Without doubt, Georg von Frundsberg is the most famous resident of Mindelheim. Descending from an old line of Tyrolean knights (the Freundsburg in the Inn valley), his father Ulrich had bought the castle and dominion of Mindelheim in 1467, and his mother Barbara von Rechberg was of old Swabian nobility. Georg was born at the Mindelburg on 24 September 1473 and died there on 20 August 1528. A life characterized by the many different duties assigned to the youngest of nine sons, whose future as a man of war was already agreed upon almost at the cradle, and who quite unpredictably due to the early death of his elder brothers became the owner of the grounds and judicial rights of all family dominions: Mindelheim in Swabia, St. Petersberg and Straßberg-Sterzing in Tyrol and further possessions such as castle Runkelstein near Bozen.
Quite typically for contemporary noblemen, Frundsberg started his career as a mercenary with the newly created infantry, known as the “Landsknechte”, gaining his first experiences during the Swiss Wars in 1499. Reckoned to be the European Elite in questions of training and tactics, the Swiss soldiers were considered vigorous enemies, but at the same time also role-models for the “Landsknechte”. Starting his career as commander of the troops of the free city of Memmingen, he contributed to the defeat of the Bohemian company at the Battle of Regensburg during the war of succession to the duchy of Bavaria-Landshut 1504. The “Landsknechte” thus became the foot-soldiers of the future, as the influence of the Bohemian mercenaries waned. Maximilian I personally bestowed a knighthood on Frundsberg who distinguished himself as captain during the Wars of the League of Cambrai (1508-1516). Gaining in fame from the conquests of some isolated settlements in the Dolomites (Kofel, Peutelstein), the victory of Vicenza 1513 and the defence of Verona, he was appointed by the emperor Highest Field Captain of Tyrol and Imperial Councillor. During the Wurttemberg feud in 1519, Frundsberg was at the head of the infantry of the Swabian League. Together with the forces of Franz von Sickingen, he put pressure on the prince electors thus assuring the imperial election of Charles V in Frankfurt, the young emperor and grandson of Maximilian I for whom Frundsberg would achieve his greatest triumphs. The retreat from Valencienne in 1521 was considered by Frundsberg as his finest military action, and with his successes in the victorious battles of Bicocca near Milan in 1522 and Pavia 1525, the devastation of the Swiss soldiers’ reputation of invincibility established his fame in the Holy Roman Empire to one of heroic status. Meanwhile, he was already considered “Father of the Mercenaries” by his troops. This, however, was less due to his brilliant organisational skills, which made him the proponent of a particular German art of war, but rather to his charisma as a credible, proficient and honest leader.
Though quite receptive to the ideas of the Reformation, he never broke with the Catholic Church. During the Peasants’ War in 1525, the first German revolution, he stood fast in preserving the traditional feudal system, though desisting, unlike other leaders, from mercilessly subjugating and punishing the revolting farmers. His last campaign to Italy ended in personal tragedy. Trying to rally and restore order among his restive and mutinying mercenaries (who had not been paid), he suffered a serious stroke near Bologna in 1527. He was lying ill in Ferrara when the imperial hordes were sacking and pillaging Rome (the famous Sacco die Roma). Fatally ill and heavily in debt because he had co-financed the campaign, he returned home one year later.
It is wrong, however, to consider Frundsberg’s life as one of war and mercenary life alone: he fulfilled many other roles. In politics, as Governor in the Tyrolean government in Innsbruck and Imperial Councillor in Austria, he was also a daring entrepreneur of war, and a fine administrator of family properties. As head of the family, he married twice, and had eight children by the Tyrolean aristocrat Katharina von Schrofenstein, and three by the Tyrolean Countess Anna von Lodron. Famous contemporaries like Martin Luther appreciated him highly. Frundsberg remained a lasting memory in the Landsknechts’ tunes and tales, in countless portraits, in the songs of the “Wandervogel” and “Bündische Jugend” (German Youth Movements founded in the beginning of the 20th century), in several monuments and in numerous novels of the 19th and 20th century. All this brought him a well-earned position as a memorable – and durable – German historical figure.