Every year at the time of the summer solstice, in the regions of the historic Tyrol and Bavaria comes medieval tradition to life, the lighting of bonfires set up on high mountains [Sommersonnenwende-Feuer].
Nevertheless, in South Tyrol and very much felt in Val Gardena as well, this tradition dated back to 1796 is transformed into religious devotion as entrusting by the abbot of Stams of the County of Tyrol to the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” to prevent an invasion by Napoleon’s troops. Since that year, the tradition got repeated every Sunday after the feast of Corpus Domini, named the “Bonfires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” – “Herz-Jesu-Feuer”.
THE HISTORICAL BATTLE OF BERGISEL
During the war, a lodge owner from Passer-valley, Andreas Hofer, was appointed as head of the troops. In 1809 Andreas Hofer renewed this initiative following a surprising victory over the Bavarians and the French in the battle of Berg-Isel, the latter turned in a huge celebration.
Thus, the festivity of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” became a relevant Tyrolean celebration that over times, in South Tyrol, replaced the tradition of midsummer solstice bonfires.
THE SPECTACULAR BONFIRES ON THE MOUNTAIN
The fires lit in the night between Saturday and Sunday are often bonfires in the shape of symbols associated with Jesus: terms like “IHS” and “INRI” or crosses and hearts. Bundles of cloth or huge lanterns are also lit, all arranged at a distance from each other to form a chain of fires visible along the mountain ridges. All of the South Tyrolean valleys are enjoying this incredible scene looking up at their own mountains.
A FESTIVITY FOR ALL THE COMMUNITY
This celebration of the mountain communities is kept alive thanks to the many voluntary associations with women and men who work hard to carry the loads for bonfires to high altitudes. Herein we name a few: the AVS Alpine Club, youth and faithful groups as well as safety-conscious firefighters volunteers, all proud to represent the most beautiful bonfires respectively in their own single mountain region.
It is an opportunity for a special celebration by the communities of South Tyrol. The following morning the festivity goes on with a solemn catholic mass and a traditional procession and parade downtown; this by showing up in typical historical South Tyrolian costumes.
DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS IN THE LOCAL HOME WOODART
Val Gardena is renowned for its woodwork art. Therefore, any sculpture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus could not be missing. Sonia Demetz recommends various creations associated with this image, all are handcrafted and single hand painted. Thus, a special opportunity to bring a unique sculpture of a so deeply felt celebration in South Tyrol back to your home or to any sacred worship place.