Weg der Legenden Tourismusverband Heiligenblut

History & Culture in Heiligenblut am Grossglockner

History & Culture in Heiligenblut am Grossglockner

Art, culture & the long and fascinating history of a remarkable region

Anyone visiting Heiligenblut for the first time will quickly become aware that the village, its buildings and the pilgrimage church are steeped in a long and fascinating past. The turbulent and far-reaching history of Heiligenblut dates back to long-gone eras most of us know very little about. In the same vein, it seems that Heiligenblut am Grossglockner, with its beauty, cultural heritage and breathtaking natural surroundings, will endure for a long time to come – allowing future generations to experience this remarkable place on Earth. 

Großglockner Hacquet By Belsazar Hacquet 1739-1815 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Historical development

Imagine, if you will, the year 300 B.C. An era that is challenging to grasp from a modern perspective. What did the world really look like back then? None of us can know for sure. What we do know is that this is when Heiligenblut am Grossglockner was first mentioned in a written document; we also have evidence that, in around 400 BC, the Celts moved into this area – also called the ‘Tauriscans’. This is where the name of the ‘Tauern’ mountains is believed to have originated.

Agriculture and animal husbandry were at the centre of people’s lives, though the Celts also went in search of the well-known Tauern gold. A few centuries later, the Romans built the first pathways over the mountains around Heiligenblut, establishing the first north-bound connections as early as 15 BC. In fact, they were such skilled road builders that some of today’s most well-known mountain passes have incorporated parts of these ancient Roman routes.

goldwaschen nostalgisch

From freight carriers to gold miners

Salt from the North, and wine from the South: these were the first items that the so-called ‘Säumer’ (freight carriers) transported over the mountains on packhorses, oxen or mules. For several centuries, transalpine trade was a major source of income in our region. As was gold mining: the first mines were established in the area around Grosskirchheim, where over 1500 labourers were hard at work in up to 361 mining pits.

The end of the gold rush came about for three reasons: economy (gold could be extracted, and therefore sold, more cheaply in the New World); climate change (a mini ice age covered many of the pits); and religion (a counter-reformation caused the largely Protestant mining population to leave the area, in order to avoid having to convert to Catholicism).

stvinzenz kirche

‘St. Vincent’ of Heiligenblut

You recognise the sight as soon as you approach Heiligenblut am Grossglockner. The pilgrimage church of Heiligenblut, set against the majestic pyramid shape of the Grossglockner, is a scene captured in countless photographs and known all around the world. Few will know, however, that the church is dedicated to St. Vincent of Saragossa, and was first cited in a historical document as early as 1253.

The first pilgrimage to the ‘Heiligen Bluet’ (the holy blood) was recorded  in 1273. A century later, in 1390, the decision was made to transform what was barely more than a chapel into a proper House of God. This set in motion a construction period lasting almost 100 years. On November 1st, 1491, the new pilgrimage church was consecrated – finally offering enough space for the ever-growing number of pilgrims and visitors.

History, art and culture are an integral part of life in Heiligenblut.

If we have sparked your interest, and you enjoy gaining vivid insights into a rich and fascinating past, we look forward to seeing you soon in Heiligenblut am Grossglockner.

For details and information on any aspect of your holiday, simply contact us with any questions, send us a non-binding holiday enquiry, or phone us on +43 4824 2700-20.

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