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Wilder Kaiser

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Hohe Salve Pilgrimage Church

At the summit of the Hohe Salve, right in the heart of the Kitzbühel Alps, there is St. John’s Chapel. The “Salvenkirchlein” as the chapel is fondly called by the residents, is the highest situated pilgrimage church in Austria.
It has been dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The early Baroque altar with sculptures of St. Bartholomew and St. John as well as an altarpiece showing the christening of Jesus dates back to the year 1666,
The pilgrimage church at the summit of the Hohe Salve mountain

The Salvenkirchlein was first mentioned in a document in 1589. In a register from the Bavarian Chiemsee in Germany one can read about the church of St. John and the Salvenberg for the first time.

The valleys around the Hohe Salve got populated quite early. It looks as if already the pagan natives there had held their sun worshipping ceremonies on the Salve mountain which has always been a place particularly favoured by nature. At the end of the 19th century a bronze object dating back to those days was found on the Hohe Salve though this finding is said to have gone lost. With Christianity the chapel was dedicated to the saint of midsummer, St. John the Baptist.

Since the peak is quite easy to reach soon plenty of visitors from near and far came to see the pilgrimage church at the Hohe Salve. Particularly pilgrims suffering from headaches, back pains and depressions have been visiting the chapel in the hope for relief. The first church service was held in 1617 by pastor Ambros Strasser.

Hohe Salve pilgrimage church

The first “preaching brother and guardian” was documented in 1617 as well. His task was to serve as a sacristan, to provide refreshments and warn people down in the valley from upcoming thunderstorms by swinging a white flag. Then, down in the Brixental valley, the villagers started to ring the church bells in the hope to ward off severe disaster.

In 1625 the chapel had to be expanded for a second time because of the strong inflow of people.

In 1640 the Salven Chapel was completely destroyed by lightning but was then rebuilt for 1800 guilds until 1643. However, the chapel on the summit was not spared from further lightning bolts in the following years. That’s why the decision was made in

1784 to install a lightning arrester on the chapel. Unfortunately the chapel was again severely damaged in 1807.

Desolate and damaged by climatic influences the Salven Chapel was renovated from 1970 till 1972 and again in 1999.

June 24th is the day of the pilgrimage church’s patron saint, St. John. There are more festive days though, such as Anna Day on July 26th and Bartholomew Day on August 24th. Until 1946 pilgrims used to carry a carved head of St. John around the altar at the ceremony which is now only done on Anna Day.

Would you like to learn more about the history of the Hohe Salve and the Salven Chapel? Every Wednesday from 1 July to 16 September at 11 a.m. there is a church service being held in the pilgrimage church. Afterwards you can take part in a guided tour.
Salvenkirchlein@Dabernig (3)

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