The big city fires of 1507 and 1516
Nearly the whole town inside the city walls burnt down on 13th September 1507. The fire broke out “in hell” near the dean’s presbytery and spread quickly (hell meaning the lowest situated part of town). The church, the church tower, Salzhof, gates, towers, the town hall with the city book and many old texts as well as a lot of houses were destroyed by the flames. 28 people died in the fire. The new fortress (today’s castle) and the suburbs outside the city walls were spared.
The church was repaired in a makeshift way and consecrated again in October 1508. The complete construction work of the church however lasted many years and was paid to a certain degree from rich citizens’ donations.
The construction work after the first fire had not been finished, when in September 1516 another fire destroyed about 10 houses. In the course of this disaster the church and its tower were severely damaged again. Wooden parts of the fortifications were also ruined and most of the cannons destroyed. The suburbs and the new fortress were spared again.
After the first fire the Roman King Maximilian (later Emperor) exempted the municipality from all taxes and military service for the following six years. Furthermore he sent carts, horses and labourers to Freistadt in order to support the construction work. In addition to that, the surrounding cities had to put farmhands at the city’s disposal for four weeks to guard the city gates.
The town committed itself to design the houses in the “Inspruk” style. Low roofs and elevated fire walls between the roofs should diminish the fire risk. Furthermore the roofs should be covered with tiles and not with shingles. Consequently the town was exempted from taxes for another three years.
40 houses were built like this and fire walls and roofs were adapted on about 100 houses by 1520. That year Emperor Charles V ordered the buildings of the town to be examined. The Emperor’s emissaries confirmed the correct way of construction and the correct intended use of the resources made available.
After these fires, however, Freistadt’s golden age was over.