The second Sunday after Corpus Christi is the day when mountain fires are lit all over South Tyrol as a sign of solidarity with the homeland.
The earliest custom dates back to the 19th century, to the sign of the Sacred Heart vow of 1796. At that time, the estates of Tyrol met in Bolzano to discuss the situation caused by the French troops under Napoleon. The Abbot of Stams, Sebastian Stöckl, appealed to entrust our province of South Tyrol to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and thus ask for divine assistance. The fire on mountains and slopes is to renew this pledge every year.
The lighting of mountain fires goes back to a medieval custom. In mid-June, the sun reaches its highest point at the summer solstice and therefore has a special power. Fire is considered a symbol of the sun. It stands for healing, fertility and blessing for humans, animals and nature. On the longest day of the year (the summer solstice), purifying solstice fires were lit and fertility rituals celebrated in earlier times.
In the course of Christianisation, the solstice fires were lit in honour of saints and finally replaced by the Sacred Heart fire.
Foto: IDM Südtirol-Alto Adige/Frieder Blickle