The Tirol is an alpine province of western Austria, bounded by Germany to the north and Italy to the south. "Tirol" was originally a family name, derived from a castle near Merano in what is now Italy. In 1248, the counts of Tirol received lands from the bishop of Brixen, and by 1271 they had nearly replaced the power of the church throughout the region. In 1363, control of the area passed to the Habsburgs, with whom it remained until 1918. The region was effectively Catholicized during the Counter-Reformation. After World War I, Italy received South Tirol, with its large German-speaking population, and has retained it to this day. The principal towns of Tirol are Innsbruck, Kufstein, Lienz, and Solbad Hall. The population of the region is just under 600,000.
The majority of Tiroleans live in nucleated communities, generally located in river valleys, surrounded by the lands on which they earn their livelihoods. In each village one finds shops, administrative institutions, a school, and a church.