was Triesenberg and Triesen. Even today the Heuberg, high above Triesen is regarded as the the place where witches congregated with 'Fitzli Butzli', the devil in his green coat. A great lime tree in Vaduz, where the Zur Linde restaurant now stands was another place where witches danced.

The Brenner finally stopped when they accused the priest of Triesen. They entered his house, but quick thinking on his part allowed him to offer them drugged wine. When the Brenner were asleep he took the list and rounded up all those who were on it. They bound the Brenner and handed them over to the authorities where the evil deeds were unmasked and punished. It is said that the souls of the Brenner were banned to the dark gorge of Tobel, where the road goes up to the Lawena Alp. There nine of their generations have been cursed to sit until judgment day. They are therefore called the Tobelhocker - Tobel sitters.

Back to the ruling family - Count Franz Wilhelm was lord of Vaduz between 1646 and 1662. He was an extremely extravagant man and overspent constantly. To make up for his deficits he taxed the country cruelly. He also promised the King of Spain a company of soldiers on which vast sums were lavished in recruiting and equipping. The people complained, all to no avail. When he died, his son was even more hateful, and an even bigger spendthrift.

In the end the country and even his own relations complained to Emperor Leopold wrote to the Abbot of Kempten in modern Germany that the Counts estates should be sold to pay off his debts. Johann Adam (or Hans Adam I) von Liechtenstein bought Schellenberg in 1699 and Vaduz in 1712.


The Rätians > Romans > Goths & Franks > Counts of Montfort > Barons of Brandis > Counts of Sulz > Counts of Hohenems > Princes of Liechtenstein > The modern day