History of Glorenza

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The town of Glorenza is a real city-fortress, with a rectangular plan and surrounded by magnificent walls which reach to about seven feet tall and nearly two thick.

Origins of Glurns - Glorenza

The original history of Glurns is probably of pre-Roman origins when it was originally inhabited by the Illyrian people. Then Drusus  (38-9 BC) conquered the territory in 15 BC.

Glorenza in the Middle Ages

For nearly three centuries, from the beginning of the 13th century to the late 15th century, the history of Glurns was that of disputes between the Counts of Tyrol and the Bishops of Coira. It was also in the 13th century that the Bishop of Coira built two castles, the "Fürstemburg" and "Castel Coira", near Glurns (the ancient name for Glorenza)

The city's position made it important as a market place for goods in for transit to the Grisons, soon becoming the economic capital and the military stronghold of the Valley.

However in 1499 the city suffered heavy destruction by the Swiss confederates, who inflicted a heavy defeat on the emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg (1459-1519). The war, which ended a few months later with the Peace of Basle, and sanctioned the independence of Switzerland, led to the separation of the Grisons from the Empire and it led the interruption of trade between Tyrol and  Engadina, which passed through Glurns.

With the construction of the present walls between 1555 and 1580 the city continued its thriving business based on the exchange of goods, which were stored in special rooms overlooking the “Laubengasse” or “Via dei Portici”.

Glurns (Glorenza) still today retains its medieval urban structure intact, with seven towers, three gates and a massive wall that surrounds it completely, and today its economy is based primarily on tourism.

Origins of the name Glurns / Glorenza

The city appears to have been first documented around 1294, when it was referred to as “Burgum Glurns” [1].

As Regards the etymology, certainly one valid interpretation is that proposed by S. Marseiler [2]. Marseiler notes that Glorenza was called:

“[…] ‘Glurnis’, ‘Glurne’, ‘Glurens’; the origin of the name is pre-Roman or retro-romance and it would mean ‘flood bed of the alders or hazels’ […]”.

Moreover, the similarity with the city name of "Glori" was noted, the meaning of which should be derived from a possible Greek root “Koris” (“verdant”) or, more likely, from the Latin “Corylus” (“hazel”), indicating that once the area was rich in hazels. [3].

Indeed, it appears that the name “Glorenza” ( “Glurns” in German) probably comes from the Virgilian “colurnus”, a variant of the Latin word “Corylus” (“hazel”). In 1991 a nice article was published in the popular "L’Espresso" where, quite simply, it was said that:

“[...] we understand how a name, from the Latin, is understood in Italian and German ('Glorenza'-'Glurns'): in Latin is a Virgilian term  "colurnus", adjective of hazel and alder, and it includes the meaning of ‘close to water’. Indeed, the place of "Colorno" on the Po River is the most direct subsidiary of this etymology [...]” [4].

In short, according to studies mentioned above, the meaning of "Glorenza-Glurns"  should be the "city near a river full of hazels."

See the Glorenza travel and visitor information.


1. See Reiner Lose, “Der Vinschgau und seine Nachbarräume”, Athesia Verlagsanstalt, 1993, p. 29

2. “Glorenza-Glurns, the Smallest Town in Alto Adige”, Lana, Tappeiner, 1998

3. See. A. Gandolfo, “Glori”, in “The Province of Imperia”, Blu Editions, 2005

4. "L’Espresso" Vol. 37, numbers 9-17, p. 213