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Peters Keys

by Alexander Sohm last modified 2007-01-08 12:33

At the beginning of the 15th century, around the year 1400, there was a terrible dispute going on in the world.

The relationship between the religious and secular worlds was so, that after the pope elections, 3 popes emerged who fought each other with the help of the world powers.  

Each of them claimed to be the real elected pope and so it came about that the Romans wanted their pope, the French wanted their pope, etc., etc.  There was confusion everywhere and it had to be remedied.  The problem came to the attention of the council in Kontanz during the years of 1414 to 1418.  The council was made up of 26 princes, 3 patriarchs, 29 cardinals, 1,800 clergymen and over 70,000 laymen.  The 3 popes were also invited; one of them being Pope John XXIII, the Roman pope who some people thought could have been the real elected pope.

Pope John XXIII arrived from Rome with a large entourage by way of the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck and from there up through the Oberinntal (Upper Inn Valley) and with much travail and deprivations, over the Arlberg and on to Dalaas.

The whole party of travellers was suddenly stopped there because the plague had broken out in the neighbouring village of Braz.

It was an awkward situation for the entourage.  They had to be in Konstanz in a couple of days and the long way back to Rome didn’t seem to be a solution.  The people of the Montafon decided to help.  They built a palanquin or litter and carried Pope John XXIII over the Kristberg into the Montafon.

The pope was then able to continue his journey to Konstanz through the Montafon.  To show his appreciation for accommodating him, the pope bestowed the privilege of the right to use St. Peter’s Key in the Montafon coat of arms. 

According to the Papal charter, the people of the Montafon were not only given the right to use the small Papal emblem, but also the right to use the large Papal emblem in their coat of arms, which is St. Peter’s key with a tiara on it. 

The people of the Montafon are modest, though, and they were satisfied with the small emblem which you can see in Schruns on the parish hall, on the Stand Montafon house, on the court house, on the spa hotel, the museum of local history and in many of the documents that are related to the Montafon Valley.

It was impossible for the approximately 300 people that were accompanying the pope and all of his wagons to take the path over the Kristberg and so they took the route that the pope had avoided past Braz and on to Bludenz.

Once in Konstanz, Pope John XXIII would not bow to the wishes and advice of the council in any way, shape or form and in the end, had such a fierce argument with them that he had to disguise himself as a hunter and flee to Schaffhausen.

All 3 of the opposing popes were then unseated and Martin V – a Frenchman was appointed head of the church and so John XXIII lost his position and office.


P05-4 peters key.mp3

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