Every year in June, or more precisely on the 2nd Sunday after Corpus Christi, thousands of mountain fires are lit in South Tyrol. Dorf Tirol is no exception.
The custom harks back to 1796 as Napoleonic troops drew ever closer to Tyrol from the south. To ask for divine assistance in the face of the imminent threat of war, the Tyrolean parliament resolved to entrust the region to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When the Tyrolean troops led by Andreas Hofer were eventually victorious in the battle against the French and Bavarians, Sacred Heart Sunday became an important holiday.
However the roots of the tradition lie further back in pre-Christian times. At that time it was customary in the mountains to light ritual fires at the summer solstice.
In Dorf Tirol, the resident members of the Alpine Association keep the custom alive. Planning starts a few weeks beforehand. On the morning of Sacred Heart Sunday, the hard-working women and men carry lanterns, firewood and fuel onto the Mut
. Once arrived there they put the lanterns in position and fill them with fuel.
After the preparations for the night’s fire are finished, the convivial part of the festival begins. Family and friends follow the industrious workers to the places where the lanterns are lit. They cook food together, laugh and chat.
Things really start to happen just before darkness falls when the lanterns are lit. This is the highpoint of the festival. The fires glow from the mountains. Down in the valleys the people enjoy the special sight of the mountains.
Afterwards, the majority of the hard-working helpers and their friends and families head back down into the valley. However, some spend the night up in the mountains so that the lanterns can burn safely.
The next day everything is cleared away and returned to the valley. The festival is over. In a year’s time the custom will be revived again.