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Maria Schnee Chapel

by Theresa König last modified 2007-02-19 15:21

Maria Schnee Chapel

Lukas Tschofen II was the benefactor of the chapel built in 1637 and extended in 1780 and 1856.  The end of the plague and the pursuit of a symbolic increase of honour were probably the reasons for building the chapel.  The fact is that Tschofen, who was the richest man in Gaschurn at that time, built the chapel during hard times and practically at the same time that the new church was being built.  In answer to the criticism he was getting, Tschofen donated a bell to the new church that rang louder than the one at the Maria Schnee Chapel. 
There are two legends that surround the building of the chapel.  The first one is that Lukas Tschofen was ill and promised God he would build a chapel if it snowed in the summer.  It really did snow on the little hill on the Ill River, Tschofen got well again and then built the Maria Schnee or in English – the Maria Snow Chapel.
The second legend says that Lukas Tschofen was buried by an avalanche and that he promised God he would build a chapel at the spot where the avalanche stopped if he was rescued, and that was what happened.
The legendary reference to snow in the summer shows a connection to the legend of the origin of the Roman church St. Maria Maggiore which is depicted in the nave: A patrician left his fortune to the Virgin Mary, who told him in a dream that he should build a church dedicated to her on the Esquilin hill.  The next morning, the 5th of August, the ground plan was outlined in snow.  The baroque piety of the people and a noticeable change in the climate with snowfalls in the summer probably created the conditions that led to a short term boom in Maria-Schnee wakes in the early 17th century. 

Maria Schnee is a local place of pilgrimage.  As can be seen in the votive pictures that used to be kept in the chapel, in the past the Mariahilf picture served as the object of veneration. Today it is in the nave on the right.  The Mariahilf – or Maria help motif is widely spread in Alpine country.  It finds its roots in the original picture by Lucas von Cranach which was painted for the Bishop of Passau in 1537 and which can be found today in the Dome in Innsbruck. 

Noteworthy details are the Rosenkranz or Rosary Altar which was built around 1640 with the rare depiction of the shroud of Turin, the popular rococo paintings in the choir vaults, the cycle of St. Mary pictures including the Maria-Schnee picture on the right, the sculptures that came from the parish church, of which the ones in the choir vaults should be paid close attention to:  These are statues of the benefactors Lukas Tschofen II and Anna Clawothin, by the well known Montafon sculptor, Melchior Lechleitner.  They were commissioned by the children from his first marriage with Anna Bunoldin after the death of Lukas Tschofen III in 1679.  In any case, stylistically, they can be dated around 1682 – 1685. 

The chapel is open during the day in the summer.            


P05-1 Maria Schnee Chapel.mp3

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