Klingenthal: the origin of violin making in the Saxonian Vogtland region
In the early 1650s, the Hobe family from Hamburg settled in Klingenthal, a little town near the border between Saxony and Bohemia. Two generations prior, mining work had moved them from northern Germany to Kraslice (Graslitz) in what is now the Czech Republic, and now they wanted to escape the pressure of the re-Catholicisation which was spreading through the region after the Thirty Years' War. In nearby Unterklingenthal (now called Quittenbach), the family found a new home, where the father, Christoph Hobe, presumably worked as a foreman in the mines, as he had in Graslitz.
The Hobes and many other families felt welcome as “Bohemian exiles” in Saxony and found religious tolerance there, although it must be mentioned that the migrants paid a very high price in terms of taxes and obligations. The new settlers were a blessing to the remote Vogtland region, since they not only helped create communities such as Quittenbach, they also brought the art of violin making with them to Klingenthal, which went on to shape and sustain the region for centuries to come.
The first confirmed date in the history of Klingenthal violin making is 8 October 1669, when Johann Hertwig Graf von Nostiz confirmed that the Graslitz violin makers' guild had been established. The founding members included “Caspar Hob” from Klingenthal, Christoph Hobe's son, who also ranked among the founders of the Markneukirchen guild under the name of “Caspar Hopf” on 6 March 1677. He is probably the first Klingenthal violin maker, and despite the fact that little is known about where he learned his art, a great deal is known about his defining style which made the Hopf school the epitome of the Klingenthal violin.