Maria Elend in the Rosental Valley

Birgit Stegbauer

Maria Elend in the Rosental Valley is a small village in the municipality of Sankt Jakob in the Rosental Valley. On the 15th of August, the day of Maria Assumption, it is very popular with pilgrims who come to pray in the parish and pilgrimage church of Maria Elend. After their prayers in the church many also make the pilgrimage to the Kapellenberg (784m) with its two chapels, both consecrated to the Virgin Mary. However, Maria Elend is worth a visit year-round, the church being a true artistic gem and the 45 minutes hike to the Kapellenberg delightful for both nature and art lovers.

The oldest written testimony of the church of Maria Elend dates back to the year 1478, but the massive Romanesque church tower suggests an even older history of the building. Maria Elend was founded by Benedictine monks from the monastry of Ossiach. Heavily damaged during the Turkish raids of 1478 and 1483, the church was rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1486. From 1682 until 1690 the church was refurnished in the Baroque style and received its actual appearance. When the monastery of Ossiach was suppressed in 1787, Maria Elend became a parish church.

In the process of transforming the original Gothic hall church with three naves to the Baroque style during the 17th century, the naves were vaulted and the church's main choir was streched. The main choir and the main altar are devoted to the Virgin Mary, all parts of the decoration refer to her, including the frescoes by Josef Ferdinand Fromiller. Further to the Marian motifs there are many references to the salvation from the Turkish thread. For example, right in the centre of the high altar, to the feet of the enthroned Madonna, you will see heads of decapitated Turks and Turkish trophies. After all, the Madonna is a donation made by the city of Vienna in 1684, only one year after Vienna's rescue from the second Turkish siege (1683).

The late Gothic winged altar, dated around 1520, probably by the school of Villach, is the second jewel in this church. Sculptures of the Virgin, accompanied by St. Sebastian and St. Rochus, are in the main niche. The inner wings are decorated with reliefs of the helpers in need (Nothelfer), while the predella shows the martyrdom of St. Achatius. The outer wings, which can be seen during the period of Feast only, are adorned with a Passion. The filigree wood carving and the balanced composition of the figures contribute to the overall artistic importance of this altar. These gems, plus further Baroque altars of high quality and a very elegant, Baroque pulpit make a visit to the parish church of Maria Elend highly recommendable.

As for the hike to the Kapellenberg, follow the well-signposted hiking trail #3 in southern direction. After hiking up about 45 minutes through a densely wooded terrain, you'll reach the two chapels which are next to each other. The smaller one, consecrated in 1731, has a wooden porch. You can ring the three bells. The larger one of the two chapels is the so-called Gnadenkapelle (chapel of grace), constructed in 1751, has rich fresco paintings in the interior. On the side is an old vicarage, where hermits used to live.

From the chapels there is a nice view to the Rosental and the river Drau. Benches near the chapels and a roofed picnic area are ideal spots for a little rest. Detour to the Heilquelle (mineral spring) on your hike back, which you will find only a few steps below in a wooden superstructure from the year 1767. The stone statue is from the early 18th century and the water flowing from the wound in Christ's side is the so-called Christusquelle (Christ source). Its water is considered a remedy against eye complaints.

Catholic Parish Maria Elend im Rosental/Podgorje
9182 Maria Elend 6


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