Lying between the Germanic and Italianate regions of Europe, the Tyrol has been a crossroads of the two cultures for 2,000 years or more. It has thus played a significant role in the history of both regions. The site of some of the most daunting mountain ranges in the world, it was thinly settled in prehistoric times. After Roman conquest in 15 BCE, the administration of the Tyrol was split among several provincial authorities of the empire. These areas now lie either in modern Italy or in Austria.
   Following the collapse of imperial authority in the west in the fourth and fifth centuries CE, the Germanic Lombards established a kingdom in the southern reaches of the area. During the sixth and seventh centuries, Slavs, and then Bavarians, penetrated the north. The legal practices differed substantially as a result. So-called Alpine Romans, who spoke a dialect of Latin, lingered in some valleys. By the end of the eighth century, the Tyrol was a county within the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne.
   Christian missions to the Tyrol came in the fifth century, from Trent to the south. Others appeared somewhat later, from Bavaria. Under the patronage of the Bavarian duke Tassilo III, the monastery of Innichen was founded in 769 to promote Christianity among the Slavs. The bishoprics of the Tyrol played an important role in the defensive thinking of German emperors who, until the end of the 11th century, were able to determine who held these offices. In 1004 and 1027, countships over Trent, Bolzano, and the Vintschgau were conferred upon the bishop of Trent; the bishop of Brixen came to enjoy the same authority over important passes through the Alps by the end of the 11th century.
   As clergymen, however, they could not engage directly in military activity. They therefore appointed guardians (Vogt ) to defend their holdings and administer their legal affairs. Members of the local high nobility acted in these positions, which brought them into conflict with the secular counts of Tyrol—who came to carry that title after around 1140. Serving as guardians over Brixen and later the cloister of Trent, they held some of the lands attached to these institutions as well. By the end of the 13th century, the counts of Tyrol, in this case Meinhard II, had reunited much of the medieval province and had even begun to expand it.
   The counts of Tyrol continued to practice partible inheritance until the extinction of the Meinhard line in a female succession. In January 1363, the heirless Countess Margaret of the Tyrol (1316–1369) passed the land to her Habsburg cousins, Rudolph IV (1339–1365), Albrecht III (1350–1395), and Leopold III (1351–1386). Representatives of the territorial clergy, bourgeoisie, and 12 noblemen were cosignatories to the document, a sign of the growing power of the estates in the province, which would peak in the 16th century with an unusual provision for free peasant representation. The Tyrolean Territorial Libel of 1511 gave the estates the privilege of setting conditions for their participation in Habsburg military undertakings. This arrangement lasted through World War I and the collapse of the Austro–Hungarian empire.
   Around 1420, the Habsburg count Frederick IV (Freddy EmptyPockets, 1382–1439) made Innsbruck his residence. His heirs continued the practice, and the city became the administrative center of the province in a short time. Meran, to the south, remained its official capital until 1848. Emperor Maximilian I was especially fond of the area, in part because he was an avid hunter, in part for its productive silver mines around Schwaz and Hall. Through purchase and war, he added important territories to the Tyrol, such as Kitzbühl and Kufstein, acquired from Bavaria in 1504.
   The Tyrol lost its economic importance as its veins of precious metals substantially ran out by the 17th century. Its mountainous terrain was unsuited to any agriculture of scale; famine visited the region frequently. The Tyrol played an unexpectedly prominent role during the 19th-century Napoleonic Wars, when it was divided by the French and partially occupied by the Bavarians allied with Bonaparte. A species of guerrilla warfare led by a native son, Andreas Hofer, broke out, though it was later discouraged by authorities in Vienna, who were not eager to promote regional consciousness among any of the Habsburg Empire’s subjects.
   Territorial controversy erupted once again after World War I, when Italy acquired the South Tyrol as part of the Treaty of St. Germain. From the end of that conflict to the Anschluss in 1938, the Tyrol remained a bastion of the Catholic Christian Social Party. After Austria became part of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, the Nazi government fused Tyrol and Vorarlberg. Tyrolean Catholics, however, sometimes openly resisted such official efforts to curb the influence of the church as closing religious schools. There was also considerable local resentment over Italy’s continued control of the South Tyrol. The presence of industrial centers in Innsbruck and its environs and the area’s centrality to transcontinental communication links made it the target of heavy Allied bombing. The Tyrol was part of the U.S. zone of occupation from 1945 to 1955.
   Today, numerous hydroelectric installations and a wide range of industries, both large and small, make the Tyrol one of Austria’s most economically dynamic regions. Extensive tourism, furthered by the completion of an elaborate network of mountain tunnels and highways, still contributes heavily to local income. The several regions of the Tyrol have produced many artists and writers significant not only in the Austrian lands, but within the larger German-speaking world. The Baroque painter Paul Troger (1698–1762) worked in Salzburg and Lower Austria. His ceiling in the library of the cloister of Melk is a masterpiece of the genre. Oswald von Wolkenstein (1377–1445), who died in Meran in the South Tyrol, was among the most accomplished of medieval German lyric poets; his writing had an exceptionally expressive and often erotic content. Characterized by gripping linguistic and visual expressiveness, the work of the contemporary Tyrolean playwright Felix Mitterer (1948–) is widely played in German-speaking theaters today.
   See also Economy.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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