A short day trip from my hometown Ruhpolding in Bavaria to the Lofer region, Austria region on December 19th, 2014 in search of snow only provided us with views of snowy mountain peaks.
Our final destination included a narrow winding road up a mountain side. The parking lot was empty… the cross perched on top of a mighty moss covered boulder confirmed that we had reached our destination.
A short walk into the valley lead us directly to St. Mary’s. The church dates from the period 1694 to 1701, and is considered one of the most important pilgrimage churches in the Salzburg region.
We passed the boarded up shop where during the high season one can purchase candles and religious mementos. I briefly paused to admire the intricate detailing on the door handle…
…and a door pull in the same style.
The church was quiet, we were the only visitors. The altar was sparsely illuminated.
Our well-informed guide, my aunt led us around the back of the altar where we discovered framed imagery commemorating successful pilgrimages over the long history of the church.
A richly decorated pulpit, no longer used these days, continues to be perched above the confessional.
The eternal flame near the main altar demanded closer examination. Richly crafted from silver it exhibits attention to detail and great skill by the maker.
A candle holder with extinguished bees wax candle, ready to be lit for the next service.
A commemorative plaque inviting to pause as visitors reflect on the past. One of the parish priests was incarcerated in Dachau from 1943 – 1945… a dark chapter in Austrian and German history.
The historic creche only makes its appearance in churches during the Advent and Christmas season. I was pleased to see such a fine example of a creche depicting local scenery and architecture. (this image was taken through glass)
We emerged from the church in a contemplative mood. This view of the distant snow covered peak was in sharp contrast to the tall tree reaching into the cloud covered sky.
Despite its remote location this pilgrimage spot also offered a place to rest and recharge the body.
Imagine this scenery with a soft blanket of snow. By the time we reached our car it began to rain lightly…
…all I was able to capture was the rain dripping from the evergreen branches,
Maria Kirchental is located near St. Martin, Austria. The road is well signed but may not be accessible by car during the winter months. We spotted several signs near the Kirchental Wirt Gasthaus informing us of sledding off the mountain, provided sufficient snow falls.
While researching this destination I came across several organized hiking tours that one can book during the summer months. My aunt shared information about the annual church led hike she participates in which is organized by St. Georg’s Church community in Ruhpolding leading to Maria Kirchental. The pilgrimage begins at 2 a. m. and concludes at St. Mary’s church with a a mass at noon. Here is a link covering the event. It includes a short video and image gallery, just in case your German is a bit rusty. Enjoy!