The infringements of the miners of Predoi
Extracts of the infringement reports of the mining judge of the Aurina Valley
- Following the abolition of the mining Judges decided by Emperor Joseph II, the files of the house of the judges of Mühlegg (San Giovanni, Aurina Valley) were moved to Chiusa (Klausen), at the headquarters of the competent mining authority for the Tyrol region south of Brenner. Long forgotten, these documents have now been made partially accessible at the land office of Tyrol in Innsbruck. They are an important integration of the collection of the so-called "Steinhauser Archive" of Earl Georg von Enzenberg, as they contain a large number of statistical data on the Aurina Valley and the mines. In particular, they bring to light some historic-social aspects unknown until now.
- We now have been able to obtain a 29-page extract (of which 16 written), dating back to 1715 - 1724, of the book of the infringement reports of mining judge Georg Ramblmayr. The extract contains 50 sentences, only two of which strictly relating to mining work, while the others relate to what in juridical terms is normally referred to as "crimes and lewd behaviour".
- These were crimes within the scope of the low level of jurisdiction of mining judges, by individuals somehow involved in mining activities. This category included all workers of the sector and their families. Crimes were punished with imprisonment, corporal punishment, or fines.
- Of the 50 sentences issues, 21 were against fathers of children born out of wedlock, while 25 were for fights: the documents seem to confirm the prejudices against miners, who had a reputation for being rather rude and surly. People that on one side were certainly not intimidated by the teachings of the church, and on the other were not afraid to use force to assert their rights.
The hearings of the mining tribunal
The mining judge was assisted by a legal representative. The accused party was heard and interrogated, witnesses were allowed both for the prosecution and the defence (often important in cases involving fights).
The protocols do not mention popular juries. Hearing dates were set without a preset program. There were years during which no rulings whatsoever were given (like for example in 1723), and others with up to 13 (1719).
The cases regarding "children born out of wedlock”
The punishment was not linked to whether the accused married or not the mother of the child, but rather to his wealth.
Moral principles were also very important. For example, one would have expected a more lenient punishment for a widower, even more so if his partner was also a widower. In reality, such condition was considered as aggravating circumstance, as it was expected for widowers to be in most cases older, and therefore wealthier than younger miners.
- The wife of the last caster Mathäus Platter became pregnant before the wedding. Not being very wealthy, the man was sentenced to pay a fine of 3 guilders.
- Josef Tasser, labourer at the Predoi mine, had a son out of wedlock with Maria Stockmayerin. As he declared that he did not have any money, he was sentenced to "bread and water for two days and two nights".
Fights occurred mainly during free days, at parades and weddings, also due to too much drinking.
The documents show that those involved in such events had a tendency to relapse; moreover, the same surnames often kept reappearing, so much so that often fights could be described as the favourite leisure activities of some families.
The punishments delivered by the mining judges were not as serious as those delivered in some cases for children out of wedlock. Sometimes, the accused could not be condemned if they stated that they were innocent. In the absence of witnesses capable of contradicting their statements, the judge had no choice but to let them go.
Normally, the one who started the fight was condemned: only in some rare case both parties were sentenced to the payment of pecuniary fines. Also just as rare, were serious injuries.
- Miner Blasy Gebaur, accused of a violent fight with basket carrier Josef Marcher and Blasy Samer (junior). Being a re-offender, the first was sentenced to the payment of 3 guilders.
- The fight between Mathes Paumann and Georg Trippacher was judged as "not serious", costing Paumann 1 guilder.
Four particular cases
Among the rulings not relating to fights or children out of wedlock, two were connected with working in the mines. One concerned the use of wrong measurements.
The farmer of the Unterstein farmhouse, Peter Gruber of San Giacomo, intentionally reduced the sizes of two cases normally used by farmers for transporting the Predoi mineral to the foundry, using them for three weeks. As a punishment, he was sentenced to pay 6 guilders (infringements regarding weights and measures were treated very seriously, as they were considered serious crimes).
Less serious was on the other hand the crime of farmer Acereto Cristian Lempfrecher, who took to the foundry a consistent quantity of waste instead of coal, in two cases normally used for transporting the mineral. He was sentenced to pay 5 guilders.
Of notice, is also the case of miner Lorenz Gruber. He was sacked because in spite of repeated warnings he continued to drink spirits while at work. He also got into a serious fight with Georg Pacher. He was sentenced to pay 3 guilders and spend one night in prison, and pay 27 Kreuzers to cover for imprisonment costs.
The last case is that of caster Lorenz Rainer. He was invited several times to appear in front of the judge (the reason is not specified), but "always failed to do so". He was sentenced to pay 40 Kreuzers, to be deducted from his next salary.
(Dr. Rudolph Tasser)