Travel note from the parish of Mareta (South Tyrol)
It’s been a day of travel. Trains, buses, a bit of hitchhiking and as always at the end, in piedi. But the journey was worth it. My destination was the miners’ church of Sankt Magdalena in the Val Ridanna. It’s is a daughter house of the parish church of Mareta, not far as the crow flies but a lot more once you ascend the sides of the valley on the snaking road. A pit stop at a nearby maso procured the key and the custodian, Caterina, who would do the needful with the alarm – important artworks afoot! Sankt Magdalena lies in the foothills of the Snow Mountain, which bears rich seams of ore. The miners did so well in the 15th century that they reputedly shod their boots with silver nails! They also funded the rebuilding of an earlier church, retaining the dedication to the Magdalen. Two large scale altarpiece, combining painted scenes and sculpted figures were commissioned from leading artists working in nearby Vipiteno/Sterzing. Both were destined for the high altar. Mattheis Störbel’s work of 1509 remains in situ, while Hans Harder’s earlier opus is now in the nave (pics below). To study these works in person was a real privilege, especially after the journey. It was a real connection of landscape, art and devotion, as well as the financial underpinnings of such endeavours. The architecture of the church was simple but well executed. In all, a lasting testimony to the men who laboured in the mountains and the saint who watched over them.