About a dozen Shield Farms in the front Val Passiria valley tell you of bygone times and of their special position in the valley.
Image gallery: Val Passiria Shield Farms
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"Rural estates to which certain rights and freedoms were attached" is how the Shield Farms - "Schildhöfe" in German, "Masi dello Scudo" in Italian - are defined, several of them are located in the Val Passiria valley. And indeed, in the 13th and 14th century, the shield-yard farmers had to serve the ruling counts and sovereigns as shield bearers. In times of war they fought within the borders of Tyrol in battles and on expeditions of conquest, in times of peace they supplied their ruler with food and shot animals. In 1407 shield farmers went to war for the last time.
Their efforts were rewarded with a special status: They were given the opportunity to acquire aristocratic rights, were allowed to appear in court and in church with weapons, or - as in 1317 under King Henry of Bohemia - were released from their tax debt. Some of these rights have been preserved, as well as about a dozen of these Shield Farms, such as the fishing right in the Passiria river and the right to parade, i.e. to wear a shield and halberd on festive occasions. The farms are more like an estate than a farm: They are usually situated on a hill and are beautifully decorated with towers, sundials and old frescoes.
And how to reach the Shield Farms? They can be explored along the Passiria Shield Farms Trail and visited from the outside. The 2.5 hour long circular trail starts at the Saltauserhof Shield Farm in Saltusio and then leads to the other (partly already decayed) shield farms in San Martino and San Leonardo in Passiria. They bear names such as Lanthaler, Kalmbauer (Niederkalbe), Pseirer (Turngut), Steinhaus (Staynhaus), Happerg, Ebion or Gomion.
Shield Farms Trail freely accessible, Shield Farms to be viewed from outside only