A little sacred peace and quiet - the churches and cloisters in South Tyrol

There are quite a lot of churches and cloisters to visit in South Tyrol. In Schenna itself there is an old and new parish church – quickly reached from Hotel Tyrol. In Vinschgau there is Marienberg Cloister, in Brixen, Säben Cloister. St. Kathrein's Chapel, which may be seen from far off in the valley, sits above Meran at Hafling. These ecclesiastical witnesses to history are spread all over South Tyol and give visitors an insight into the long tradition of the area.

New parish church of Schenna, holiday in Hotel Tyrol

The new parish church of Schenna

The vicinity to the school, the old people’s home, the sexton’s quarters and the widows’ accommodation ensured the central location of the church. After several heated meetings about the planning and actual location, the design of the Vienna architect Eduard Hütter was welcomed and approved. However, in 1915 the building work was stopped due to the start of World War I and only recommenced in 1926 because of the political changes, which had occurred in South Tyrol.

The altar area is decorated with the statues of the twelve apostles. The fourteen 14 carved cross stations by Johann Muhry are incredibly impressive. The glass windows come from the Tyrolean glass painting company in Innsbruck. At the side walls of the main church area, the statues of Sains Vigilius, the bishop of Trent, as well as one of Christ King, the blessed Heinrich of Bozen, Saint Nicolas of the Flüe, the apostle Philipp, the evangelist John, the Bishop Valentine and the blessed Josef Freinademetz are found on pedestals. At the back wall, the Baroque figure of Saint Michael takes pride of place. He is presented as a young knight with a flaming sword. This statue previously stood in the Michaels chapel, which was demolished before starting the new parish church building. The new organ was built by Franz Zanin from Udine in 1993 and its cover was artfully designed by Herbert Schönweger from Meran. It consists of 32 registers, the major organ part, the back positive and pedal, as well as 2,744 pipes. Both churches were consecrated to Mary, the mother of God and she is celebrated each year on 15th August.

The church tower is 35 metres high and contains seven bells. The smallest one is the Zügen bell, which is struck just after someone in the parish dies. On Sundays and bank holidays, as well as other festivities and occasions such as the Ave Maria, the church bells are rung. For the twelve o’clock ring, the ring for the end of the working day, the ring for bad weather approaching, for weddings, baptisms etc, (the little bell, the second one, the third one, the eleventh one, the twelfth one and the large bell) are sounded. All six bells are only rung together for important festivities. The church is surrounded by well-cared for graves, which are decorated with flowers. The measurements of the graves were standardised in 1972 and at that time, the graveyard was redesigned. It is truly an honourable place for the dead. In between the graves, a simple monument remembers the 108 fallen soldiers in both World Wars.

The old parish church of Schenna

During the 12th and 13th Centuries, this church was rebuilt in Roman style and again fully redesigned during the 16th Century. Since then, little has been changed. The Baroque high altar with the statues of Saint Franz Xaver and Johann Nepomuk was built around 1730 and redesigned in 1819. Apart from the four altars in the church, there are a number of valuable individual sculptures such as the late-Gothic Saint Sebastian and the Baroque Saint John the Baptist. The cross stations originate from the middle of the 18th Century. 

During the restoration work carried out in 1975, some beautiful old frescoes were discovered and the statues were skilfully restored. John’s chapel, which was extended toward the South-East, brought to light some very well kept frescoes from the 14th Century. These were found during the renovation work of the 80s. The frescoes show scenes from the legends about John and Pankraz, as well as the wise and the foolish virgins, the evangelists, angel choirs and other pictures of saints.

Since the completion of the new parish church in 1931, it has been used for another purpose, rather than its originally intended goal. It has served as a store room and a practice room for the choir. In March 1981, the church was reopened and once more consecrated. Today, it offers a great framework for religious services and devotions in small circles and weddings. Just across the road, in the sexton’s house, there is a marble relief as part of a wall, which shows the coronation of Mary, which was created during the 14th Century. Visits only as part of an art-historic guided tour.

St. George´s church

The church of Saint George in St. Georgen originates from the 12th and 13th Centuries. This original round church was previously the fortress chapel of St. Georgen or Alt-Schenna. When lightning struck in 1591 and nearly half of the church was destroyed, the central part of the church was strengthened with an additional pillar. The frescoes from the 14th Century are well restored and represent the martyrdom of Saint George, the Day of Judgement and the legend about Saint Nicolas. The Gothic wing altar shows Saint George on a horse, fighting with the dragon.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a rare illustration of Saint Kummernus from the 17th Century. Legend has it that she was a king’s daughter from the Iberian peninsula. She had taken a vow to stay a virgin. However, her father, the king, wanted her to marry. In this difficult situation, she prayed she would grow a beard, so to disguise her face. Her prayer was answered, but her father got her thrown into the dungeon and nailed to a cross. The only remain from the former St. Georgen fortress is the keep, which is known today as the ’Uhlentower’.