The strategic importance of the area around Franzensfeste in Valle Isarco had already been established during the Tyrolean battle for freedom in 1809.
When General Lefébre advanced through Valle Isarco (Eisacktal) with around 2500 men to the South, he was ambushed and defeated by only 500 Tyrolean marksmen under the command of Andreas Hofer.
To prevent enemy troop movements in the region and to guard the important route to the south, Franz von Scholl was given the order to work out a plan by Emperor Franz I in 1832. Only six years later, in 1838, the fortress, built by a workforce of 4600 men, was inaugurated in the presence of Emperor Ferdinand I. Emperor Franz I had died in 1835 and did not live to see the completion of the fortress. His successor Ferdinand I is said to have commented on the horrendously high construction costs, saying that the fort should have been made of silver rather than granite.
It took another year to put the finishing touches to the building. In 1845 a neo-Gothic chapel was consecrated in the fortress.
The fortress consists of a giant water dam with battle stations, cannons and accommodation for the troops, connected by a system of underground stairs. When the political balance of power shifted, the fortress quickly lost its strategic importance and, over time, became a barracks and equipment depot.
After the First World War, the fortress was given over to the Italian army which continued to use it as a repository. When it was no longer used as a military base, ownership of the fort reverted to the regional government of South Tyrol. It is nowadays used for exhibitions and other cultural activities, but is also open to visitors on request.