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The tiny Church

by Frießnegger Harald last modified 2007-01-08 12:51

Construction of St. Agatha’s church on the Kristberg is closely connected to the history of mining in the region.  This is shown in the location in the mining region, its construction in the late Middle Ages – at the height of mining in the area – the existence of numerous patron saints of mining inside the church and the legend of why it was built.  The legend states that miners that were in trouble promised to build a church to honour St. Agatha exactly on the spot where they saw sunlight again.  The legend started when a long grey stain on the inside wall of the north side of the church formed and it was said that this was the spot where the rescued miners saw daylight again.  Sure enough, when the church was being restored, they actually found an entrance to one of the mines right there where the stain was.

According to the inscription on the choral arch, the church was built in 1507.  The master builder was Kaspar Shop who we also know from St. Anna’s church in Thueringen and the parish church in Viktorsberg.  The simple style includes a polygonal choral, a simple rectangular hall with the tower on the south side and the extension for the vestry.  The Gothic is noticeable in the use of pointed arches, the winder tracery, the ribbed arches in the choral, the differing steepness of the wooden ceiling in the long house, as well as the way it is fitted out with late gothic paintings.

The first thing that has to be mentioned is the high altar.  It is made up from the remains of two altars which unite to form a gothic exhibit.  The lower altar comes from the old Silbertal parish church and is dated 1477. It shows St. Nicklaus in the centre.  This typical Walser saint is the patron saint of the Silbertal church and was known as the most important Middle Age patron that protected against the dangers of water.  Next to St. Nicklaus are two other Walser saints, St. Theodul and St. Mauritius.  The mining saints, Barbara and Agatha can be found on the inside of the wings.  The predella under the altar depicts the scene of the adoration of the Child.  The upper altar was built in 1470 where the focal point is the Walser, St. Theodul, with his little devil and bell as attributes,    

As legend has it, Bishop Theodul met a pack of little devils while going for a walk.  Their faces were full of glee, they told him that the Pope in Rome was just about to give into temptation and would therefore be in their power from now on.  Theodul was appalled and told them that if he were in Rome, he would be able to save the pope.  The little devils couldn’t pass up the opportunity and they carried Theodul to Rome where he actually did save the Pope from the hands of the devils.  The Pope gave him a bell as a sign of his appreciation and the little devils had to carry the bell and Theodul back to his home in Wallis, Switzerland.

The left side altar was built in 1633 and shows simple Renaissance shapes.  The exciting things here are the figures, a few of which can be categorized as high gothic.  Most notably, the central figure of St. Agatha dates back to the 14th century, and the gable figures can be dated to the early 1400’s.  The right side altar, on the other hand, is Baroque.  The Rosary altar was built in 1713 and shows the mining saints, Barbara and Agatha next to the Rosary Queen, as well as a depiction of the crowning of Mary.   

The two murals on the north side of the choral, which show the crowning of Mary and the throne with God and Christ and the Dove of the Holy Ghost as well as the cross and the assisting figures on the choral arch, are late Gothic.  The popular version of the way of the cross, on the other hand, is Baroque, dating back to the 17th century.


P11-2 tiny church.mp3

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